Nick and Jonny here - we had a bit of trouble with our connection but we're now online. Technology eh?
Ah, I know...
Jonny, just wondering how working on Wild Life as Assistant Director has compared to working on Magnetic North's previous show, Walden?
Walden and Wildlife are very different pieces. I think the most fundamental difference is that story-telling was at the core of Walden, and rehearsals focused on getting the actor to a place from which he could relate the experiences of Thoreau to the audience, recreating the imagery of the original text through vocal and physical means.
For Wildlife, development and rehearsals have focused largely on the characters of Dave and Daisy, and how their relationship, and the way they see the world drives their behavior in this play. Another big difference is that Walden, in terms of production, was very stripped back and simple. Wildlife has involved the work of a much larger team, and seeing how Nick has managed the work of a writer, designers, sound and lighting designers etc, bringing these individuals together on one project, has been very interesting for me.
Thanks for the question.
A question from The Skinny's venerable performance critic Gareth K Vile (who's just come into my office, ostensibly to chat about upcoming shows but really to pinch my Dark Chocolate Ginger Crunches) who's wondering to what extent you might class Wild Life as a dark comedy?
Greetings to the venerable Mr Vile.
I would definitely class Wild Life as a dark comedy. At the start, the tone is quite light - Daisy and Dave seem to be a happy couple with bad neighbours. As they embark on their "education" of the virtual wild boy they've created, they start to uncover things about themselves and their relationship and the tone definately shifts into a darker tone. It becomes clear that they both had quite troubled childhoods and the influence of this starts to come out in their attitudes towards Victor.
With the script coming on such a journey since your original inspiration Nick, has that been fun to play with?
Whenever I start a new Magnetic North project I never quite know where it's going to end up. There's always a starting point, but the interesting thing is seeing where the writer (and the rest of the creative team) go with it. For instance, with Dream Train, the company's very first project, I asked Tom McGrath to use Bach's Goldberg Variations as a structural starting point and then we talked a lot about were we would go with it. With Wild Life, the starting point was the story of Victor the "wolf boy of Aveyron" and the attempt to civilise him and teach him to speak. When we started talking about where to go with it, Pamela was intrigued by the documentary series The Scheme and the way that people reacted to it. It's come a long way from the original Victor, but I think we've ended up with a really interesting and quite provocative play.
Claire Brogan (Cumbernauld Theatre):
I think our audiences here at Cumbernauld Theatre would be intrigued to know a bit more about the rehearsal process for a project like Wild Life. Where do you begin and where do you find yourselves in the process now, 3 days before the first performance?
We started with a lot of "table work", which involves sitting around a table (as you could probably guess) reading and analysing the text, talking about the characters and trying to find out what they want to achieve. We had the playwright, Pamela, with us for the first two weeks of rehearsals so that she could answer questions and also ask the actors questions about how they understood the characters and what they do. Pamela then did quite a bit of re-writing and by the end of the 2nd week we had a finalised script. After that, we started looking at how the scenes worked in action - improvising around the intentions we'd defined for the characters in each scene.
As the actors got to know their lines, we started to refine the action - adding things, taking things away. During the whole process we ask a lot of questions - what is going on here? what does the character want? how are they going about achieving it?
For each scene, we defined an intention for each character - this is something that the character is trying to do to the other person (for example: to get the other person to reassure them, to make the other character feel guilty etc etc) and look for the moments in a scene where something changes that affects the characters and their intentions (usually when one of the characters achieves one of their intentions). As we rehearse, we check the intentions and sometimes tweak them if they don't seem to be quite right. The intentions give the actors a pathway through the play.
We're now starting to work on stage with the set, which adds a whole new dimension. Our work now is to expand the performances to fill a theatre rather than the rehearsal room, and integrate all the other elements (like sound and lighting) into the performance.
This afternoon we'll have our first rehearsal with the full set.
Ben Torrie (Aberdeen Performing Arts):
I am also intrigued by the rehearsal process for a piece like this - how much of the story and the concept changed once the actors were involved?
Also, fascinated by the idea of The Scheme influencing this - can you talk more about what impact this has had on the piece and how it is has changed?
Looking forward to seeing this up at the Lemon Tree
By the time we started rehearsals the concept was pretty firm, but some of the details of the story were not finalised. During the time we spent working on the script with the writer during the first two weeks we firmed up details of the story - particularly how it ended. We looked very closely at the two characters' journeys in order to work out how the story ended. Endings are notoriously difficult to get right - if its too tidy, it can leave the audience just as dissatisfied as if it ends too openly (unless its a genre like a thriller where the idea is that the ending should be tidy). I like a play to end with a question - in other words, that the central question of the play has been resolved, but a new question has been asked - at the end of Oedipus the mystery of the plague has been resolved but we're left with the question of how Oedipus can live with the knowledge he has uncovered.
The Scheme was a strong influence on the writing both because of what it was about and also because of the furious reaction to it. Many people were genuinely shocked by the way the characters lived their lives, astonished to discover the chaos of other people's lives; many people were also quite uncomfortable with showing this on TV because, whatever the "educational" value of it, there was a bit of a whiff of freak show about it. Some of the message board reactions to the show have made their way into Wild Life - Daisy and Dave create a virtual wild boy called Victor: Daisy wants him to be a nature boy, running through the woods, while Dave wants him to be an urban wild boy. At one point they read out online reaction to Victor and some of the quotes are taken directly from reactions to The Scheme.
The thing that changed most in rehearsal was Victor himself and what exactly he was - it was clear that he was some sort of invention, but exactly how wasn't decided. as we worked on it, he became a sort of cyber wild boy - like a character in Second Life but existing in a world that reflects the world outside Daisy and Dave's flat.
We're going to start rehearsals at 2.00 so I'll be offline then, but if anyone posts a question after that I'll respond later on.
Thanks for all the questions so far,
Ben & Nick- I agree the influence of The Scheme is a really interesting one. One of the most insidiously addictive things about Reality TV is the way it sucks you into two types of class-based voyeurism on either side of the spectrum, either aspirational (Aga and barn conversion-envy in Grand Designs) or guilty pleasure 9The Scheme and recently Big Fat Gypsy Weddings)
This is the view of the set from the seat in which I was sitting this afternoon while doing the web chat.
Thanks for all the questions.