Steph on 8fold Theatre’s The Door

Our producer Steph is acting in 8fold Theatre’s production of The Door by Cherise Cross, which opens at the Park Theatre this Tuesday 12th November. Here’s her rehearsal diary and the story of the play so far.

How I got involved…
I first got involved in The Door, after auditioning for the part of Karen back in March this year.  I knew the writer, Cherise – founding member of 8Fold, and the director, Descent’s very own Faye Merralls, but  I still had to audition, which is nice, as I didn’t feel like I was just ‘given’ the role. We performed a rehearsed reading at the Hen and Chickens, shortly after auditioning, and then after feedback on the script, Cherise worked on some rewrites, and we began rehearsing for a 2 day run at The Warren for the Brighton Fringe.

The play, my character, and Brighton.
The Door is a surreal, psychological drama, and is based on Cherise’s own experience with insomnia. I won’t reveal too much about the plot as it really is one of those plays that you need to see to understand – and this is something that you all should do of course! I will focus on more about my process and the character I am playing, Karen.  She is a mother of 3 who married when she was just 22. She appears in 2 scenes, and both of them are set in a therapy session that some of the characters are attending.

Karen is a supporting role, and as with any minor character, the challenge is finding a purpose for them to be there. It is important to fully explore the relationships they have, if any, with the other characters in the scene, and to still ensure there is an objective or need within the scene that they are playing.  Karen and another supporting role, Tim, were very different in the Brighton production; we really focused on the humour in the therapy scenes, resulting in them being the ‘comic relief’ of the play. We had lots of fun working on them (especially the poem, look out for this, one of my favourite bits in the play!), and this really worked with the direction Faye took the play in.

Although the play is slightly surreal, we worked on the play in a very naturalistic way. Together as a cast, with Faye, we worked on what we called a ‘logic’, that ensured we were all on the same page in terms of what was going on with our characters prior and during the scenes.  It was a very fast process, as we were also quite limited by time, so I think we all did a great job of scratching the surface of a very complex idea. Brighton Fringe is very similar to Edinburgh, in that you only have a few hours to tech, and you are required to get in/get out after each show, this meant that our set/lighting design was very limited.

The Park
We were all hugely exited when we found out that 8Fold had been offered the run at the Park Theatre, but there was a small downside; Faye, couldn’t direct again, due other commitments, including her final year studying for her MA in Shakespeare Studies.  But all was not lost, as our current director Amy Draper agreed to take on the project and it has been a great experience so far; she has had lots of fresh ideas for the play, which in a new venue if often a good thing.

Rehearsal Process
Coming back to the rehearsal process for our run at the Park has allowed to us to go even further to really explore the characters back-stories and to understand their connections to each other, which for this particular piece is very important. We went even further with the logic, and although it hasn’t drastically changed for us, we have delved much deeper, which has really given me more to work with to explore Karen as a character. I feel like she has more relevance now, and is less caricature than she perhaps was before.

We started rehearsals on a part-time basis, which has been nice, as we have been able to take time to reflect in between sessions.  It has been complicated, confusing, and very challenging, but I feel it makes a lot more sense now and we have had some really fantastic breakthroughs.  The scenes I am in have changed immensely, and are not necessarily ‘better’ than before, but they are much more fitting with the way in which Amy has taken the play. The comedy is less prevalent, but there are much higher stakes in the scenes for all of the characters, which adds a new layer of tension.

Into the Venue
We are now at the end of our full time week of rehearsals at the venue itself, which is lovely! Our designers have been in, allowing Amy to explore the lighting and sound, which will contribute hugely to the piece.  The play has definitely taken on a more surreal feel in design, which I think compliments the themes and the writing as a whole. The script has a few edits since Brighton, but I feel it is in a place now where it is ready, and after this week, we will ready, (I hope!), to present a play that questions, explores, and leaves the audience in a place where they can decide what to take from it, and will undoubtedly make their own conclusions as to what has happened. The Door isn’t a straightforward play, and all of our work/discussions on the logic may or may not be apparent to the audience, but as long as we are playing our objectives, hopefully we will be successful in telling the story and entertaining.

The Park seems like a lovely venue, and there is even a theatre dog, Hazel, who I already love. She even has her own Twitter account @parktheatredog and was interviewed by Time Out, clever dog.

Do make sure you come along!

The Door is at Park Theatre from 12 Nov – 1 Dec. More info

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