The Effect – Rehearsal Diary Week 1

Harlow Playhouse / Wed 11th May 2016 pm31 05:43pm

The Effect is the production currently in rehearsal by the Moot House Players, directed by Harry Tennison. This diary covers their rehearsal process from the first week of rehearsals to the final night. The Effect follows Connie and Tristan as they are involved in a clinical drugs trail for a new antidepressant drug. The production runs at Moot Hall on the 7th, 8th and 9th of July, and tickets are available from www.moothouseplayers.com. This weeks entry is completed by the director, Harry Tennison.

The conversation surrounding mental health, and mental ill health, is an important one. It seems a taboo topic for many, however should be and deserves to be as equally and as easily discussed as physical health. The Effect is a means of having this conversation: different characters in the play possess different opinions, and different circumstances lead to different results. It is important for us, whilst working on this production, to consider this. I don’t proclaim to know the answers to any of the questions the play poses, nor does my cast, nor should we. But we are here to present ideas, and to help break down the perceived problems that people have when talking about mental health.

With that in mind, we try to approach what we do remembering that the people in this play are real people inside a ‘clinical romance’: they have their own life experiences, things that will have influenced their actions now. Prior to entering the rehearsal room, I asked my cast to go through the script and to work things out about their characters, as well as to see where there were gaps in the information we are given about them. I don’t need to see this – they will always know their characters better than I do, as it should be. It is fantastic to see the work they have done even before we have begun emerging: Sarah Randall, who plays Dr James – the scientist who runs the clinical drugs trial – has been picking up on precise intonations of words based on her characters history from years ago. Ultimately, these kind of techniques create a deep set, and believable, character which is vital for any form of important and current work.

In rehearsal: Tristan (Tyrone Samuels), Dr James (Sarah Randall), and Connie (Abbie Middleton-Evans).

In rehearsal: Tristan (Tyrone Samuels), Dr James (Sarah Randall), and Connie (Abbie Middleton-Evans).

We are being quite bold in our use of technology for this production, involving projections and some quite interesting pieces of sound. We can’t create the exact conditions of the setting so our design is a combination of simplicity and clinical motif. Given that fMRI machines are upwards of £200,000 we have also had to be quite inventive in some of our staging choices. This, however, means we can experiment and play around with various different ways of bringing the play to life, giving us a sense of fluidity and flexibility that working with such a realistic set perhaps would not.

Prior to beginning rehearsals and now as we continue, we pay attention to a variety of sources in the media that can influence our work: this afternoon, we spotted an article on the BBC entitled ‘Do you inherit your parent’s mental illness?’, and engaging with these debates ensures that we can enter our own as well informed as possible. Equally, it is important that we understand the science within the play, and can then take this into the rehearsal room to ensure we respond appropriately. The drug used in the play has a certain chemical make up, and so we need to understand what effect this may have on those who are taking it.

We have had the very kind privilege to spend the last week working in the Playhouse’s Studio Theatre for which we are very thankful, but return to Moot House on Sunday to break down what we have been working on so far a little deeper. This will be our first opportunity to get into the space we will be performing in and really get a feel for how what we are creating may work in this environment.

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