The Amadeus Project: Playlist

The Playlist: as chosen by the actors for their characters

Troupe in red 4

On Monday 17th June, while warming up as their characters during the workshop, the actors were invited to choose a piece of music for their character.

What is your theme tune? was the question.

The following were the replies:

Emperor Joseph –– ‘Purple Rain’ by Prince

Theresa Salieri –– ‘I Would Rather Go Blind’

This version is by Etta James.

Giovanni (Venticelli group) –– ‘Tilted’ by Christine & The Queens

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart –- ‘Everything You’ve Come to Expect’ by The Last Shadow Puppets

Violetta (Opera Singer in Venticello group) –– ‘Caro Spoza’ by Handel

Cook –– ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ by Cecil Frances Alexander

Salieri the Elder   –– ‘I Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’ by Burt Bacharach and Hal David

This version is sung by Dusty Springfield:

Count Orsini Rosenberg –– The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba by George Frederic Handel

Venticello 1 –– ‘Vogue’ by Madonna

Valet –– ‘Bitches’ Brew’ by Miles Davis

Salieri the younger –– ‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash

Constanza and also the choice of Baron van Strack –– ‘Material Gir’l by Madonna

Venticello 2 –- ‘Changes’ by David Bowie

Singer –– ‘Simply the Best’ written and sung by Tina Turner

The Tailor –– ‘Finlandia’ by Sibelius

Performed in this video by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko

The Priest –– ‘Ave Maria’

Count von Swieten –– ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, theme song by Ennio Morricone

Katherina Cavalieri –– ‘The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

More choices from Emperor Joseph –– ‘Crown’ by Stormzy

AND! ‘Me, Me, Me’by Taylor Swift

The Amadeus Project: Day 12

Rehearsal: Day 12

10th June, 2019

Family protrait, Day 12.png
Troupe in red 1

A big gathering –– with tea and biscuits at the end

What a buzz! –– sixteen actors in various shades of red, pink and orange, four designers with questions for the actors, Len representing SDG and a guest photographer.

It was slightly hectic, with costumes being displayed, put on and tried out; some actors arriving without any red clothing and having to borrow, others arriving in full regalia: layers of clothes, shoes, boots, hats, scarves.

From the very beginning the atmosphere was different, the colour bringing such brightness to the room.

The feedback afterwards was that it seemed the colour on everybody was too similar at the beginning, yet when the entire Troupe paraded through the room and created group images, it looked splendid –– the status of the characters become even more apparent now that they had another means to define them; seeing them from outside so clearly and so physically.

The actors moved into the warm-up, said hello to everyone, the designers mostly observed from a distance, though one joined the physical work.

The photographer itched to start recording what she was seeing, but she had to hold off until the group had relaxed into the evening.

Aims -Day 12.png
Aims- Day 12


The warm-up focused on the body and moving, feeling the newness of the costumes, how it altered the way each person moved and felt.

As the early part of the warm-up ended, I asked the actors to move into pairs, (the only pair I specifically organised were the two Salieris) and they began the mirror exercise, then moving quickly into working together side by side, still mirroring. In working with the Salieris separately, I became aware of the requirement for them to have a distinct and similar body movement, so this exercise was particularly for them.

Plus, I had a desire to try this exercise for another time, when I had been slightly fazed by the outcome of the first attempt last week (see The Amadeus Project: Day 11).

And then, with eyes closed, the entire group, in their pairs, moved into feeling the hand of their partner for the small details. For me (unusually I took part in this exercise too as we were a person short and I didn’t wish to create a tripartite relationship), this experience meant awareness: of the softer, fleshy bits of my partner’s hands; the hard skin on a well-used thumb, the dry hand and well-clipped nails of a person used to working with those hands.

I popped out of the exercise to observe the others, and although early in the evening’s work, the intention already there between those pairs was beautiful, respectful, delicate.

Finally, the photorapher’s moment arrived as the characters paraded, one following the other around the room, then flocked together, then created an image together. The newness brought an edge to the night and new observers always brings an added slight tension .

An Aside

‘Holding’ the night became my priority, retaining an element of cohesiveness and focus while, with flexibility, embracing the excitement and the results that might bring, the extra awareness and playfulness that gives another ‘in’ to the work of the play.

And trying to be aware of the demands on everybody –– their sensitivities and vulnerabilities as we aim to be open and receptive.


