Élan, Alfalafels and Ensemble.  Bleak House blog by Aimee Pollock.

Élan, Alfalafels and Ensemble. Bleak House blog by Aimee Pollock.

I’m so happy to be back in Bath again! It has been just under two months since I graduated from Bath Spa University and I’ve missed this beautiful campus and of course, the city. Bleak House is my first professional job out of Uni and there is a real safety in rehearsing in the place I just spent three years training in; it’s familiar and I‘m comfortable in these surroundings. Although, I don’t feel like a student anymore! David said, “the first few rehearsals are like the beginnings of a new relationship” and it’s very true. It’s delicate, exciting, and full of so much potential…
During the first week of rehearsals we have focused a lot on ourselves, especially during the morning class work. We start always with the body, connecting with a deep sense of self, and from there the ensemble is naturally emerging. I can feel us being pulled together organically, which is interesting when we come to do scene work, because I can see how the relationships between characters are developing with such detail and sensitivity.

This my first time exploring melodrama, and I feel so immersed in this vivid, impassioned world! There are so many layers that must be woven together. It really does feel like we are making a film for theatre, except we don’t hide the magic behind the camera, it is all out in the open for the audience to see. It’s amazing how melodrama can go from one extreme to the other. One scene can be utterly grotesque, absurd, hilarity but then shift into tender, emotional heartbreak. Whether its huge ensemble moments or simple story telling between two characters, it is always compelling. I have realised how technical melodrama is. It requires specificity in every movement and gesture, otherwise it all becomes generalised and the style is lost. Something as small as moving the eyes or the hand can be just as powerful as moving the entire body if its specific. It often feels like a series of cues which different emotions are bursting out of. If you take away the words it should feel like you are watching a silent movie. Penny gave me a few silent movie suggestions – my favourite so far is Lilian Gish in The Wind.

We also focus a lot on élan (the French word for ‘life-fullness’) and how it needs to be continuous all the time. If you listen to the élan of the scene when you enter you can pick it up and continue with it, passing from one actor to another. The rhythm of the story is very important and if dropped, is very noticeable. I can really see the ensemble starting to find the rhythm, nothing feels forced. We just have to listen to one another.

I have learnt so much already, in a short space of time. These are just some examples that have really made an impact on me this week;
– Don’t have taste, be truthful.
– You don’t have to prove anything. Just work with the language and the situation.
– Fail all the time in rehearsal. (It’s always good to be reminded of this. Out of failure you can find new discoveries).
– Frame the noun. Punch the verb. Stroke the adjective.
– In theatre, you should: misbehave, not be polite, go for it, sweat, and spit everywhere.
– You must start where you are. Don’t think about where you want to end up. We will get there.
– We are made up of our past experiences, they live with us in the present but we are being pulled into the future.
– The plot is the spine of the story. Each scene is the vertebrae all being held together. The story is the main character and we are there to serve it, to bring it to life for the audience.
– It’s all a game. The audience want to be manipulated. They want to be entertained, to discover themselves, to forget reality and be taken on a journey. It’s a constant roller-coaster of making them think and feel, think, and feel. Never relenting.
– The best inspirations for melodrama are babies and animals!

Finally, it is such a joy to be surrounded by generous, brave, vulnerable creative people. It’s an empowering environment to be a part of and it already feels as though we are creating something very special. Not only is it important to have group discussions during rehearsals to reflect on our experiences, and remember always that we are learning, but to spend time with each other outside of the rehearsal room. Building the relationships between ourselves help to form stronger connections within the ensemble. Which is exactly what we did on Saturday night… Prinks followed by a night at The Common Room which ended up in Alfalafels. Because it’s not a proper night out in Bath unless you end it there!

Tickets can be bought HERE