So, in true student/actor/generally hopeless and forgetful me fashion, I let the blog fall behind a little, but it’s back, nearing its end, and drawing very close to what all our preparations including the writing of this blog has been for- The Music Box’s two week run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival… I’m so excited!!
I joined this production not quite comprehending how much work would be required in order to fully realise my character, ‘the Mother’ of the play’s protagonist, Laura. She and the doctor aren’t onstage as much as the others, they don’t interact with anyone other than each other, and most significantly, they don’t speak. So, playing that part will be easy, right? Surely there’s not much responsibility there? Wrong! The Mother is an incredibly lonely woman, who has been hurt emotionally in the past to such an extent she has become a kind of recluse, developed a twisted relationship full of jealousy and resentment towards her daughter, and finds herself falling wholly for the doctor and the attention he gives her when he steps into her world. The play takes place essentially as a result of the Mother’s past actions, and much of what she and the doctor do during their time onstage influences what happens between Laura and the other characters throughout the play. There is so much to be told, felt and done by the pair, in silence, and it has been an amazing, challenging experience in rehearsals working out how to communicate such a large amount when we perform. Every scene has a story, and every action has a motive behind it, and a consequence- it’s up to you, the audience, to work to understand this couple and their effect on the play, and become as engaged with their tale as we all have!
I am so, so happy to be involved in The Music Box Edinburgh run. To me, this beautiful and enthralling play is what the Fringe is all about- pushing the boundaries and experimenting with theatre. The cast are an amazing group of people, who are all immensely devoted to the play, worshipful of Emma’s writing talent, and proud of what we’ve all managed to achieve in a process that has been very much about group work. We’re having the time of our lives, and can’t wait to continue it when we hit the Big Fringe. I’d say we’re laughing and enjoying ourselves too much, but then, can you ever laugh and enjoy yourself too much? Our neighbours might disagree, but I hope there’s no limit anyway. Wish us luck in Edinburgh!
We still have two full days of rehearsals left and already I feel sad that it
will be over soon. Even though the play is quite dark in places, rehearsals
have been really fun. And not just fun in a bracing sort of way: we’ve laughed
a lot. (Maybe too much…)
Co-directing and acting in the play I wrote makes me sound like an ego-maniac.
But honestly, at this stage in rehearsals, the play belongs to everyone in the
company as much as it belongs to me. The positions of writer, director and
actor are becoming increasingly seamless as we all figure out what the
characters want – and how best to show that honestly. During an interview with
Hannah from Cam FM yesterday, we had a chance to talk about how everything’s
been so far: intensely collaborative and creative, but also weirdly private.
Having only nine days to work on the play together has meant that we got to
know our characters independently before beginning rehearsals. James mentioned
in his blog yesterday that his character has changed a lot since last time he
performed, and it made me realise that I feel differently about my character
Tess: I understand her more.
Hannah also asked us why we are going to Edinburgh, and my first thought was
simply because it would be fun. But it is more than that – I wrote the play to
tell a story and I think that’s what all of us are trying to do now. I tend to
see characters in plays and book as real people, and I feel great affection for
all the Music Box characters, not just Tess (even if I don’t exactly like
It’s the fifth day of rehearsals, the entire play has been blocked and now we have five more days to run this baby to perfection. I’m James and I play perhaps the play’s most enigmatic character: Oliver.
This is my second time performing in The Music Box. I first played Oliver in the Corpus Playroom in Spring Term 2012 and since then, things have changed considerably. With some new additions to the cast and crew, this time round it feels like we’re approaching The Music Box in a completely different way. This change isn’t just purely circumstance. We may have a different cast who bring something new to their roles, but I can safely say that the Oliver I am playing now is distinctly different to the one I played a few months ago.
Maybe it is because I play him that I have such a fascination with Oliver as a literary creation, but in a play of so many ambiguities and multiple interpretations, Oliver seems to me to be the biggest mystery in The Music Box. One thing our directors – Emma and Pete – have encouraged us to consider when approaching our roles is each character’s ‘frighteningly brave’ truth. I won’t give away the ending by revealing what I consider to be Oliver’s integral truth but this, coupled with the ability to construct two drastically different interpretations of the same character, highlights the profundity and the complexity of the construction of our protagonists in The Music Box. Unlike his Dickensian counterpart, Oliver Twist, our 21st century Oliver is corrupted. He is not exactly corrupt in himself, but he is most certainly influenced by outside forces.
This, to me, is the most attractive element of The Music Box: nothing is black and white. Young or old, articulate or mute, real or imagined, each character is tinged with shades of grey. The characters may do bad things, but they are not evil and they are always motivated by their inherent ‘frighteningly brave’ truth. There are no heroes, only anti-heroes.