With the designers in place in their respective corners, the actors moved as their characters though the room, the exploration of the small details of these characters still our aim. Again, using the familiar instructions, we sought further knowledge and insight into these people.

In four corners, the designers had placed themselves where the actors could speak to them and respond to the planned questions that they asked.

Still, the majority continued to work, with sounds of the chatting and laughing around the edges. Little by little, each actor completed the round of questioning.

… with photos …

By this stage the photographer was in full flight. Actors were photographed in portrait initially, which was the plan, but her eye was drawn to the way they behaved when walking and undertaking their instructed tasks.

So, the posing began –– actors having their own, not-so-private, studio session with the beguiling photographer; arms raised, head positioned. I haven’t had the opportunity to ask whether she asked them to create the poses or if she was just responding to the actors’ will and improvisation.

All of the cast photos in this blog post were taken by Orla Lavelle.

Troupe in red 2

Troupe in red 3

… with questions (specified below) …

So too with the questions asked, there was a conversation that developed with the question being asked by the designers to the actors who popped out of the walk to chat; plenty discussion happening on the topics, or so it seemed.

I am just realising that we could have had a great feedback session later on this aspect but our feedback took a different tack and we concentrated only on the replies to the questions, which were fascinating and utterly revealing in themselves.

An Aside

Perhaps some of the actors and designers might provide feedback of their experience here … that would be fab!

I’m also realising how much I missed by not being the one to ask the questions and how demanding the night was in the ‘holding’ I’ve mentioned above.

But, this work will feed into the characters and the flavour and richness of the work so I’m not really missing out, just my nosiness to know and relish every single little detail!

Tea and biscuits …

And a big circle of people, reading through the questions and the answers.

Some of the items were explained further … such as:

Venticello 1 –– has a key in his pocket for Salieri’s house –– access to the heart of the story!

Salieri the elder –– her theme song: ‘I Don’t Know What to do with Myself’.

von Strack’s –– the item in his pocket was a die, feeling the edges always, to remind him to be aware and alert.

Opera Singer –– her name is Violetta.

Teresa Salieri –– her greatest fear has happened, she has been publicly humiliated by her Husband.

Constanza –- her greatest fear is to be alone.

Emperor Joseph –– his / her item a lace handkerchief, as she / he is constantly sniffling and trying to remove the smell of the masses from his / her nose.

Orsini Rosenberg –– has shoes that are exactly the same as the actor’s imagery slippers would be, ornate fabric in red and gold.

Salieri the younger –– has sweets and money in his pocket for the Venticelli.

Mozart’s –– theme music is ‘Everything You Come To Expect’ by  The  Shadow Puppets.

Venticello 2 –– wears the very latest in modern fashion footwear.

Cook ––  recipes and honey are in her pocket.

Priest –– wears old sandals hand-made from types.

Venticello follower –– called Giovanni, and considers ‘Tilted’ by Christine & The Queens as his theme song.

Valet –– sees ‘Bitches Brew’ by Miles Davies as his theme song.

Singer –– doesn’t have a name yet and wears military-style combat boots ––strong and ‘kick-ass’.

To finish …

The result?: fun, laughter, surprise, clarity … and, best of all, coming together and communicating in a different, relaxed way with a cuppa, dipped with chocolate digestives.

The possibility of working on the characters by writing arose, as one of the cast is dong every morning. Lovely idea!

Further rehearsal later this week with the Salieris, Mozart and Constanza, but people beginning to drift away for the summer. Some actors are wanting to have a ‘holding’ session, to facilitate continuity during the next few quieter weeks. To be discussed again …

Email to the Amadeus Troupe: 22nd June 2019

Hi Amadeus Troupe,

fantastic night last Monday, and the photos are fabulous, though not for the public at this point in time. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I and the design team did. They met on Friday and the costumes are another step closer in planning. The discussion was amazing around the various characters in the play, their responses to the questions asked and the way they moved about and engaged with one another. I think it was hugely valuable for the process.
See you on Monday next for our final night. It’s really important for everybody to be there.
Link to the blog:
All the best,

The Amadeus Project: Day 11

Castrato Film
The possibility of a Castrato character has been mentioned. This is an image brought along for inspiration.


Rehearsals: Day 11

10th June 2019

The energy was tangible, the whole room buzzing; seventeen actors together, Julian for moral support, the DJ coming for the first time to have a look, see what was going on, actors returning from holidays, or other commitments; the Troupe almost at full complement.

