All three members of the Descent Company are involved artistically in Now We Are Three – Steph is acting in Blind Date, Faye is directing Penpals and Keziah wrote Thornaby. So in the run up to the show, we’ll each be writing about what it’s like returning to these plays and working as Descent, three years on.
Faye on beginnings and new interpretations
So, Penpals is being performed as part of the ‘Plays Past’ for Now We Are Three and has in fact been performed before; at The Space in October 2011 and as part of Descent @ Rich Mix a couple of months later in December 2011.
For Now We Are Three I have reunited with the original cast from The Space and last month I tried to find my original notes so that, for the first rehearsal, we could start by recreating the original and then develop from there. It turns out that my sporadic archiving had misplaced these notes and neither Ben nor Chloe could trace theirs so instead we started from scratch – which was a FAR better idea anyway! As we read and re-read through the script, snippets of the original performance would come back to us all but we found ourselves disagreeing with those snippets and seeing the characters in a very different light. The play centres around a couple who, after a break-up, begin to exchange letters. In just the first two rehearsals the characters of Ben and Issy have changed drastically and we found ourselves facing all the same questions from the first time round: How did they meet? What was their relationship dynamic? How long did they go out for? Who broke up with who? In our original production, it was definitely Ben who had made the break from Issy but we have now decided that the break-up was perhaps more mutual than that: an inevitable drifting apart. This change has given Issy a far higher status and has made the tone of her letters more thoughtful, perhaps, than emotionally charged.
The letter-writing format of the play continues to fascinate me, and even more so this time round: why does Isobel, in this day and age, choose to write a letter to Ben? And how does this allow them to relate to each other? Written tone is much harder to read than the spoken word; a joke in an email threatens to cause offense. So when Ben gets a letter from Isobel, is Isobel’s monologue in the tone that she wrote it or are we going to get Ben’s interpretation of the letter? Does Issy get offended by what Ben writes, despite Ben only ever meaning it light-heartedly?
More and more layers emerge on re-visiting this piece and Saturday’s rehearsal created the shape of Ben and Issy as individuals and as a couple. In next week’s rehearsals we’re going to be experimenting with the elusive tone of the letters and with the movement of the piece: what are Ben/Issy doing when they’re writing the letters? Are they rushing out of the house in the morning before work or chilling with a glass of wine in the evening and how does that effect the tone behind them?
Now We Are Three is at Southwark Playhouse, 20-24 August More info
Next: Keziah on every writer’s favourite: redrafts