Final rehearsals, hot-seating and why I want people to see Fats and Tanya

Lucy Gallagher Meisner Tutor

It’s the third and final week of rehearsals and it’s been quite a journey – from character development and script changes, and actual run-throughs of the play from start to finish. It has been, and still is, a mind-blowing experience with whirlwind highs, and we’re nearly there… commence the heart palpitations.

I want to talk a bit about our director: Phoebe Barran. There are few words to describe just how in awe of Phoebe I am (I want to be her but just don’t tell her that). She is an amazing director and watching her really is quite incredible. Somehow, she has allowed Louise and Rekha to comfortably, naturally, find their feet through the play, yet directing with a clever, insightful logic, and gorgeous sensitivity for the script. She’s offered advice to our two actors, encouraged the ladies to express their ideas – responding always with her mantra ‘sure, sure, sure, sure’. It is quite complex to describe how she does it. You kinda have to be there to witness the finesse.

She’s sat on the carpet in front of the makeshift set watching her actors, at times, in her ol’ deep and pensive thought, and you can tell she’s going over how best to convey Fatima and Tanya and the important things that they say and do to/for one another – how best to communicate the very important messages in this play to an unassuming, or, more likely, completely assuming, audience. I am almost certain that she is the most empathetic person I have ever met, and you need to be, with a play like this, and with characters like Fatima and Tanya.

Phoebe has got the absolute best out of this short story and made it into a firecracker on the stage with a message all us humans should love, cliché or not: Hope, in the face of shitty adversity. Yes, Phoebe’s brain works in mysterious ways. Such a special eye; a special, powerful eye. Great director.

One memorable afternoon Phoebe asked Louise (Tanya) and Rekha (Fatima) to listen to music – different genres – to use it, feel it and interpret it as their characters, allow it to stimulate and conjure up different emotions and possible memories that Fatima and Tanya might have experienced pre bumping into one another in the refuge. Then, we were all invited to ask the characters questions about themselves and their past whilst they were in role. AKA a special hot-seating exercise.

I will never see hot-seating in the same light again after Louise and Rekha’s improv-performances. I see now how fundamental hot-seating is when asking actors to find their characters and truly connect with them. Through their hot-seating, Louise and Rekha invented a whole background to Fatima and Tanya, impressively off-the-cuff, that I never even considered when writing the script. Such wonderful actors.

Again, it did get very intense and emotional. Once more, there was not a dry eye in the house when both were asked about the nitty-gritty of their lives and their experiences of domestic abuse. Hot-seating characters such as Fatima and Tanya isn’t for the fainthearted – for the audience as well as the actors themselves.

So, final rehearsals and the pulling together of the play, as this experience starts to draw to a close for all of us, has naturally made me reflect on my reasons and motivations for writing it in the first place. I want to raise the issue of domestic abuse and I want people to understand the complexities of this as well as the immense human struggle involved for the survivours.

Thinking about this, the obvious dawned on me: the people who matter most, the survivors, are not going to be up for coming to see the play. Lucy, it ain’t happenin’, luv. I’ve suddenly peeked outside my artistic bubble, seen the reality of the situation, and now I feel a bit silly.

Now, I finally realise, that survivors and current victims of domestic abuse, will obviously find it too much to see the play. Despite this, I do want as many other people to see it as possible, please, not for me, or the actors, but for those who can’t.

See you there.

Lucy x


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