Dracula Diaries week2.2

Dearest Backers,

Its been a week of hard but really rewarding work! We now have the play blocked out and the cast are exhausted!

The complexity of the script has taken them all by surprise, and week one saw them all digging deep to breath life in to the words, now we see them beginning to move as the people. From Arthur’s curt and formal doctor, Lucy’s wild abandon, through Nurse Grice and her vicious grotesque to Florrie and her innocent exuberance; I had the privilege to watch these people take shape before me. Friday saw all the cast truly knackered as what seemed like a ‘sea fog’ turn the lives they were playing turned upside down.

Its great working with such a dedicated cast, they are giving their all to the project, and at the moment being rewarded in bruises.

Our Crew have begun the hard work of supplying the huge list of props and costumes for the play (how many crucifixes!), and our lighting design is being rigged. Its all taking shape.

As a director I love this part of the process, the cast finding their way, the items they use arriving, and the shape of the play taking form. Its also the fragile time in a project, the work load seems huge, and each time a cast member makes a leap forward in one scene, they seem to loose something else. But I can see the hard work paying off. Running the play last week I had goose bumps, and even found myself jumping once of twice, as the atmospher of the play began to build!

Roll on the process! Roll on working in the next heat wave!

Kind Regards
Stephen

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Wayne Burke playing Arthur Seward

Wow this week seems to be shooting by at a rate of knots! Arthur does not have an easy time of act 2! Constantly juxtaposing numbness and steaming from emotion, it really is a roller coaster ride for character and actor! There is also a lot of “business to be done” which can sometimes be a little frustrating, because it is interrupting your flow, as it were, but the realisation has hit that what we are doing is shaping up nicely. I have a small yet big scene which is to be blocked tomorrow which is consuming my mind at the moment, it will no doubt be a real balancing act to get exactly right, and there is literally nothing to hide behind. Arthur is exposed emotionally and I would do him a great disservice if I get it wrong. On that note its back to the text, back to the notes, back to the text again and then some sleep !

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Tara Crabb playing Mina

WHAT a week! Having moved all of my scenes in Acts I and II now, if ever I was in any doubt, I can rest assured that it is going to be epic! We’ve just finished the first run of Act II and I feel like I’ve been emotionally raped… Mina has so many emotional shocks to experience in such a condensed period of time!

I’ve been following the scenes through with emotional vigour, and was thrown a little today by the challenges of placing in the space – because of the unpredictability of audience positioning it is all the more important I’m finding that I really pad out every moment with Mina’s inner dialogue, because one false-link and the focus of the scene crumbles. So, emotional/inner dialogue for Act II for Mina runs as follows:

First, returning from honeymoon with Jonathan she is hit with the bombshell that her sister Lucy has died. This is what she’s always dreaded because Lucy has always been a sickly sibling, but she soon discovers in the hypnotism of Jonathan that not only has her death been caused by supernatural causes, but Jonathan has had an affair with her in Vampire form! As if this weren’t bad enough, Mina lashes out at Jonathan alienating herself from the men for the night, and is then ‘visited’ by Dracula – witnessing the death of her only helper and experiencing an exchange that not only puts her on an even playing field with him but is something she enjoys! Shock horror, as she comes to terms with a budding awareness of her own sexuality Jonathan walks in, she realises that this is probably going to kill her, and the only way to stop this from happening is to help the men to find and kill Dracula before she descends…does she decide to lead them to him to be reunited with him or to save herself/her relationship with Jonathan? It’s an extremely fine line, and one that Mina walks along for the rest of the play – she could easily drop from one side to the other at any moment. And all this only leads to the final showdown; a heartbreaking sequence of moments for Mina where almost every man she has come to love and rely on is killed – bar one, and it is him that she clings to in human abandon for a final release into sexual freedom.

No wonder I left the room feeling a bit dizzy – can’t wait to gain a bit more control over the sequence of events next week!

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Florrie played by Kimberly Black

Mrs Manners teech in me to reed and rite. I am not purfect yet but today we started wiv
Miss Mina is nice and Miss Lucy is pretty.
No they aint, they shoutid at me to day and I dint do nuffin rong.
They aint the only ones wiv problems. Me Jem as gone to borwar woteva that is. I miss im terriball and I need to talk to im, need to tell im somefin..
Miss Lucy aint well neeva I am up all nite wiv er moanin and twichin. Don’t fink docter soowad is bein much elp bloomin docters fink they nose betta than everyone. I got the ole weekend off so I am going daan the pub see if I can find out ow ol Fanny Waller is. Poor fing wiv child and not got a fella wunder ow shes copin.

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Simon Mitelman (playing Renfield)

So another week of rehearsals gone – it’s all happening too quickly!!
More or less got all words learnt now you’ll be pleased to hear (although not necessarily in the right order…) so now feel able to be freer in my performance.
However, I appear to have a small block on Act 1 scene 10 where I have to sing, beat time on the wall and act all at the same time. I’m obviously not up to it 🙂 It’ll get there so I’m not too worried (yet).
What I have noticed is how knackering and complex this play is. It’s deceptively simple on the page but once you start running scenes together you realise how much there is to do and how extreme the emotions become. Especially my character as I have to be involved in the action at every moment, even when I’m not directly involved in the scene.
Working hard on not trying to upstage anyone else (those who have seen me act before will know how difficult I find that…)
My challenge for the coming week is to try to ‘release’ more and take some risks with my performance. I still feel like I’m being too timid with it and need to explore the outer reaches of the character in order to know where it can go, even if the Director and myself decide we don’t want to take it there. *Sorry, that paragraph should have come with an ‘Pretentious Actor’ alert*
I’ll let you all know how it goes (unless that weird man takes over my diary again).
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Nathanael Johnson playing Jonathan

So, the play is looming large in the near future and rehearsals are picking up their pace. And what have I learned so far about Jonathan Harker (Jonty to his friends)? Well, he’s a bit bloody useless to tell the truth. However his character arc through the play is fascinating, and it’s interesting to note that he twice visits Castle Dracula, which I suppose shows deep down he’s either incredibly brave, or incredibly stupid, or just the right mix of both! I’m loving the process that we’re going through as a cast and I really feel that audiences will enjoy the immersive feel of the performance, it’s not something you get often in the theatre and I think it’s what marks this play and the ambitions of The Canting Crew out as something outside the ordinary.

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