Doctor and actor Caroline Lloyd approached me to direct an evening of monologues for the theatre. The inspiration for the production was a piece Caroline had written based on five years experience working as a doctor in a number of Melbourne's brothels. Caroline and fellow actor Carmel Hyland had tracked down another monologue about an old woman who had been a high class prostitute all her life. The plan was to put these two pieces together in a show.

A third monologue to complete the programme is in the process of being developed - Richard Sarell.

The following notes describe the unfolding rehearsal process for Carmel's piece "Yesterday's News". The rehearsals for Caroline's "45 Minutes Thankyou Gypsy" are being recorded on videotape.

First Meeting - (Friday evening 23rd July) Carmel reads "Yesterday's News" by Peter Barnes. Caroline (in her Producer role) and I listen. This is an opportunity for me to meet Carmel for the first time. It's the opportunity to see whether Carmel is the kind of actor I feel I can work with and the opportunity for her to see if she wants to work with me. We get on fine. She is a relaxed and capable performer. As a read through it is perfectly satisfactory. We also discover we can 'talk' - a very important ingredient in the actor/director relationship. My fears about Carmel having to play a 113-year-old woman evapourate - for reasons I can't clearly explain. Maybe it's to do with the quality of Carmel's voice. We all agree to go ahead. Rehearsal times are booked for the next month. A good beginning.

First Rehearsal - (Tuesday 27th) 3 - 6 pm. Another general 'reading' of the piece and a discussion of the OBE issue. The play is written by an Englishman in 1983. If we set the play in Australia then there is a complication because as she has been given an OBE. Anna is expecting a visit from the Queen. OBE's are now an entirely British affair. The question being - do we change it to an Order of Australia or set the play in England? If we set it in England should we therefore do the appropriate accent? We put these questions on hold for the moment.

We do a read focusing on the concept that Anna is talking directly to the journalist/reporter character and not talking in that 'vague monologue tradition' to an unidentified 'somebody-out-there'. I sit in as the journalist. Carmel feels having someone to talk to makes a huge difference. She especially likes it when I actually respond. The big difficulty with monologues is the lack of interaction for the actor. This seems to be a way to get the piece out of Carmel/Anna's head and into an interactive-world. A good start.

Second Rehearsal - (3rd August Tuesday, 10am - 2pm) Notes recording this rehearsal are a bit sparse. We recall that there was more general discussion and we believe that it was from this point that I identified the issue of 'reminiscing acting' being a force we need to deal with. We had done enough 'readings' for me to perceive a pattern in Carmel's work.

She had taken to looking back 'fondly' on the material she was delivering. This is a common issue with actors when they are talking about their character's past and it is problematic. It eliminates drama and blurs story. People tell stories for a reason. We had to find the reason Anna was telling this story to the reporter.

We reach an agreement on story i.e. we agree what happens during the course of the play. We also agree that 'fondly' needs to be banished from the performance.

Third Rehearsal - Sunday 8th (10.30am - 2pm) - Carmel arrives very upset about a scary incident her daughter experienced at school. We talk about that for a long time. Major issues like this can't be ignored.

When we are ready, we commence reading and if I can't hear the connection with the reason 'Anna' is saying something Carmel and I discussed the line at length. We need to know -

  • how Anna felt about the incident she is recalling at the time it happened,
  • how and why her views of that incident have changed over time and
  • why she is telling the reporter about it now.

This is a very lengthy process. It takes up the rest of this rehearsal and we are not yet halfway through the piece. Very excruciating for Carmel.

Four Rehearsal - (Friday 13th August, 7.30pm - 10pm) Finished the process we started last time. This takes the whole session. It's more than story identification; it is building the world - the past and the present. Hopefully that's the end of the 'excruciating phase' for Carmel.

Carmel's homework is to explore Anna's pain meter. I suggest she goes through the major events in Anna's life and rates them between 1 & 10 for their discomfort/pain level.

