Carousel cast of #conversebetrayal

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Prior to our recent sell-out run at the Lincoln Drill Hall we did not particularly publicise that the cast were swapping roles in different performances. This was because it did not arise out of directorial conceit but as a natural consequence of two real life couples working on a play about a love triangle.

During rehearsals there was – naturally enough – a competitive stage during which actors tried to emulate aspects of the opposite player’s performance of each role. Working in this crucible the bones of the play emerged clearly, the interplay of desires and strategies each employ to get what they need without sacrificing too much – or not. We know what the characters do because it is in Pinter’s script, but the way they do it and the minutiae of why they do it ultimately depends on the soul of the character which is the being of the actor.

For a simple example, take height. I mention this having been passed over in my youth for the role of leading man by a director for being ‘too tall’ for the part. There is nothing in Betrayal demanding that Jerry be taller or shorter than Robert: Robert tells Jerry that he’s hit Emma once or twice, but anyone with much experience of domestic violence (or men’s talk, for that matter) will know that in itself implies next to nothing about the physiques of the parties involved. However, the way you kiss or shake hands with someone taller/shorter bigger/smaller than yourself forms part of a pattern of potentialities, including who and how we love and hurt other people. Sat in the audience do you always have a clear view or are you used to peering round other people’s heads? How does this impact the moments of empathy and alienation you experience in the pattern of relations you witness?

It is perhaps no surprise that audiences in the post-show discussions expressed difficulty imagining the roles played differently – the quantity and quality of the actors work over the past year of preparation for performance has created compellingly believable interactions between them onstage – but also a strong desire to see it done. Luckily, for those who want to see it again only differently, the carousel is coming round again in 2014:

·         27 February – Bonington Theatre, Arnold, Nottingham

·         7 March – Trinity Arts Centre, Gainsborough

·         14 March – Leeds University Studio Theatre, Leeds

·         15 March – Riverhead Theatre, Louth

·         27 March – Kings Lynn Arts Centre

·         28 March – Seven Arts Centre, Chapel Allerton, Leeds

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Seasons in Betrayal

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During the post-show discussion following our first performance of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal last night we were asked about the significance of seasons. In this second Converse Theatre production of the play, we project text stating the setting for each of the nine scenes, follow Pinter’s text by including the season: Spring (scenes 1 & 2) Winter ( sc.3) Autumn (4) Summer (5,6,7) Spring (8) Winter (9). I explained how these had influenced lighting and other aspects of the design, but that the deeper purpose is to point up the idea of circularity as opposed to linearity.

Due to the unusual structure of the play, in which the story of theses characters relationships is told in reverse chronology, so we see them in the first scenes remembering things we witness later in the play, there is a risk of obsessing about the time line. The two male characters are concerned about who knows what when. Naming the seasons helps us notice that what goes around comes around and the sense of rhythm in the relationships. Spring in the first two scenes alerts us to the potential of new possibilities opening up for Emma now it’s “all, all over”, perhaps the re-establishment of Jerry and Robert’s friendship after ‘not seeing each other for months’. Winter in scene 3 for the death of the affair. Autumn in Scene 4 as the cracks begin to show. Summer for the key scenes 5-7 when the situation is at its hottest. Spring for scene 8 when then the lover’s relationship is still ‘new’. Finally Winter for the last (earliest) scene, signalling darkness, subterranean desires.

This production has been a cycle of seasons in the making – initial meetings, the workshops, the period of learning, the intensive phase of rehearsals. Now its harvest time. So far the audience seem to be enjoying the results of what we have planted and tended and I am looking forward to the next questions our audience bring.

Betrayal in rehearsal 10th November 2013

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The cast observed the minute’s silence at 11am.

John B checked in with cast about priorities for rehearsal.

  • Checking props for whole play might essentially mean running the play
  • Checking in on thoughts about the other performance of Betrayal on Friday and anything that people want to bring in form that
  • Kate – thinking about sound as John S has brought in four speakers and need to check levels
  • Simon – costumes for him and John A
  • Jo H – table needs changing

Discussion around Friday’s performance ensued- table idea has sprung from that. John B not attached to current table and would like to see the proposed other table. Jo H and Kate to source. Discussion around pace and emotional levels. John S said important to keep range of 1-10. John A expressed that there was an air of nervousness about going to the other show, but this was reconciled by the realisation that the two productions are so different that is was a nourishing team building exercise. Simon H agreed.

Decision to run play, but with actors choosing which roles they play in each scene according to what they want to practise. After Lunch we will look at bits which need rehearsing and work them. Cast to alert Aggi to note these so there is a formal record.

Scene One: played through with no stopping, Sound worked brilliantly with ambient sound realistic and great and aural marking of the cash register ringing when Jerry went to get another drink and the ’pip pip pips’ very enjoyable. Transition to scene two caused confusion, which was discussed and rectified. Jerry to stay in character and show the emotional journey to scene two.

