I think I can safely say that in every project I lose energy/ideas two thirds of the way through. Towards the end of day two I couldn’t summon up any further thoughts or things to develop. So it was an early ‘shower’ for the actors and time for myself, Amanda Whittington (playwright) and Juliet Forster (Associate Director at York Theatre Royal) to have a conflab about what needed to be looked at further.
Day 2 was very positive though. How to play all the characters that we feel are necessary and how to use the four actors alone was a challenge and key objective for these three days. It was about asking what are the surrounding characters value to the quartet themselves, what is the importance of their relationships and how does our four leads perceive them? It was also important to sort out if the action of the piece takes place in ‘real’ time i.e. here and now and that the scenes being played out are naturalistic or if the wistful nature of the novel shows itself through frequent reflections, flashbacks and fantasies of the four main characters.
Once we had established that the office is central to their four lives (until the two women retire that is) who the other characters are and how they appear/are played in the action became fairly straightforward. Though there are many fine obstacles to manoeuvre in order make each one work the wealth of possibilities this conceit has opened up is hugely exciting.
Actually removing a secondary character from a scene entirely (when Norman visits Ken in hospital) and hearing only one side of Norman’s conversation worked brilliantly and accomplished the scenes aim beautifully of highlighting his isolation.
To have the freedom to play, add, remove, duplicate, improvise and do things you think are pointless throw up some of the most interesting results.