Fifth Rehearsal - (Sunday 15th August, 10am - 1pm) - Carmel hadn't done her homework on the pain metre. But she had done a fairly detailed chronology. We discussed this at length deciding on Australia 1970 Queens Tour or England 1982 as the two options for setting the piece.

Carmel did an extremely good but extremely detailed recounting of our story definition - very pleasing. Proof for me that we are both headed in the same direction. We both want to tell the same story. I try to simplify her description - down to 3 short sentences (this is for additional clarity). Then we did a read of the whole thing straight through - very little side coaching - very positive results with the pre-history reducing the 'fondly' and reminiscing elements enormously. Going well.

Sixth Rehearsal - Tuesday 17th August - An hour talking about the pain meter. Then complete run through - the first real rehearsal and it was excellent. NO 'FONDLY' present this time. Hooray!!!

Discussion of fears and clarification of discoveries. Talk of staging. I have been sitting in (as the reporter) so that Carmel had a person to play to. Now I take myself out and we talk about playing it so that more of the room can see her. She has been entirely focused on the 'reporter' till now so one section of the audience would only see the back of her head.

We need to start dealing with this. So we try -

  • A looking around the room rehearsal where we discovered that looking around the room brought back 'fondly' (ever so slightly) as it caused some level of disengagement from the task of winning over the reporter (To find a playable section we had to establish the 'beginning' section of the play. We did this. That was what we worked on.)
  • We try a laughing rehearsal (Carmel is growing bolder but not bold enough), which revealed a repetitive pattern in the laughing so we explored a variety of laughs
  • We did a fast run, with big pauses for key thoughts (lots of newness emerging but only one big pause right near the end). This was a particularly bold adventure from Carmel. Used the laughs boldly and really well.
  • Going fast but repeating key words or phrases. This was an enormously productive rehearsal. Very bold. Very exciting.

Final run through of the beginning - a very bold one stopped by Carmel (she wasn't sure why - just had lost it). The next run not nearly as interesting and echoes of 'fondly'.

Big progress made today.

Seventh Rehearsal - (Sunday 22nd August, 10am - 1pm) We rock straight into it. Carmel plays the 'beginning' with great vigour and energy, and much laughter. Which is great but there is too much laughing. I start noting the bits that don't work but decide that the problem is that last weeks work on finding Anna's positive, energetic and humorous side has taken over completely. So I don't really give the specific notes at this stage as I decide that last weeks work has entirely eclipsed the pain meter.

We start a pain run of the 'beginning' but it goes so well I let it continue. Carmel runs the whole piece (minus one section about the bishop) without one reference to the text. Bravo! It is a very impressive performance. Many new and revealing readings of events both past and present. She is in tears at least twice. Always trusting always staying in the moment. A few spots where I need to stop her because she has gone back to 'laughingly' (last weeks influence intruding again) but she always takes time to regain her place and then joins on and continues. I AM VERY IMPRESSED. This is not the way we want to tell the story but it was a moving performance in its own right and definitely has put in place our work on pain from last week.

We then talk about balancing the humour and the pain and Anna's determination to complete her task.

To help we play the numbers game again and get out our metres. We assess -

  • Anna's determination to do the job at a 10.
  • Anna's determination to cover her pain an 8.

We try this on a short section (the loss of her maidenhead) - but it is too 'laughingly'.

This shows us something about the laughter.

Carmel laughs easily and well. It initially was great but now it has become a comfort zone and the actor is enjoying it so much she over indulges. When this happens she disengages from the reporter. The interaction and the story stop. It could become quite irritating. Carmel acknowledges that she is disengaging in these moments. She is always open and aware about these issues. We agree that it always has to be about working towards achieving Anna's goal with the reporter.

So to reduce the laughing we -

  • Reduce Anna's determination to cover her pain to a 5.
  • Leave Anna's determination to do the job at a 10.
  • Assess Anna's sense of the ironic 8.

This balance seems to work really well.

