It’s been a couple of weeks since our final devising session of the summer, and we’ve said goodbye for now to our wonderful and generous friends at Kings Place Music Foundation, who welcomed us for six weeks of testing out new performance techniques, developing characters, and knitting together our creative team.
I detailed our progress from the first four weeks of devising in a previous blog post here. So, to continue the story:
In our fifth session, we explored different modes of performing verbatim material from our interviews (which you can listen to on our Oral History Library on Soundcloud), created a beautiful ritual for the characters’ transition from the Resistance reality into the verbatim reality, sorted out some of the technical logistics of our headphone verbatim technique, improvised a soundscape of the Resistance HQ where the play takes place, and played a very fun and illuminating game with movement director Paula Paz to discover new dimensions of character relationships.
(I also discovered a catch to our system of documenting the devising sessions with Google Hangout On Air broadcasts: it only works if you press START BROADCAST at the beginning!! I went to turn the thing off at the end and realised that it had not been recording for the past 4 hours while we were being brilliant. Just an unfortunate mistake, but it got me thinking about how much tech I’m able to handle all at once… with the projection set-up, bluetooth speakers, headphones and verbatim audio players, the extra video was apparently just one thing too many. One day we’ll have a stage manager…)
In our sixth and final session (which I did manage to document), we really hit our stride with bringing together the different elements of the performance, and sharing leadership among our creative team. Composer Yaiza Varona led an improvisation of a new “Nationless Anthem” based on her original composition for our scratch performances earlier this year, with the cast deconstructing and remixing new lyrics from writer Guleraana Mir. Paula led the cast through a “military training” exercise that will form the basis of a Resistance montage, and Guleraana brought in some new pages of text inspired by the previous weeks of character and narrative development in devising. Producer Clarissa Widya and I led a big-picture discussion at the beginning and end of the day, looking ahead to our rehearsal period at Rich Mix and inviting feedback and impulses from the ensemble.
And then, just like that, devising is done and we’re on to the next phase: shaping all these impulses, elements, and ideas into a coherent and cohesive script. Guleraana and I got together with a stack of sticky notes (one of my all-time favourite creative tools!) and made a list of the Things We Could Do: ideas of visual moments, technical possibilities, thematic concepts, character relationships… Those became magenta sticky notes: “political context soundscape,” “tweets from outside HQ,” “headphone verbatim broadcast projection,” “lighting actors with torches in blackout.”
Some of those ideas have narratives intrinsically attached to them, so we started putting them together with plot points, things we knew we wanted to happen during the course of the play, and developments in character relationships.
Before long, our sticky notes found their way into a rough 3-act structure, which Guleraana has sent off to the cast and creative team. Now she’s working on putting dialogue into the framework, I’m combing through our 30+ hours of verbatim interview material to choose sections to feature, Yaiza is starting to write music for the opening soundscape, and Paula is sketching out a choreography to teach the cast on our first day of rehearsal. Clarissa is creating beautiful flyers and getting the word out to audiences about the show (among about a thousand other things – producing is a hugely varied and demanding job!).
In a perfect world, we’d have more time (read: funding) to develop the overall structure with the cast, layering in their impulses, new character discoveries, alternative narrative ideas, more complex technical designs, and working together to fill in the details of the big picture. As it stands, we won’t know until we start our rehearsals at Rich Mix (in just two weeks’ time!) exactly how all the elements will all come together, and then we’ll have just 8 rehearsal days before Home Is Where takes the stage.
But this is a surprising and fruitful way to make theatre, an exhilarating risk we take with our work, and I am so excited to share our hot-off-the-press play. It’s been years of development (we started interviewing Third Culture Kids in 2014) and yet it still feels “soon” to be bringing Home Is Where to its first audience. And in some ways, this performance at Rich Mix is just the beginning: from here, we’re planning a longer run of performances in London (probably after further edits to the script, another rehearsal period, and an expansion of our design team), and eventually a tour around the UK.
For now, this is your chance to catch Home Is Where! Tickets are available now on the Rich Mix website for our one-night-only performance on the 2nd of September – and check out Guleraana’s free pre-show workshop, using performance games and inclusive discussion to delve into the themes of the play: home, culture, and belonging. The workshop is offered in partnership with HOPE not hate as part of their #MoreInCommon campaign. September 2-4 is a national Weekend of HOPE.
Stay tuned for more updates from the rehearsal room shortly! Thanks for reading.