Once everyone said hello, we began the warm up –– it was great, focused, bringing everyone together; flowing, moving, standing, on the floor, all around the room.

Exercises together

After this, the actors moved into pairs and did a new mirroring exercise, moving side to side, whithout leading or following, without verbal cues. It was interesting that, although there has been a lot of work on mirroring, the different instructions here made it seem like an entirely new experience, where the actors had to start again to be sensitive / aware enough of the other actor, for it to work.

I gave feedback immediately after this exercise and I regretted that I did. Timing is everything, I find, and in this circumstance, it was too early in what was a group, including myself, that was  renewing contact with one another,  And then, after all, ‘It is all my fault!’ (see the Amadeus Project: Day 3).

We sat in a circle and massaged the neck of the person in front. The groans and moans that resulted were loud and laughter ensued. When our group has unlimited funds, I will offer everybody in the crew a massage! Wouldn’t that be amazing?

An Aside

In an ideal world, I would begin every workshop with a dedicated time for yoga or dance or movement –– to make sure the whole body is entirely responsive to the demands of the work.

Maybe, as this is an ideal world, the weekly massage can be added in too!!

The laughter continued as we tried another game. The actors remained sitting on the chairs, with their arms placed on the shoulders of the person in front and eyes closed. Then one person in the circle makes a gesture and this gets repeated around the circle. It was too much to ask. The patience and quietness required to wait for the gesture became unbearable and the game finished early.

Grabbing the night 

Time to grab the night by the scruff of the neck. Back to the walks. There was a swift instruction to those less familiar with the walks on: character, intensity and warning that I would be jumping in and out of the exercise.

I needed to bring the focus back to the work.

Actors familiar with it are now totally on top of this development work. I asked questions of them, reconfirmed their connections with the other character they are paired with, checked in with each person to find their place at this part of the rehearsals. Some are still finding a definite role. But that’s not a concern, just part of the enquiry. For people returning, it’s a matter of engaging in as relaxed and as playful a way as possible, trusting that the process will work.

We looked again at playing with gender, trying different ways of being as a man or woman; being a larger version of the character, them a shadow –– a cardboard cut-out; not tying into a definitive character at this point, but exploring constantly.

The elastic band

When that individual work was done, I moved on to another trial. Following the workshop on The Amadeus Project: Day 9, where I had been frustrated in communicating my intention to the Troupe (due to my own lack of clarity), I have been letting the difficulty sit in my brain, without worrying it. During the week, the idea of a line of actors, attached to each other by an imaginary elastic band, came to mind. The movement of the actor then depends on where they are in that line and who is leading, a continuous gap being maintained between each actor.

There is a combination of the One Moves, All Moves game in this new development as well as the Magnets game.

In this instance the two lines were led by the Venticelli, with their individual followers walking behind. The flow and movement of this exercise was great –– unexpected.

(I also tried some more flocking, to remind us all of what that was like for the two Venticelli groups.)

A little bit of colour

Before we moved on, Julia brought a bundle of scarves from which each character could chose one and put it on themselves. The idea was to consider how this character might decorate their clothing –– use the fabric as a necktie, or scarf, whatever their fancy dictated.

Image of power with Emperor Joseph

As we had done in The Amadeus Project: Day 10, we created an Image of Power, this time with Emperor Joseph in the central seat. Again, the actors use this to figure out their characters’ place in the society that is our reflection of that 18th Century world.

It is fantastic to have the actors playing the roles of the people in the upper echelons of this community all together, it gives a real sense of the flamboyance and the intrigue of any grouping playing with power; and, of course, the potential for and foretaste of the final display of our production of Amadeus.

Game of Power, Day 11.png
Game of Power


The Text

As we moved on to look at the text, I began by having a parade of those involved in Scene 3: Emperor Joseph, Salieri, Orsini Rosenberg, von Strack, Van Swieten, the Priest, all arriving in an elastic band line, as we had done before. The actors stopped and waited, twirled, regarded around them, moved forward, found a place in the set. Fab!

Then into the text, trying it out, really only getting familiar with the words and familiar with the actors saying them. There was a little playing with accent. A pulled back version seems to work best.

We go again.

There are moments here and later on: an actor’s turn to leave, a look, a way of saying something. It seems settled, makes sense. Only the first scraping away at the material that will be sculpted away into the final offering.

An Aside

Sometimes I view what I do as sculpting … paring way together at the material until we reveal the essence … or is it by adding on until the last piece of clay is fixed and, thumbprint by thumbprint, the final form is reached?