We discuss a couple of specific moments. One of them relates to Anna recounting her first job, when to please the old man she calls out, "Oh, you a splitting me in two." At the moment this is a real shriek and so gives the impression that Anna is experiencing pain of at least a 10. Carmel doesn't feel that is what she is doing so there is a disparity between the actor's perception and director's perception.

We discuss the circumstances - all very logical. I suggest she should know how it really was with the old man - what did the young Anna actually do? This seems a bit intimate/personal to improvise here in front of me (so although the voyeur in me is quite interested) I suggest that at home she replay the scene to discover what really happened. This is that issue of how 'our previous life-experience effects our next choice'. Impro is a really good way to get that previous life experience into the memory. Thereafter no acting is required.

A really positive, practical and adventurous rehearsal today.

I continue to be very impressed with Carmel's abilities. She is a very open and trusting actor who is capable of new explorations and big changes. She listens to herself really well. Excellent work.

Seven weeks to go. I wonder whether the sailing continues to be smooth from here.

Eighth Rehearsal - (27th August 8pm - 10.30pm) We start with a run through. It's good. It feels like our work is consolidating.

Carmel assessing herself and her performance outcomes really well. She feels she needs more connection with story. I agree. It's maybe time for me to sit back in that chair - so she has someone to work to again. This will, I hope, build up an image of how the reporter is responding and thus develop the journey about whether she is succeeding in her task of getting her story across to him.

We make one cut. There is possibly another one.

We then re-define the beginning - it is now "Anna sets out on her task to get her story of Mrs. Allan across to the reporter. In doing so she has to decide the best path to take and she also has to test him out to see how receptive he is likely to be. She decides after trying out references to Mrs. Allan that she should divert to entertainment for the moment."

IN SHORT - "She sets out, testing the reporter and decides entertainment is the safest route."

We then try running the opening 2 minutes -

  • Fast with big pauses for other spheres of concentration and important thoughts. This doesn't work at all. It's just fast. Many important words slip buy without generating any impulses.
  • We try again after encouraging Carmel to find more key words. This makes little difference. Maybe this exercise should go in the delete bin.
  • Try going fast but using the repetition exercise on key words (as we have done before). Plus using the repetitions to find impulses for other 'spheres of concentration' and new thoughts. Now things start to happen. Carmel very adventurous. Finds a couple of fabulous moments. But I can't remember one of them so I can't tell her how good she was in that spot. Bugger!! A couple of moments where Carmel doesn't find impulses or ignores the reporter because she is so internally focused. Side-coach our way through those - she responds really well finding new and different impulses. She always takes time to think. Very re-assuring.

We end with a complete run - goes well, but is a bit bland. Carmel makes a resolution to be bold next time. Another good assessment.

And another good rehearsal.

Ninth Rehearsal - (Tuesday 31st August 10.30am - 2.30pm)

Carmel starts by reading this rehearsal diary (last weeks entry) and finds some things that were worth remembering. That's good.

We talk a bit about her fears as to whether she can fulfill our goals in performance and that although she understands the goals she would feel more confident if things were locked down. I express the view that if we lock everything down all that is left is to imitate what we have worked out. I like the idea that there are choices left to make in performance so that the actor has to be actively engaged in the performance process. If we make it all completely safe, where is the edge? I believe she can produce the goods in performance but the rest of our rehearsal time should be aimed at making sure that is so.

There is no disagreement, just the desire to feel safe.

We get on with rehearsal. The aim is to rehearse the beginning and the ending to see if we can find the connection between the two Mrs. Allen references that bind the piece together. The importance of Mrs. Allan needs to escalate today.

  1. We rehearse the opening four times.
    OK but fairly bland, "Just a warm up," says Carmel. Mrs. Allen is clearly more important but only a small amount so.
  2. We assess were our 'pain', 'irony' and 'determination' meters are and discover the irony one was a bit low. We re-focus on our meters before the next run.
  3. Re-affirming our 'meters' makes a huge difference. It's really reassuring to see how potent they are at pulling us back into line. Mrs. Allen is much more important this time. ITS OBVIOUSLY REALLY IMPORTANT THAT WE 'SET OUR METERS' BEFORE WE START. We try nominating a couple of important points where the determination meter might go over 10 and also where 'Anna' clearly decides to opt for entertainment rather than explanation. This goes well.
  4. Carmel felt she would like one more run to consolidate. It goes well too.

