I’m not wrong. During the course of this rehearsal, I am transported to the Ukrainian countryside before the war hits. We delve into the childhood memories of Ludmilla, the ghost figure of the matriarch of the family played by Polly Frame. She moves through the scene remembering the games she would play with her brother and sister, juxtaposed with the terror of the impending war and what would become of her family.
Deborah breaks down moments bit by bit, and highlights those where Ludmilla can ‘activate’ the characters in her memories. As Ludmilla delves into these memories, she brings these people back to life. Polly does so through the props she has to hand; whipping her younger brother with her mother’s fresh laundry, or playing skipping rope with her sister using the laundry line itself. These playful movements give you the opportunity to remember your own childhood, and the times that you felt most carefree. It was interesting to watch this scene develop, and see both Hilary Tones and Jack Fielding move away from their main characters, and immerse themselves in Ludmilla’s world as her siblings.
During this rehearsal, I also observed a lot of moments where Mark and Deborah would work together to create fluidity between scenes. Using movement and props, the scenes move into each other smoothly and we hardly see the transition take place. I am excited to see how this develops through the rehearsal process, as I’m sure it will give the show a huge amount of energy.
The movement in these scenes also rely massively on the script. Mark roots the actors back into the script: “The quality in that scene should be like a game of chess”. His suggestions and observations on the script encourages the actors to play what is happening in the scene as if it is happening for the first time. He pushes them to find detail in the way the characters relate to one another, asking “what surprises you about one another?” When the actors run the scene again, bearing this in mind, the actors have more purpose within the scene and respond to one another in ways that are true to life. A confused look, an aside to another character, or even an unamused snicker.
What was most interesting to me during this rehearsal was seeing childhood memories displayed against the harsh reality of two siblings as adults living separate lives. As an audience member, you are forced to consider how you relate to your family members and how that may be different to how you did as a child. This show explores family through generations, and emphasizes what happens when family misunderstand each other or don’t even try to understand one another. There is danger in this, because if you don’t try to understand your family, can you really understand yourself and where you came from?
I look forward to seeing more detail unfold between the family members presented to us in this play. With the movement and script complimenting each other, we see family relationships through a lens of nostalgia flowing through scenes depicting family strife. I am certain I will shed a few tears when I see the final product.