Category: Rehearsal Log

  • Personnel Problems…

    This wonderful, filthy city, that I have had the pleasure of calling home for the last year or so, reminds me of my home country of Warsaw in a lot of ways.

    The Summer months bring the best out in the people here.

    When the sun comes out and the days grow longer – the people of London shed their fur lined jackets and their inhibitions along with it.

    When I first arrived here in the United Kingdom, London was in the midst of a hazy Summer and the 8 million or so people living there were busy revelling in the warmth and glow of a golden July. My colleagues and I had arrived at the start of the month – we’d been given a sizeable grant from the Poland Arts Council to explore the rise of Nationalism in the UK. The political movement that had always had a vague presence in our home country, but seemed to be having quite the resurgence of late.

    The money that we had been given, as a lump sum might I add, totalled a grand sum – far more than I had ever been afforded in a Creative capacity before. Thousands of pounds had been transferred to my account, enough to cover the living expenses and professional costs of four media professionals, with the proviso that we would return in a year’s time with hard-hitting documentary that would expose the truth of Nationalism beyond our borders.

    Well, a year has been and gone – and I doubt the Art’s Council of Poland are very pleased with me.

    I suppose a great deal of the responsibility lies on my shoulder. I was, after all, in charge of the project. I had put my submission in front of the Council, I had hired the crew and I had signed for the money. I’ve not been back to Warsaw since and I suppose should probably leave it for a little longer yet…

    So how did it all go so wrong? The problem stems – as it usually does – with money. When we arrived in London, back in July 2016, I’d made the wise decision that, as we were all grown adults, the massive amount of cash that the Council had give us would we divvied out amongst us and we would all organise our own bed and board.

    Gabrjel, our boom operator, was happy staying in Air B’n’Bs – he was secretly intent on saving whilst we were away and taking the money saved back home with him. Ludwik had slightly more expensive tastes, he yearned for the high-life – so his first stop was a 4-Star Hotel off of Oxford Street. Lastly, there was Henio. Had I known that the shy and retiring Sound Mixer, who had come so highly recommended from the most legitimate of sources, was such a gambler, I would never had wired him so much money.

    We had been barely a week acclimatising to our new habitats before we lost contact with Henio altogether.

    He’d been drinking with Ludwik, somewhere in Shoreditch at an expensive bar and had been led into an alley for a game of dice – we didn’t see him again. Unsurprisingly, three weeks into the trip, Ludwik had burnt through all his cash. By this point I was sick of the sight of him, so I sent him packing back to Warsaw to explain himself to the Council – I doubt he ever went.

    To his credit, Gabrjel stayed for a lot longer that he needed to. After Ludwik’s dramatic departure, the project had fallen to pieces and it felt like we’d learnt more about the follies of man than any kind of burgeoning political movement.

    Thankfully, I found PANEK – now I’m looking to start a new project but this time I’ll work on a shoestring budget.

  • The Changing Nature of Our Performers

    The 20 performers in the PANEK improv class have changed so much!

    The weekly classes that we began 3 months, in a strange half finished space behind Paolo’s gallery, have gone from strength from strength.

    Although the initial sessions were a little tricky to start with, the more that our students have got to know each other, the easier the improvisational lessons have flowed.

    Familiarity and ritual breeds comfort. As the weeks have flown by, the warm-ups and exercises that elicited stifled giggles at first are now treated with a reverential silence, as the small gathering of would-be actors are beginning to take their craft seriously. They might not have realised it, but each one of them has undergone a change in their identity. Where once they would consider themselves as just a ‘student’ or just a ‘customer representative’, they now have a new arrow in their quiver.

    By returning to the PANEK drama class, week on week, they’ve been challenging themselves to do something different each week.

    Each session, bar the familiar warm-up exercises, is completely different from the last. The rolling group of 20 or so students ensures that no team-up is ever the same, so each time a new group is put together there are countless possibilities as to what they’ll come up with. Being faced with these variables on a week-by-week basis is what hardens our students as performers.

    They might start out as timid actors, a little scared of making a mistake or breaking character, but these fears soon begin to wane as they make these mistakes and realise that there is no shame in doing so. As each individual has begun to shed their inhibitions, that might have limited their initial enjoyment of their classes, I can see that they now hold themselves a little taller.

    It would be easy to dismiss this change as something that only takes place within our performance space. After all, its not like I see them outside of the class. But as someone who has also benefited from the empowering effects of performance, I understand that it can really cause a positive change in your whole life.

    For some people who struggle with their confidence or self-esteem, like I did when I was younger, the practice of drama and improvisation can be a therapeutic experience. Once you’ve entered into a space where any mistake you can make is irrelevant, you soon understand that the ‘real world’ outside the performance space, really isn’t that much different. Of course, the stakes are always raised significantly whenever you step outside, but I soon learnt that the only person who truly punished me for me errors was myself.

    With this in mind I could go forth into the world with a new sense of confidence and ease that I’d not felt before.

    The challenge of bringing up a difficult topic of conversation no longer seemed so daunting. Walking into a social situation with a group of complete strangers no longer phases me.

    In fact I now relish the chance to do that, something that I know my students do too…

  • First Time Drama Students

    The first time you bring a group of non-performers together for a practical drama session there is always bound to be a certain amount of awkwardness.

    I’ve seen it many times before.

    As a community-based drama teacher I have shared rooms with many brave souls who have pulled together the guts to turn up to something they’d usually be afraid of, but then lack the conviction to actually speak when the time comes to it. This is a completely understandable reaction to being thrust into a novel situation.

    When you’re attempting to bring together a group of 20 or so similarly nervous individuals, who also speak completely different languages, then you’ve got a challenge on your hands.

    An awkward shuffling silence is what faced me when I entered the space behind Paolo’s Art Gallery for the first Community-Free Theatre session. I had been planning this for a good couple of months. In London, offering something for free is always a risky endeavour. It’s not that the people who live here are opportunistic, it’s simply that people appreciate the value of experiences.

    When promoting my series of Free sessions, I’ve been attempting to draw in the kind of people that would not usually put themselves in a performance environment. Although a big part of PANEK’s aim is to bring together disparate artists from a variety of culture, it’s important to me that we also initiate new artists into London’s scene. Advertising ‘free sessions’ or any kind of performance time in London, is like opening a pot of honey in the centre of a bear enclosure.

    You’re likely to get mauled.

    With that in mind, I set about focusing on advertising throughout the smaller boroughs of London that contain higher proportions of ethnic and cultural minorities. I wanted to get a spread of ages, so I targeted the posters and flyers at families. Communities are, after all, built by families and the piece that I envisioned finishing with would be one that celebrates the very social fabric of London’s boroughs.

    Back to the space behind Paolo’s Gallery.

    The nervous group of 20 individuals in front of me were clearly excited to be there, but were conscious of the fact that their English was not as strong as they thought it should be. The first exercise we ran through was a way of showing them that this language barrier was something to be celebrated not feared.

    Mime may be seen by the performance industry as a somewhat outdated medium, but in this situation it worked wonders. Arranging our performers in a large circle, I began a chain reaction of greetings and actions, all without the use of spoken word. I wanted the first session to engage all of the attendees physically – often this can be more challenging than getting people to talk.

    Our bodies are capable of an incredible amount of range of emotion. In that first session, although I was mostly focusing on getting the performers to let go of their initial inhibitions, I was pleasantly surprised by the emotional depths that these amateurs were able to plumb at such an early stage.

    This is bodes well for future rehearsals and performances – I just hope the class stays as popular!