We rehearse the ending -

  1. A good run. What happened to Mrs. Allen is much more important than it has ever been before. Carmel making good bold choices. We decide there is an ending (which is the point when her goal is achieved) and that after that there is a post-script. We agree we need to 'land the ending' before we move into the P.S.
  2. Another good run. We decide that having achieved her goal 'Anna' is probably exhausted. In need of sustenance ourselves, we have a cup of tea.
  3. We try another run. This time I shoot it on the video camera. This is a BIG rehearsal. However although Carmel starts off PRETTY BIG it settles to just an ordinarily energetic level by the time Mrs. Allen gets mentioned. Still don't really get a separation of the ending from the post-script. Talk about putting a little movement here as she shifts in her chair. While watching the video replay Carmel becomes aware that she is using her hands a lot. I think it's all right.
  4. We try a fourth run - the ending is clearly 'landed' and there is a clear and very different shift into the P.S. Carmel is very good at allowing things to be different.

So, we do a FULL RUN. It takes 25 minutes. Carmel comes out of it screwing up her nose. She didn't feel like she was really in it. I thought she was. It got off to a very fast start. (Our meters were obviously set at the right level and did their job.)

She didn't have a clear division in the dialogue from 'the beginning' into the next chapter but even though she blurred the two segments together she still managed to clearly define the story elements.

Very clever. Great trust here.

On my list are -

  • We need to define two or three moments where a new chapter of her story starts so there can be a clearer shift of storytelling energy.
  • A couple of moments were 'fondly' appeared briefly and were we needed more pain.
  • There need to be more laughter 'spikes' from her. We have lost those snorts of derision. Maybe we should give Carmel a ration of four or six laughter 'spikes'/snorts that she must sprinkle through the piece each run - but not determine where they should go. Just leave it to her on the night.
  • Missed one impulse down the end on "No I didn't sit in the corner," so we didn't find/understand the choice.

A VERY GOOD RUN. Very together, I thought.

But is it together and engaging enough? I DON'T feel it is, yet. Although the time did go very quickly and it was over long before I expected it to be. We talk about heightening the difficulty of 'convincing the reporter' to strengthen the story shape. I hope that will do it.

I give Carmel my notes and she rushes out the door 10 minutes late for her after school pick up.

Tenth Rehearsal - (Tuesday 3rd September 7.30pm - 10.00pm) More talk of the 'fears' whether she can maintain the ingredients on her own for the performance. Carmel tells me she has huge levels of anxiety coming to rehearsal. She has discussed these with a work colleague. I am anxious about the fears getting too great. That's an awful pressure to carry. But I don't deal with this very well. I articulate the view that it is the fears that will keep the performance alive - so they are essential. Do I really believe that? Does there have to be stress present to act? I have always hoped that it could be achieved without stress.

Carmel brings news that the English publishers of the play want an incredible five hundred pounds deposit on the rights. THAT'S STRESSFUL. They have been very difficult to trace.

We move into rehearsal. The aim is to increase the contact with the reporter and lift the level of drama. Carmel going very fast. Everything fairly flat. Nothing more important than anything else.

I sit in so she can play to me. We keep going. I interrupt the rehearsal a number of times. I feel I am harassing her and not really being a constructive help. But I keep harassing when I can't hear the impulse that produces the line. There are many times I don't hear a connecting impulse that I don't stop her. We go over and over the opening without much result. Carmel says it has become EXCRUCIATING AGAIN!!!!

'Fondly' acting makes a brief re-appearance

We try running a section that is not working - she speaks the subtext between the lines but this is neither very productive nor very illuminating for me. I didn't ask Carmel how it was for her?

