Category Archives: Converse

Converse Theatre







Last week the actors met without me and gained some really deep insights into the play, none of which they could remember but they were sure John A would.

In his absence and in Simon and Jo’s kitchen, we hot seated Simon in role as Robert (his performance based on a teacher known in his youth. Some nice details emerged, for example around Robert’s relationship with his father and attitudes to the arts and creativity in himself and his children. Jo pictured here did not have so much fun with this character in her home and was relieved I think to get Simon back at the end of the exercise.

betrayal replayed chronologically – shock script discrepancies


In our 6th workshop we went through the whole play in chronological order and in the process discovered that some of the cast had scripts that were very slightly different, incorporating an American version of the text. Aggi was on hand with a camera to capture this moment.

Kate noticed that when Emma is pregnant (sc.8) she offers Jerry a number of cues he doesn’t notice or ignores. Would she like to be whisked away, have her life changed?

Discussed ideas for an installation for the audience to encounter pre-show, areas for each character with headphones for their preferred music etc.

It looks as though we we have audience on 3 sides, with projection on the 4th




Betrayal replayed: all about Robert


At our fifth exploratory workshop we felt we needed to spend some time thinking about the character of Robert and worked with Scene 4, one of the few scenes that has all three main characters in it. We played it first with the actors in standard roles for their gender and then replayed with the men playing Emma able to watch Jo and Kate replaying the roles of Robert and Jerry which they had vacated. We had a lot to discuss about what keeps each of the characters in this triangle, which is relatively stable at this point in the play.

We also managed to plan out most of our workshop times through until May, and committed to learning the play by the time rehearsals begin in earnest after the summer break.

duration versus time


Our 4th exploratory session on the Betrayal Replayed project we were missing Simon to let us into our rehearsal space so lost some time there and were missing Aggi to keep track of what we were doing so probably had many more brilliant ideas than are here recorded.

We did have John S though, who brought a couple of songs to check out the feel and some ambients to try with scenes and transitions between scenes. We did this with Scene 5 (venice) and scene 6 (flat) the latter scene worked by Simon and Jo last week. As we had two Emmas this week, we tried leaving one in Venice at the end of scene 5 when we started the next scene, as an emotional reference point. The interchange between the two versions of Emma across the  scene boundary and relatively short time was interesting and quite shocking to John A playing Jerry in the latter scene.

We discussed the period setting at some length and the challenges the audience faces approaching the play for the first time, given the unconventional reverse chronology of some of the scenes. We decided that the exact dates were unimportant to present, we wanted to set our performance in ‘the past’ in which technology and expectations were different from now but did not need the audience to locate scence one specifically in 1977 for example. However, the nine-year duration of the scenes we do want to get across, and we had a number of ideas from projection to audio to communicate which scenes are before and which follow in time. There was also an idea about shedding items of costume as we move backwards in time.

There was also some talk of ‘generic’ costuming inspired by company members seeing Occam’s Razor last week.

John S’s sounds inspired charcter thoughts that Jerry does jazz, Robert might be into something obscure classical/baroque, that Emma and Robert have a piano in the house, and Emma prefers female popular singers.

Kate’s reflections on the process were that she was feeling more able to offer ideas this time around compared with the original production and may it was not all going to be about controlled panic.

Jo reflected on the work last week that reducing the physical dimensions of the flat during the rehearsal was like a dollshouse, and connected with the sense of ‘playing at’ relationships through the affair


licence to play


The licence came through just before our third exploratory session on 16th February.  In the absence of John A and Kate, Simon and Jo worked on Scene 6 using the Whelan recording technique. For me it was interesting working with a couple and reflecting on what was easier due to established familiarity and trust and what was more difficult. We used some voice-releasing techniques I have gleaned from recent workshops with Guy Dartnell

Jo had something of a breakthrough on a suggestion to vocalise but be non-verbal when we paused the recording mid-scene.

Aggi’s notes from the session at the link below:


Aggi rehearsal note Betrayal ex 3 sc6

exploratory session 2 – scene 9


We gathered for our second session on 10th Feb. Simon and John had fetched coffee and we reflected on the previous week. The role swapping had highlighted the power dynamics in the scene and even the pairings we won’t be sharing in the performance have a role in developing each person’s understanding of the characters and what is happening in the play, because we all internalise views of each other and ourselves in the eyes of the other.