Scene Two:  played through with no stopping. Magnificent. Transition again caused concern so paused rehearsal to print off copy of notes from last week from blog for clarification. Once we had these, discussion with Jo H and Kate around marking table and how this will work practically.  Decision that keeping table on same trajectory as bed is simplest solution.

Scene Three-Six:  played through with no stops. Continued running each scene noticing issues around transitions and music levels.

Performers growing in confidence and presence as the scenes progress. Accents now very good and diction clearer. Projection still possibly needing some work.

Break for lunch.

During lunch discussions around bottles, glasses, tweeting and costumes.

Began afternoon session with re-dux of Scene Four with Simon and Jo as Robert and Emma this time. Then ran into multiple versions of Scene Seven  to set technical aspects and to rehearse with both Jo and Kate as nemma and John as first Jerry then Robert and Simon as vice versa. Agreement that we were working this through rather than rehearsing straight through, with attention paid to detail and multiple tries at the technical precision needed for bringing on plates, wine etc and feeding this in with the lines. John B directed aspects of this with the cast, looking particularly at the relationship with the waiter. Ran through this in all possible pairings.

Ran scenes 8 and 9 with two pairs, then 9 with the other two pairs so we played all four possible endings. Close with final phrase of music over held tableau, hopefully spot-lit.

Bed as fifth character in Converse Theatre’s production of Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’

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The bed. What do we associate with a bed? What do you see? A place to rest? A place to think? A place to make love? A place to fuck? The bed is the omnipresent fifth narrator in our production. Always looming over the proceedings onstage, it smacks you in the face as soon as you walk into the performance space, and refuses to move out of your eyeline for the rest of the proceedings. Though not as unruly as Tracy Emin’s eponymous bed, nor as formal as a hotel bed, it’s white virginal appearance belies the true nature of its role in the play. This is not a family bed.  This is not a bed in a home. Or is it? This bed has deeper connotations. Pinter did not direct this bed to be there, it was the company’s decision – driven by the actors – that its presence should be felt. The bed intrudes on our reading of every scene in the play. It refuses not to be heard. The bed is the scene of the betrayal. The scenes of Betrayal revolve around it.

Aggi’s notes from rehearsal 3 November 2013 focussing on scene transitions:

Company assembled and got coffee. John S set up sound and cast created set. General set up. John B then assembled the company and discussed the proceedings of todays rehearsal. We began by setting rehearsal times and dates for the forthcoming month and clarifying get in day and runs of each version of the play. It was agreed we would do four run throughs on the Sunday and Monday before production week.

John S clarified that he was generally there with the sounds he has created for the show. He just needs to make final adjustments for entrances and exits.

John B specified that todays rehearsal would be focusing on entrances and exits and discussion around these ensued. John B is interested in the play being an organic whole and the audience being able to follow the characters impulses throughout the whole play, rather than delineating between scenes. John A advised he would like clarification around entering/ exiting in character in this case and opinions were shared around this. Aggi advised that she felt the vast majority of the exits and entrances worked in the first playing of the play last Sunday.

Work then began on looking at the projection above the bed and to the side, with sight lines being considers. Small discussion round the bed’s focus again, with the cast keen to move it slightly to be more present. This discussion inspired Aggi to write the first paragraph above for possible contribution to the programme

Opening: It was decided that the audience should walk into the performance space with just the bed in it. This means the beginning of the performance is the scene setting by Nemma for Scene One. Meanwhile Jo and Kate as Nemma (non-Emma) played with moving the table into place (now by the side of the bed due to restricted view issues.

Beginning now runs:

  • Audience enter to bed and projection of Betrayal
  • John B does welcome speech/ scene setter
  • Music as Nemma sets scene one
  • Emma enters and scene begins

It was noticed that Jerry and Emma have met at the bar and he is ordering drinks, so Emma has gone to find a table and will need to wave to Jerry as he come in.

The projections are going to depict the setting and time of the scene in scrolling writing for Scene One the order of the writing is:

 Non-Emma; pub

Emma: noon & spring

Jerry: projection goes off

Transition from Scene One to Two: discussion was held around if Jerry could move the set into his house (Scene Two). This idea was played with and various impulses tried out with both Simon and John playing Jerry. Finally decided that Jerry would move his own chair to in front of the bed and put a chair where he would like Robert to sit. John B advised that Robert could move this chair if he did not want to sit where Jerry placed him. Audience view point became an issue with this movement, and once Robert placed his chair to the side, on a slight angle and behind Jerry, John A advised that this then changed the dynamics of the scene. John B advised this was ok, but John A would like this to be the last change from here in to create clarity.