I explain the connections that I think I can hear in some of the lines. But this is just asking her to imitate me. That doesn't feel like a very good directing choice so we don't run those bits again.

I ask Carmel what she thinks Anna's chances are of getting her story published and being heard by the Queen. She thinks they are about 50/50. Maybe even higher. "All she has to do is blurt it out at the Queen and that's achievable," she feels. "But does that meant the Queen has really heard her?" I ask. So, Carmel makes an adjustment. "Perhaps 20% chance of the reporter publishing and a 10% chance of being heard by the Queen."

That seems to be much more of a contest. I set Anna's goal to 'get her chances with the journalist up to 80% of success'. This is a tough task.

We try again. This produces positive results - a much more active Anna with a much higher Centre of Gravity. I side-coach as we go applauding the bits that work. Carmel's voice is much more in her head. More active and energetic. But she keeps slipping back into the more inert, neutral connections of earlier and the voice drops back into her chest. From the reporters seat opposite her I encourage it back up. I feel this is pretty intrusive and bullying. She responds marvelously and continues to work hard.

Occasionally we hand out percentage points as to how she is progressing with the reporter. Can she win him over? More and more consistent energy emerges. Slowly she gets bolder and bolder.

I discover I can signal to her when the contest is dropping off. This works very efficiently as I don't have to interrupt her performance to indicate more effort is required. Carmel responds to this really well. She doesn't make sudden artificial changes to the performance but rather looks for moments of danger that will provide impulses for 'Anna' to increase here efforts.

She is gathering an understanding of when the reporter is resisting her. The drama and the story content is definitely going up.

Towards the end, she takes much more time to think - particularly in moments of great issue. Now we are looking good. At times really good.

I now feel really positive that this can be a much stronger piece than I had previously imagined. Great.

Carmel is really concerned that she wont be able to consistently deliver what we have discovered - especially without someone sitting in the chair with whom she can interact.

Our next rehearsal is a week away and it's for the group. That will be interesting.

GROUP REHEARSAL - (Friday 11th September 7pm - 11pm) This was a get together for everyone to see how each performance was going. At this stage Tanya Hanby and Tuilyn Lim who were creating the third piece had still not completed a script and were showing us where their ideas to this point. Caroline Lloyd's piece was now fairly organized as far as her script went but she hadn't had any real performance rehearsals. Carmel was the one who had worked most in rehearsal. She unflinchingly offered to go first, which was good for me as that's where I thought "Yesterday's News" should sit in the programme.

Carmel started very strongly but with more 'old lady acting' than I had ever seen before. Things settled down as she went. All the 'pre-history' work we had done played very well so there was much complexity. However the story was low in drama. There was no real danger for 'Anna' and so the whole piece sat fairly constantly at the one level. Tuilyn commented that she didn't find it boring but although I found the performance over all to be satisfactorily believable I found the story to be very dull and not particularly engaging.

So at this stage all our strategies are not producing the desired result.

Eleventh Rehearsal - (14th September 10.30am - 1.00pm) Discussion about Friday night's group rehearsal. Assessment of what did and didn't work.

We set goals to make the reporter 'the enemy' and to pursue surprises. I identify a surprise as anything that interrupts the need of the moment.

Carmel feels that at some stages through the piece she must feel that she has connected with the reporter. My gut feeling is that she should never feel that until the end. She can hope that she has or think she is getting close but she can never believe she has got there until the end without diffusing the dramatic tension. Carmel takes this on board.

We try running it. It's off to a really good start but then lines start popping up that aren't committed to progressing Anna towards her goal. I am sitting in and as soon as I don't feel engaged I indicate so. My hand signals are no longer subtle - they are exaggerated and immediate. Sometimes I have them a metre and a half apart. Very disconnected. They never get closer than 15cm - there is always that tantalizing gap to bridge. Carmel works really hard and we discover that when my interest suddenly drops that this does not surprise Anna.

We work on building in these surprises plus the assessment and new choices that come from them. Carmel, exploring intuitively boldly begins to find the connection with Anna's difficult task. It gets better and better.

