I'm working on two theatre projects right now that could not be more different from each other. But it's interesting (to me at least) to observe how they're feeding each other.
The first is Death and the Maiden, by Ariel Dorfman: a play simultaneously about the aftermath of torture/oppression on an individual as well as a whole society. I'm working on this with Bambo Soyinka, who is involved in a sort of director's mentorship programme with Living Pictures, and the focus is on the process rather than a production. For me, it's been an experience of re-learning (or perhaps just learning!) the art of subtlety. I haven't worked on a naturalistic play in years, probably not since drama school. Drama school has been playing on my mind, as lessons that my particularly sodden course leader tried to impart on us keep dropping like the proverbial penny in my head (he also said that this would happen) as we work through the process of discovery in rehearsal. Just listen to your partner on stage. Just react. Don't "play" anything. Just communicate, actually communicate. All so simple, and so bloody difficult at the same time.
Case in point, the other project: Caryl Churchill's Serious Money, which will be staged in three weeks here in Cardiff. The play moves at a break-neck speed, the characters seem caricatures (and there's so bloody many of them!) and every day in rehearsal feels like two by the time we get to the end of it. I'm playing, primarily, a wealthy Peruvian business woman called Jacinta Condor. It's early days still (but also not, as finances dictate short rehearsal periods) but I feel as though I am casting about for a foothold. I'm turning to the work I've been doing with Bambo to see if that will help me; not that I'm sounding great psychological depths with this role, but because there has to be a degree of truth beneath even the most extreme caricature. Right?
I'm quite stressed, but it also feels good. I thought for a while that only devising work could provide the level of satisfaction I want from theatre-making, but I can see how wrong I was. Not that I am going to give up on devising - the right idea or project will come along at some point (with any luck it will be something like the film I made in Poland last year, which was a brilliant experience). It feels good to be doing something nominally different though, and to see what connections there are.
More thoughts may drift to the surface over the next few weeks.