Transition from Scene Two to Scene Three. John B advised the emotional through-line is with Jerry so he should stay on stage. This resulted in discussion around costume change. It was decided that Jerry would have a jacket in scene one, which he takes off, then puts on for the transition form scene one to two, and then takes off again to place on the chair in his house for scene two. This was agreed.

Than moved into discussions around full transition from scene two to scene three. Robert finishes his drink and takes Jerry’s glass and decanter off. Nemma slides table in front of Jerry who remains in position and Nemma adds table cloth. Jerry puts on Jacket and Emma enters and puts jacket on bed.

Transition from Scene Three to Scene Four: Emma leaves, music comes in, Jerry stands and exits. Nemma waits for his exit and then enters –  folds tablecloth, puts on chair, puts flap down and moves to back with flaps down, then puts chairs back into audience, one either side this time, leaving tablecloth on chair when moving and then exiting with tablecloth. Projections happen during this.

Transition from Scene Three to Four: Nemma exits. Jerry enters and is still, briefly. Immediately enters with glasses and begins.

Transition from Scene Four to Five:  Jerry exits. Robert takes glass from Emma and she cries on his shoulder. Nemma enters, takes glass from Robert and places glass whiskey bottle on table, Emma takes off jumper, puts on bed, gets on bed, read book, which is under pillow from beginning. Robert then goes to table, removes waistcoat and puts on chair in audience. Pours himself a drink and goes to window. Scene begins.

Transition from Scene Five to Six: Robert exits, Projections begin on Nemma’s entrance. Nemma enters and moves waistcoat and bottle to bed (bottle on floor by side of bed, waistcoat on bed), then moves table (which is when projection changes again), chairs and takes off waistcoat, bottle and jumper when exits. Emma stays on bed as flat is created and then exits with book after Nemma exits. Jerry enters with bottle, corkscrew and two glasses. Opens wine with corkscrew. Emma enters with basket.

 Transition from Scene Six to Scene Seven: sex happens on bed. Nemma enters and gathers glasses from sides of bed, and bottle and basket. Puts bottle and glasses and tablecloth into basket. Puts basket down at end of bed. Moves table to restraunt position and places chairs at either end. Takes basket off and gives signal to Jerry. Nemma is put into apron by stage management. Jerry and Emma exit. Music change. Nemma reenters as waiter and puts tablecloth on. Robert enters with wine glass. Waiter reenters and lays table from pre-set tray, as Robert sits and drinks. Waiter competes laying table as jerry enters and sits.

Transition from Scene Seven to Eight: Jerry and Robert exit with their glasses(tension maintained) Waiter enters and puts tray on chair, adds bottles, glasses and sundries to tray, folds table cloth over arm. Folds down flap of table and leaves in place. Sets chairs for flat, one next to table (SR) one under table (SL). Emma enters wearing her new apron with two glasses and two bottles (one wine, one spirits). Jerry needs bowtie in pocket.

Transition from Scene Eight to Nine: Emma leaves taking wine bottle, vodka bottle and wine glass. Jerry takes vodka glass off table and moves chair into audience SL and sits. Nemma enters with mirror, puts on chair and moves table to back. Places chair in front of table and mirror on table. Nemma checks and exits.

The company then worked on Scene 8 with Simon as Jerry and Kate and Jo alternating as Emma

Betrayal in Rehearsal 20th October 2013

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Yesterday was very much a day for celebrating differences. With 4 combinations of actors, each playing of scene 8 has its own balance of humour and pathos. Working in this way acclimatises the cast to the instability of performance – they cannot get too comfortable with a particular way of playing the scene, but can trust each player. They know the characters and the shape of each scene, but the details of each moment shape new responses.

We rehearsed in the Green Room and on the set of Zest Theatre’s Gatecrash – the new environments for the rehearsals also creating new possibilities, familiarity and instability.

Aggi’s notes are below:

  • Cast warmed up independently while John B and Aggi checked in
  • Cast check in initially together
  • John A watched scene … on vimeo and observed that his diction and movement needs more work
  • John B observed that the show is looking great for where it is at the moment
  • John B acknowledged that cast is rehearsing extra-curricular and asked the cast if they needed to rehearse more in opposite couples – Simon advised that he and Jo have seen each other less than him and Kate recently, and John A would rather that communication was good between the couples and they worked together on any bits that people were unsure of or unhappy of
  • John B asked if the cast were happy with the tag team approach to direction over the last couple of weeks was ok with the cast? Simon is happy for anyone to take control and move rehearsals on to stop the cast getting bogged down in discussing minutae. John A agreed with the provision that Aggi and John B are on the same page when it comes to vision, and that John B has final say
  • Discussion then led by Jo H into cast requiring reminders about certain actions within the script eg. Kissing etc. General discussion around actors needing certain stimluae to create specific emotion and for director/ dramaturg and cast to pick up on this
  • John A – it’s like a landscape and finding different routes to Grantham
  • Idea of using the stage directions as audio at the beginning of each scene to introduce… all cast liked this idea – discussion about multi-media aspects
  • Cast splitting to work two with Aggi, two with John B – Kate and Simon with Aggi in green room and Jo and John A to go with John B on set.