Along the way we explore the story about Anna's loss of her maidenhead to the old man. We pursue my concept that to play Anna in this moment Carmel needs to know -

  • what actually happened,
  • how Anna felt about it afterwards
  • and why she wants to re-tell it now.

It has always been my belief that Carmel hasn't done this homework properly but I am wrong. It is easy to confidently assume that you are right but if you don't test out your hypothesis you never clear the communication block. My smug assumptions are well off the mark. Carmel can answer all these questions it is just that her story intentions aren't readable because she isn't playing the surprise of discovery that the young girl experienced. We remedy that and suddenly it plays really well. So, then we change all the ingredients and try telling a different story. That works too. There are many ways this event could have unfolded. We try as many of them as we can think of. Carmel trusts herself with all of them and they all work really well. Neither one is plainly better than another. Sometimes Carmel goes really slowly here to make sure she understands were the impulse is coming from. This is immensely encouraging for she is venturing into territory that she has not been in before. She goes there positively if carefully. Top work.

Surprises are getting better.

A really good rehearsal. It's exciting when it's as adventurous as this. There is no doubt in my mind that Carmel's task is the most difficult of all the monologues we are performing. It's a very interesting challenge and we have a way to go yet.

Twelfth Rehearsal - (20th September 3pm - 5.30pm)

Initial discussions today are about where we are at. Carmel is uncertain where this is all heading. Will it deliver the goods? Is the story being told? Is she capable of playing surprises and assessing the level of difficulty 'Anna' is experiencing with the reporter even though he is not there - she is alone on stage.

I feel my answers can't be very reassuring. All I can say is that I believe what we are doing is in the process of working and will work. But I don't know that it will. It's all I have to offer so I can only trust it. But I do trust it. It feels OK to me. And I trust her. I believe she can do it so I am quite relaxed about it.

We agree that Peter Barnes has created a very challenging piece. Of all the monologues we are doing this is by far the most difficult task. To play someone who is three times your age and to do so sitting in the one spot and never moving is a big challenge. Added to this is the complication that for this performance the audience will be sitting on two sides of the performance space - so one group will be largely looking at Carmel in profile. As it is predetermined by the story that she is talking to one person (the reporter) she has little reason to look away from him and thus there is a real danger that a large part of the audience will feel excluded from the conversation. We have to find answers to all these challenges.

We agree that the way to find answers is to start rehearsal.

I explain my plan of attack. Firstly, we must spend time getting the 'surprises' working and working constantly so that we keep the challenges of the story actively unfolding. When we have done that we can start work on how to share the story more with our audience. Carmel wonders how long this might take. There is no answer to that.

Carmel is getting sick of the beginning. She decides today to start in the middle of the middle.

I sit in as the reporter.

Off we go.

Whammo!!!! Immediately Carmel is onto it. Everything has changed. It's really engaging and active. It's never been like this before. In the instant I know we have arrived. ITS HAPPENING. IT'S HAPPENING!!

Carmel continues right through to the end. It's now chock-a-block full of surprises. She only misses two when 'landing' the ending. We have the answer to our first question. And how long did it take? An instant. Just like a switch being thrown. Will it be like that tomorrow? I believe it will. She is wearing it very comfortably.

All that work has kicked in.

We start again at the beginning. This time we can start blocking. We find reasons for her to look around the room. We put a picture of Anna's young self on the wall to her right this is very helpful in bringing her around to that audience group.

We travel fast and well. Things fall into place.

We come to a part of Anna's story that connects to a period of great pain in her life. I suggest we create imagined images that relate to this period of Anna'a life and 'place them' out to her right so that she is drawn to look towards that audience grouping. This feels very contrived and uncomfortable for Carmel. She can't find a way to trust it. I think it is a bad idea.
So we return to basics. We decide to re-visit the pain issue. We haven't been there for quite a while. I suggest an old trick taught to me by a friend, John Higginson. He used it to explore surprises. This time we apply it to painful memories. In fact, in a way they are internal surprises generated by memory I suppose. The exercise is - do a flat run of the lines and every time an image of something connected to pain is provoked by the words Carmel is to raise her hand.

