Tuesday 2 March 2010

Character exploration

I was early for our first rehearsal and sat at the terrace of the Tusk café, next to Patrick Studios in Windsor. Memories – I came here often when I was living in St Kilda, just a month ago. I’m a bit anxious: today’s my first day as a director, actually telling actors what to do. I did coach a few people before, for the stage or speeches, but still, I’m wondering, will I manage?

As I’m waiting there, an Asian arrives and sits down in front of me. He’s cool, he’s wearing rings, he’s reading a book, he’s drinking a Latte. And I’m thinking, he’s exactly what I would like Nick’s character to become. Ten minutes until the rehearsal starts, I text Nick, and ask him to come by and observe. He arrives shortly after, and looks at how this guy moves his hands like a crab, in very precise gestures, and touches his face lightly with his hand, but actually supports its whole weight entirely through the neck. Meanwhile, we discuss the family background and personal history of the Asian Guy: does he live with his parents? What’s his job? Is he out yet?

A bit later, after the dance rehearsal, I sit down with the actors and start discussing their characters – focussing on Matthew’s this time: Who is he? Why did he choose to be a policeman? Why is he the one doing the beats? He had options, he could refuse – why did he go on that particular mission? Is he actually on a mission, or just using his badge as a sexual prop? And, as in some sort of psycho-something film, personal experience and memories come up, Matthew starts talking about his father being a policeman, about his own desire to dance and act as a kid, how he had to impose that on his family. I’m listening, moved – and also, calculating how that will nicely feed into the character. At a deeper level, proud of myself for managing to bring it out so well. And thinking, it’s actually like writing a novel, I’m exploring my characters, and from a first cluster of ideas and emotions, a whole range of psychological and personal history stuff appears, that justifies the whole situation.