The ‘dubbing’ technique was the focus of this session, with Kate and Jo as doubled Emmas and John and Simon as doubled Jerrys – one speaking scipt in hand and the other in embodied role.

We worked with Scene 9 as Simon and Kate both showed interest and reticence about this scene, which chronologically the earliest, marking the beginning of the affair between Emma and Jerry.

Working in this way set up some interesting teamwork – for example the two Emma actors setting up the bedroom in which the scene takes place – and the possibility of two sides of the character being represented simultaneously, allowing actors to explore particular aspects in more depth. People noticed how hard it was to switch back into the reading/speaking role after the freedom of being able to move in the space and ‘just respond’.

I found myself interested in the absent character of Robert – downstairs at the party and only briefly entering the room in this scene, and the idea of Jerry as part of what keeps Emma and Robert together.

Aggi’s full notes at the link below:

Betrayal exploratory workshop 1


Our first session in February we worked with the Whelan Recording technique. The cast of the Lincoln Mystery Plays 2012 will be familiar with this method and for others I recommend  a little article by Phelim McDermott about his experiences using the technique with Improbable Theatre: Improbable Articles and Interviews – Instant Acting, an article by Phelim McDermott 

Essentially the rehearsal room is spilit between a script/reading/audio recording space and a playback/performing space, getting the actors immediately into action unencumbered by scripts in hand.We are exploring the idea of Simon & John A playing both male roles of Robert and Jerry, and Kate and Jo both playing Emma in different performances, so we used this rehearsal to try out various pairings in the first scene – including across gender.

It was a joy to have Aggi with us in role as dramaturg keeping note of proceedings. For those of you who want to know more detail her notes are reproduced at the link below:

You wait years for a production of Betrayal and then 2 come along at once – we have news of another production at LPAC in November. We have secured the performing rights for our production and so plan to go ahead, secure in the knowledge that the two productions will be very different and hopefully complementary.



Betrayal Replay

Last year I was mainly blogging about the Lincoln Mystery Plays. This year it will be all about a very special production of Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’

At the end of November I met in the Room Upstairs at the Lincoln Drill Hall  a year before our planned performance run – with John Armitage, Jo & Simon Hollingworth and Kate Melton for a read-through.

Not for the first time.

Three of those cast members worked with me on Converse Theatre’s first production, a tour of the same play almost a generation ago (nearly twenty years). Then we were well received, but some audiences felt the cast were ‘too young’ for the parts.

We ignored them of course and carried on touring. What can you do
with that kind of criticism. Get older?

Well now all of us have developed various careers and had children and marriages etc we were thinking maybe those audiences had a point.

And because the structure and themes of Betrayal include relationships maintained and tested over years, looking back, the fallibility of memory and the possibilities of changing your life, replaying Betrayal looks like a creatively interesting thing to do.

And we decided we would like to share the experience with you, whether you are a young creative like we were then, or someone not working professionally as an actor (like our cast) but with an ongoing interest in the arts and how they are made.

So anyway we warmed up, had a readthrough and discussed our plans. Simon was excited by the fine writing, Kate revisiting bodily states of tension, which Jo felt came off the page despite our relatively relaxed mode of reading. John A related to all the stuff about kids and the practicalities of arrngements and sleeplessness associated with them and was excited about researching elements referred to in the play. 

We talked about rehearsing on location (pub, restaurant, Oxford, Cambridge) and Kate mentioned she had been to Torcello – there are photos.

By the New Year we had recruited Aggi Gunstone as dramaturg and John Stafford as sound worker. Busy people with lots of stuff happening this year, we did personal and collective project timelines as pictured here to help us plan our rehearsal schedule.


The first exploratory phase will run through to the end of March and we will be working once a week.

The second phase will run April to the end of May, by which time we will have the shape of the production before a lengthy break to allow everything to brew and to sort out practicalities.

The final rehearsal phase will take place more intensively in the Autumn before our performances at the end of November.

You are welcome to join us through the blog and in the rehersal room as the project unfolds.