The hand can go up a lot for the big pain and a little for the small pain.

Carmel jumps straight in. I am quite mesmerized. It's really simple but the tears come again. Wow! Maybe I am wrong about having Anna always keep the mask in place and never let the pain out.

There was only one spot were Carmel didn't find an image to connect with the pain. We do it again. When Carmel comes to this spot still nothing happens. No hand goes up. No image is triggered. She waits saying the words over and over. "Foundling home … foundling home … FOUNDLING HOME …foundling HOME". I watch. Carmel keeps repeating and repeating. Then a long pause. Is there nothing there? And then … slowly … ever so slowly the hand goes up. The tears are there again.

Watching a good actor work is a remarkable thing.

We are tired.

It's time to stop. What a day. What a journey. What will tomorrow bring?

Thirteenth Rehearsal - (Tuesday 21st Sept 9.00am - 12noon) The thirteenth rehearsal! Will it be an unlucky one? I don't believe in those sorts of superstitions. We did so well yesterday - I am excited about another adventure today.

Carmel arrives concerned she hasn't had time to re-visit yesterdays achievements - they had guests last night. She wanted to spend time consolidating what had been achieved. Its not that she doubts the achievement it is just that she worries that it wont last. It's the "will I be able to do it again" concern.

I don't feel any concerns. Yesterday's success was the outcome of good process, clearly understood and well used. The process is still there, the same acting skills are still there - we will be fine. It feels terrific to me.

We begin rehearsal. Carmel wants to start in the middle again. She is tired of the beginning.

Off we go.

I don't sit in as the reporter. Carmel is on her own again today.

Carmel confidently places the reporter in a new spot, finding a new eye line. This is very pleasing. No security blankets here. Despite her constant articulation of her fears about whether she can ultimately do the job or not, Carmel has always been adventurous in her performance choices. She continues to be so today.

Immediately she starts, it is terrific. Performance-wise it is pitched a little lower than yesterday - we are working in a small room and it tends to push rehearsal to more intimate levels. I occasionally remind her about this but it is a very minor worry. We continue to block moves. This is really just looking for ways she can move in the chair or how she can comfortably find ways of moving her eye line away from the reporter so that more of the audience can see her.

Great trust, great listening and great surprises (lots of them). I think she is terrific. I get lots of laughs - well enough anyway. There are many more than ever before. I wonder if the audience will laugh. It is not a naturally funny piece. On the page it is quite intense.

And suddenly we are at the end. Before we know it. Great.

We are ready to show it to others. We need an audience to gain a broader perspective on how we are going.

Carmel says, "I am very focused on the reporter now. Is that a problem?" I don't think it is. The concerns we had at our Friday night group rehearsal that the audience might feel excluded because Carmel's eye line is so fixed to the one spot, I feel are no longer a worry. It seems to me that the contest between Anna and the reporter are now so clear that we are engaged in the story and interested in the outcome. I hope I am right. Time will tell.

Carmel raises the old issue of whether we should impose an English accent on Anna. I am uncertain. We try a couple. It seems that a more conventional middle class accent is best - Anna was a very successful businesswoman. We put this issue on hold. Something else to test. I quite like the simple open theatrical convention of watching an actor act. No 'old voice', no accent, no set and no reporter.

"I am finding it easier," says Carmel, with a grin. "It's easier than I imagined to believe the reporter is there."

Whoopee!!! I always believe that's a very good sign, when it starts to get 'easy'. It should be easy. It should be fun to do.

We finish half an hour early today. I am well satisfied.

A bit over a week to our first dress rehearsal.

Fourteenth Rehearsal - (Tuesday 21st Sept) Carmel is worried about her ability to maintain the performance ingredients. That she hasn't the time to re-visit and consolidate the work between rehearsals dissatisfies her. I am not concerned.