Following this point, the rehearsal developed in two directions, with the cast splitting as described above to rehearse scene 8. Time was allocated for this and then the two groups merged after a set time for show and reflection on work done. This produced excellent reflection on work done for each groups, with principle conversations around noticing the difference between each grouping, with Simon noticing particularly that it was alright to not set in stone the actions for each scene and each coupling and this was a good way to work- accepting that it’s ok to do the same rough gestures and movements in the scenes with each Emma, but to be open to the fact that certain gestures and movements might not happen every time, and not to be surprised by this.

With this in mind, we continued the rest of the rehearsal – swapping couples so Aggi worked with Jo and Simon H and John B worked with John A and Kate revisting scene 8 with these different couplings. We then missed out showing this work to each other in favour of concentrating more on working on scene 9 which the cast felt was a priority. Aggi worked with Kate and John A on this, with John B working with Simon and Jo. Productive work was carried out on this, with Aggi, John A  and Kate finding humour and drunkenness a useful catalyst for the scene in their rehearsal. Then both couples presented their work to each other – one straight after the other with no reflection in between. Reflection then happened after both pairings had been seen. All felt there were big strengths in both groupings, and John A and Aggi disagreed over the impetus for Emma to move after saying ‘I have to get back’ in Simon and Jo’s pairing. Thus demonstrating the multifaceted nature of these performances. John B noticed that this had been a rehearsal for noticing and accepting the differences between the groupings and the scenes, and making ourselves comfortable with this.

The rehearsal concluded with a production meeting, where bedgate was discussed and a conclusion reached and using different coloured bedding for delineating each scene was decided. Green = flat; Jerry’s study =black/brown; Venice=blue, Robert and Emma’s = white. Red checked table cloth for the Italian restaurant.

John B suggested we focus on set and furniture next week and people bring costumes if they want to but it not be the focus. Kate to research soft furnishings and cast to bring everything next week including bedding.

Sarah to send round props list and cast to bring bits they think might be suitable and bring next week. Aggi to bring kitchen table.

Betrayal in rehearsal 22 September 2013

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The countdown to performance commences  as we begin the final rehearsal phase. The cast have learnt their lines – and other characters’ lines too, as they will be swapping.

John Stafford brought us first drafts of a new composition for our production

Notes from rehearsal: 22/9/13

 

Scene one: Ensure scene begins with someone placing beer mats and projections reads: ‘a pub’

 

End of scene: Jerry’s intention is to leave. Freezes on exit. Emma’s is to stay and ponder for a while, puts glass down on table which is cue to SM and stage team. SM and team change scene around them. Jerry’s chair moves to SL with table next to it with typewriter. Emma moves when table has moved into place SL and exits through audience. Robert enters USR

 

Scene two: opens with Jerry giving Robert a drink.

 

Scene two ends with Robert leaving through audience. Jerry remains seated, flat is constructed around him. Undrape the sofa, move table CS. Emma enters US wearing outdoor clothes and sits in other chair.

 

The other woman brings on an overcoat for him, and announces ‘Two years earlier’. Scene three begins.

 

Scene three ends with Emma exits through audience. Jerry stays  in seat. SM move table to SL and removes table cloth which need to then go into bag for Emma. Throw put on sofa. CS chair moved. SM takes coat off Jerry. (Or Emma when re-enters???) and announces ‘two years earlier’

 

Scene four begins with Robert entering from audience with a drink for Jerry, gives it to him. They are standing up throughout. Emma enters US and after initial sparring with Robert, goes to get a drink.

 

Jerry exits through audience with Robert – Robert re-enters through audience and kisses Emma CS.

 

Scene Five.

 

 

Comments on rehearsal:

Aggi – accents – posh Kensington

Simon – better to not wear street clothes in rehearsal, as will change how stand etc. Cast to try and come in slightly different clothes, not costume, but not as themselves. Emmas like the idea of a dress in the last scene.

 

Simon – Well done on lines to everyone.

 

Aggi – as prompt, how much input do cast want on exact liness?

John A – wants pauses and silences indicated but not exact lines at this stage. Will indicate when they want correction on exact lines.

 

Props for Betrayal:                                                                        set for Betrayal:

 

Decanter                                                                                    Table (dining)

Drinks table                                                                                    2x chairs

Beer mats                                                                                    Sofa

Keys on key ring                                                                        Bed