Friday, 5 March 2010

friday 19 february

after a lovely evening at the local pub drinking hansa pilsner on tap (only TWO bottles, aida!!), i thought i might need to lie in a bit longer before our last day. but i was up and ready quite early this morning. filled with excitement and a fair amount of fear of what is to become today.
we will do the reading at 3pm, so between now & then we have a lot of work to do.
we soldier on in the small rehearsal room just making sure that we understand as best as possible the texts that the actors are speaking - both the shakespeare & the transcripts. sometimes both are steeped in meaning that needs unpicking and the joy, and sometimes horror, of dealing with strict transcripts of speaking, is the natural traits that each of the men have. so sometimes, the train of thought changes mid-sentence. sometimes much of what is said was not understandable & some times it needs a visual cue to make sense.
all of this the actors have to deal with and make their own. over the last two weeks, they have seen short pieces of the interviews in order to get a small sense of the men whom they are portraying. i dont know how much of the mannerisms or speech patterns they are able to pick up with such a short amount of time to work, but it is a bit errie how similar some of the interpretations are. i guess that is the skill of the actor - try to pick up on the little things that the men do in order to ground their characterisation, but then sell it as well. dont 'apologise' for the protrayal, but revel in it so we begin to think that, 'yes, that IS how michael speaks or andrew or kathy.....'

we make it to the main stage for a speed through rehearsal. we dont even get through the entire script before we need to clear the space for the afternoon's reading. saths is back to view the play as well as participate in a second interview with the drama students.
i hope he enjoys the show......

i briefly introduce the piece and the actors take the stage. although i KNOW they have not rehearsed it often, as skilled actors, they make it look as though it has been throughly rehearsed. they are constantly in tune with each other to make sure the piece works as best as possible and to service the script. they do an excellent job with a rough script.

i briefly speak with saths afterwards who, for now, only has one note - and that is the pronunciation of sonny's last name, which i have never been able to get right so was unable to definitively tell dan (who portrays him).

thursday 18 february

now it feels as though we are rehearsing something. the days go by so quickly now. as always, i guess, as you edge towards the end of the period here, time does seem to go faster.
the day is spent rehearsing the play. it is running at around 45 minutes, which is nice. the through line is sonny and his bible, though we don't want him to be the complete focus of the play, so we let the men's lives shine through as often as possible. this is one difficulty faced - how to edit down the transcripts. there is so much to choose from - what is the strongest and what is the best to link with the other men?

we have come up with reoccuring themes within the transcripts, stories & shakespearian quotes. they are:

unsung heroes
collective amnesia

we have a few stories about mobbs gqirana, who we have agreed is an 'unsung hero' of the struggle. one point of this play is to get the names of the lesser known vetran of the struggle known. but we can also reflect on the reason why the men are not as well known. one interview that i conducted in november 2oo8 mentioned mobbs & how he disappeared without a trace. it was with ahmed 'kathy' kathrada, kwede mkalipi & andrew mlangeni:

Have they confirmed that Mobbs is dead?

Yea, Mobbs is dead


Actually, he disappeared from the face of the earth.


So the suspicion was that while he was being smuggled out from Port Elizabeth to Lesotho, they captured him & killed him.

He was killed by the police

Ohhh, shame. But was his grave, Where was he grave found?

No, nothing…

We know that he was dead, but we don’t know where he was killed.

This is just one of the speculations.


He was definitely killed by the police….

Every now & then we are reading of people’s graves who are being unearthed –


- last, about two weeks ago, they found about 11 graves?


We were dealing with a vicious enemy…

Oh, yes.

And the enemy had to be ruthlessly destroyed too. But we were not fortunately enough to destroy the enemy ruthlessly, (laughter). Because we ended that by by negotiations. But our intentions was to destroy the enemy ruthlessly when they were oh so ruthless to us.


mobbs deserves to be spoken about. in our little way, we hope to do that.

wednesday 17 feb

this morning, i let the actors off so that i can have a concentrated meeting with vice & dan regarding the script structure.
i think with all of the actors around, i am putting to much pressure on the producing of work, when actually, i should let breath what we can created so far. so, we consoladated our work this morning and produced a stronger outline of the script. we have been able to sit and think about the work that we have produced and how that is shaped into a script. it is good for me not to feel pressured as though i am wasting the actors' time due to the fact that i dont have a vision of the next stages.
this morning has helped me clarify and find a way forward. it is also just nice to sit back & reflect on what is being done.

the afternoon the proves to be much more productive due to this morning's work. i could not have done it without the imput of dan & vice. they have proven indespensible in this process.

we come up with a script and present it to the actors. although rough, it is certainly a step or two beyond the work that i did for the reading in march last year. plus it is solidly grounded in south african artistry. i may have come to many of the same conclusions if i was writing alone back in london, but it would have not the resonence nor the foundation of being build in south africa.