She also wants to try an English accent. We decide to give the middle class one a run and see what happens.

I state my two goals for the day -

  1. There are a few occasional moments where Carmel is moving to a new thought where there is a bit of 'head acting' to fill in the moments of actor doubt.
  2. When she messes up a line the actor goes back to correct (this maybe good line learning process) but we need to establish a point from whence the character makes the corrections and keeps going - we have to get the actor out of these moments.

I want to banish those two elements. They were the only blemishes on yesterday's run.

We start.

The English accent doesn't work. The middle-class attitudes that come with it don't work for the character or story.

We stop.

We get rid of the accent for the moment. And start again.

Off to a flying start but fairly early into the piece Carmel seems to move to a comfortable place that suggests Anna knows the outcome and that nothing is at risk. Drama, colours and energy drop off drastically. Near the end I ask Carmel to put her hand on her Centre of Gravity - its right down in her solar plexus. It needs to be in her upper chest. Plus we need to share it around the room more.

We talk about this, take a short break and rock back into it.

Centre of Gravity up this time. But still the challenge, the level of difficulty drops off. So we stop again. I suggest that every time Carmel assesses how Anna is going with the reporter the answer she gets is that she doesn't know. She can only assume out of this that maybe it's not going so well.

We try this it works - but not enough. This run only goes for about 15 minutes till we stop - Carmel has to go. We have regained the lost ground but need more. I feel this our low water mark we have to consistently deliver more than this.

Good things learnt.

The contest and surprises

Fifteenth Rehearsal (Wednesday 22nd September) - Carmel working very hard today. She has been thinking about it a lot. It's a very energetic run. She starts off playing very old. There's a lot of energy - she's going very fast and there's a lot of hearty laughing but I don't feel that Anna has a sense of humour. She just laughs a lot. I make the note that she has to share the laughter with the reporter.

Lots of good things and extremely energetic but not really trusted and my interest dropped off a lot in the middle. Story got lost there. But the beginning and the end is in place.

Tuesday 28th September- Sixteenth Rehearsal
Today Carmel hooked into purpose and meaning and story gets left behind. As everything had an important purpose no element was more or less important than anything so everything had a predictable rhythm.

Off to a GREAT start though. Not acting old today. And a really solid end.

I make notes of how many pauses there were in one speech. Pauses to emphasize the importance of the point she was making. There were fourteen of them.

But many good things. I think that first phases of her surprises have slipped away - everything is just being assessed. Assessed weightily.

Carmel goes home thinking. She doesn't look happy or confident. I am a little concerned that we are going around in circles. I wonder what I should be doing to straighten this out. Something to sleep on.

Seventeenth Rehearsal - (Wednesday 29th September) I have a plan. We are going to redefine story. And work on the surprises that move us from one major chapter to the next. I sat down and marked up the script before Carmel arrives.

She also has a plan.

Immediately we start it is clear she has taken ownership of it all. Confident, clear and entertaining she moves through positively. Many things are quite different. All are good. Finally she is confidently leaving space where its needed. Listening well. Good surprises. It works. She has sorted it out on her own without my assistance.

A great run all the way.

Eighteenth Rehearsal - (Thursday 30th September)

Another really good run. Carmel is going really well. A new beginning in that she now walks a bit further to the chair right at the start.

Only a few moments of actor control. I have a few notes that point out where actor desire for a line sometimes takes over character intention and impulse. But these moments are very few and far between.

The encouragement at this point is to expand the moments of pain and increase the moments of enjoyment. We play with a few moments of pain and work on keeping pauses active. This seems to have a lot to do with connecting the mind to the Centre of Gravity.

That's two good runs in a row where the story was told and believability maintained.

I think we are there.

Carmel goes home happy I feel. I feel very good about it. It's an immensely demanding piece. Sitting in the one spot for twenty-four minutes is a major challenge for any actor. But I like it. I think the job is being done. I wonder what the rest of the world will think.

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