Ian Morgan. The Echo Chamber r&d day, Berlin. April 2011. Photo KOR.
It’s January 2nd 2012. It’s a Bank Holiday. Most people are still celebrating or recovering from the new year. We are in a former milking parlour in West Wales, trying to remember what we did to start developing The Echo Chamber in 2011.
Appropriate for the time of year, it is a time of reflection.
I have two large A4 files of texts and research material, have started my second notebook and am breaking in my fifth pen. I have so much notation and raw material, I’ve taken to carrying it around in a waxed cotton shopping bag I got free with a magazine.
In the days leading up to the start of rehearsals I spent hours looking at video footage of our peripatetic r&d sessions, editing down our two days in Berlin in April, four days in Wales in August, and two days in London in November, into notated lists of potential structures, motifs, and physical sequences we may decide to develop further. This pre-preparation saves us time, so we – Phillip Zarrilli, Ian Morgan, Peader Kirk and I – can simply plug the video camera into the television and fast forward to the highlights, then scrutinise, deconstruct, and debate whether this is material to hold onto or put aside.
For years I hated working with a video camera. I spent too much time trying to decipher intention or meaning. I always knew video could never capture the essence of live performance, but I discovered how, combined with careful, copious notes, this documentation could be an aide memoir, particularly important when collaborating with dancers or physical theatre performers.
It is also an essential skill when juggling many projects, and developing a performance over a lengthy period of time.
My advice to all practitioners is to hone your notation skills and develop your own means of recording thoughts, ideas, associations, physical scores, traffic of the stage, improvisations, and anything else pertinent to the process of making. You may feel self-conscious at first, or over-eager, but resist the urge to censor or reduce your note-taking. ‘I’ll remember that’ we always think. But we don’t. Write it down. Commit it to words. You may be surprised when and how this turns out to be useful.
As writer/dramaturg of The Echo Chamber, I feel it is part of my job to keep a sense of where we are in the often long, non-linear narrative of co-creation – to be able to open my book – as I did this evening – and tell a colleague what the instruction was for an improvisation he made nine months ago in Germany.
The Echo Chamber by The Llanarth Group premieres: CHAPTER ARTS CENTRE (Cardiff) 27-28 January, 2-3-4 February, 2012, 8p.m. [Market Road, Cardiff CF5 1QE: 02920 304400 http://www.chapter.org
copyright Kaite O’Reilly 2/1/12
Hello Kaite, I am really interested in these thoughts about notation and keeping records. I am currentlyin discussion with a Romanian practitioner and although her English is excelllent, somewhat better than mine in fact, we are not only trying to decipher and discover what each other really means whilst corresponding, we will also be discovering and exploring a new theatrical code and language in which to begin to create our work together. And of course there will be a gaps inbetween our r&d sessions.
Thank you, Jain. This whole area fascinates me… I also think there is a difference between the vocabulary and language of the studio (when together, in one space, real time) and the language of describing, creating or conceptualising which goes on when apart (either in individual imaginations/notebooks, or email correspondence). I’d be interested to know how you get on….
Its terribly exciting and would certainly love to share that with you. I looked at Theatre Complicite’s site recently, they have released a book on ‘Rehearsal Notes’. and there is also a small part about keeping records in their Devising process teacher notes with rehearsal sketches, photos etc.
I wondered if you might have the time/inclination to share some of your working process after you have finished your dates in Chapter?
Sure – let’s try and make that happen. You can get in touch here or via my website email@example.com
I’ll be writing more about process on the Echo Chamber as well as other productions during the year. It’s fantastic to get that affirmation of interest in what I’m blogging about (things that occur to me in the process of making), so thanks for your comment.
Thanks Kaite, I would really love that and look forward to following your journey into what can be a very private process.