i am now more confident in my contributions to the project because i have worked with these artists. we have a, more or less, common vision and nothing that we discussed this morning contradicts my long term vision of the play.

having had a bit of confidence restored, i direct the actors in a reading of the script - going through any edits that they feel it needs, then we get up on feet.

we now have the problem of the space - we are in a tiny rehearsal room which has been absolutely excellent to develop work in so far. but now that we are rehearsing the play, we need to have a space bigger. in two days time, we will be performing on the mainstage of the market theatre so we need to start to get used to it. but, this space is no where near the size, so everything is squeezed together.

but the reading & the actors' contributions really strengthen the play. the staged reading rehearsal goes over pretty well. again, i am pleased at the progress & development of the work considering that we have only be at it for 7 days. in my heart, i had hoped for something a bit more developed, but in my realistic head, i realize that this progress is good.

we have produced a lot of work but not really edited it down. this morning we did some editing, but it is going to take much more time to really hone the script. the point of these two weeks is to produce work as vice & i wont have the opportunity to work with these actors again, so we need to use our time wisely.

i feel better today than the previous two days. i felt out of it for monday & tuesday, but now feel as though i have regained my focus & direction.

in the evening, we have, once again, a wonderful dinner with masie's familiy. i am going to miss these meals!!

Monday, 1 March 2010

tuesday 16 february

back again and still, for me, a day of struggling with the work. we carry on with the further developement of the ideas from yesterday. this does seem to work well, but i am still trying to somehow figure out how to shoehorn young people from today into a story that is tight enough without them.
i have an idea and wont let it go. even if it isnt working. i need to just abandon it, but am having a hard time doiong that. it is so important to me taht this play is not a history play, but rather has some resonance in today, that i am trying to get these 'young people' as characters, but not finding a way in.
i really need to abandon it and hope (and assume) that the play will find relavance with today's young people whether or not they are represented on the stage.

the outline that vice & i had has almost all been forgotten - ah, the halceon days of old.... wasnt it just two days ago that i thought he & i had the play's strucure cracked? yes, well, i was wrong......

with that abandoned outline, comes fresh ideas. i am no longer battling to find a way in, but rather letting things develop naturally. and this has legs.
the actors are great, mixing the shakespeare with the transcripts & improvisation.

the afternoon's session is short due to the fact that saths cooper has graciously accepted our invitation to speak with the Lab students about leadership, Shakespeare & his time on Robben Island. this is the third interview that we have conducted with him. all of the artists involved with this project so far agree that they like sath's view on things. although in his early 60's, he seems to have his ear firmly to the ground to what the young people of today are searching for. he takes no delight in the fact that the older generation has let down these younger ones and makes no bones about it. he accepts that more could and should have been done for those who are not fortunate enough to be politically or otherwise connected in order to have a semblance to monetary success.

he got out of politics because, as he says, he didnt want to work for 'nincompoops.' he adds that, because of that, he might be less well off in terms of money, but he feels as though he hasnt given up the struggle, but taken it on in a less political light - working with people who have suffered because of Apartheid and its affects.

Monday 15 Feb

after a firely & exciting meeting with vice yesterday, i guess i should have prepared for my crash.....
nothing deadly, but i seem to have no energy today. we have two shakespeare facilitators who had come over from london to work with the drama students at the Lab Theatre. they contribute to the further disection of the chosen texts, but for me, i don't know where to go or what to suggest to the actors to further develop the work.
as usual, i guess, the outline that vice & i came up with yesterday proved to be weaken than we had thought. we began to improvise around it and soon found out that it was going no where.
our last attempt using our script outline as a basis is a robbery of sonny's home in durban seaching for this valuable 'bible' that the two young robbers had heard about. sonny then intervienes and 'teaches' them the lessons that stem from the bible. i am biting my tongue, hoping to get inspiration from it, but it is bravely up to tod to point out the obvious, 'We shouldnt start out our play with a robbery of Sonny's house. That isnt a good idea.'
Yes, he is right.
i felt a bit like banging my head against the wall to get something to start clicking between my ears, but the actors pull through with dan suggesting that we stage a scene from a tour our robben island as it is today with a flashback or ghost of sonny haunting his former cell. this set off a hilarious scene with one of the actors taking on the role of the tour guide who couldnt be understood, but still is overly reverentiable to 'madiba' island, as he called it.

things finally begin to flow, though without much of my help.
but finally something sticks. unfortunately, it is now the end of the day and so we have to leave any further development to tomorrow. but at least we end on a positive note.
the artists participating are great. though we all ebb & flow in our creativity, i never sense that they dont want to be here and that they are contributing as best as possible.
tonight, it is home early for dinner and then for me to try to straighen myself out. i have got to be more front footed tomorrow in my contributions to the development.