Then on to the Salieri and Venticelli scene, this time they will do it alone, without the rest of their group with them. Another sense of characters and the play moving forward with brio and style; playing again with the two Salieris and how they might possibly interact. (Though the elder Salieri has less to do tonight. We plan to meet later in the week, so that will be the time to work this out with them.)

The final piece of text worked on was the piece we had done last week with the younger Salieri, the Venticelli and their two groups. This just rocked in impact.


To finish …

The rehearsals are lengthening, so people are keen to head away and not to linger. But a final coming together is really nice … and important. We created a group and simply paused for a moment before leaving, arms around each others’ backs, reflecting on the positive evening and dealing with administrative stuff –– meeting in the week for the Salieris, Mozart and Constanza the priority next week along with the ‘big meeting’ with the Design Team.

Julia shared a lovely mood board and everyone will try to wear something in that colour palette for a photo to use for publicity next week. When we were planning this during this week, I had mentioned to her that I was really ready for some colour, I’m tired of black. We have a photographer coming to take the shot, so that’ll be good.

And I’ll contact the DJ to see how he’s fixed with the music … hopefully the process wasn’t too fear-inducing for someone uninitiated in the ways of this production!

A fine chat with the Venticelli about their characters and we were finished for the evening.

Email to the Amadeus Troupe: 11th June, 2019

Hi all of the Amadeus Troupe, Designers and production team,
To the Amadeus Troupe, great rehearsal last night. It feels like all those steps we have been working on are leading us in the right direction. Loads of wonderful moments, from characters all over the room.
Julia has asked me to send you the message below in preparation for a larger gathering on Monday night, 17th June to have a little look at costumes. It’s not a full costume night, just inspiration for the Designers’ continued work and a big gathering before we finish for the summer.
We’ll use the Annie Leibovitz shot again. Remembering which actor you copied, if you could do some homework checking the positioning and tone of the body language in detail it would be great.
There will be tea and better biscuits on offer also!
Should be great fun.
Karen x
From Julia:
Next Monday the designers will be joining us for a short period.  We would really like for them to get to know you, and more importantly,  your character! I think we will incorporate tiny ‘interviews’ into the warm up walking, nothing major just a few questions which the designers will be coming up with.   To that end could you give it some thought over the next few days, think a little about who you are, what your likes/dislikes are, what you reckon your habits are, that kind of thing.  We will also get in a photographer to take some photos that we can use for PR, so wear/bring anything in the red/orange/pink colour palette, obviously it would be amazing if you have/found/borrowed something that your character would wear but don’t stress it! Accessories would be good too, maybe an umbrella, hat or bags etc. Not vital but maybe stick to as gender neutral as possible, the odd dress/skirt would work but not too many of them!

The Amadeus Project: Day 10

Rehearsals: Day 10

3rd June, 2019

To begin …

I met with the Cook and the Valet early, before the rehearsal proper, to have a chat about their roles. Tonight, I wanted to refresh our work with Salieri and them, pick up where we had left off last week. Especially working with the Valet for the first time on this (she had missed the last rehearsal), it would be interesting to see her development as the formal, high-status servant.

And their interaction with the two Venticelli groups. The Valet and Cook are the conduits for some of the information that passes about Salieri, surely, so their relationships with their respective Venticello is crucial.

Circle of Actors

Circle of Actor- Day 10.png
Circle of Actors –– backs. (They’re a bit happier here!)

There were eleven actors tonight and two visitors from the SDG committee … one of whom was forced to join in later to make up the numbers! What flexibility is in the backroom staff!

Warm up

In the hall we warmed-up to the music, using it informally to warm the body for the evening work ahead. We used the floor a lot tonight, our movement not restricted this evening; trying not to rely on symmetry or familiar patterns. One exercise asked for the participants to use the floor while allowing the minimum contact with the body and the floor.

We moved by flowing, becoming choppy, then chaotic and finally lyrical.

We greeted each other, shaking hands.

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Notes for Day 10

Energy circle

This time, I followed the precise instructions for the Energy circle. It is a different exercise entirely, with concentration, momentum and ‘holding of energy’ as the focus.

So, the group in a circle sends around a gesture and ‘ha’ sound … using the same level of energy in passing it to the next person. A rhythm builds within the group as the level of concentration deepens. Only when is is sustained (or drops entirely) do you introduce the instruction that it can be returned the way it came (twice only by any one person).  Again, maintaining the same intensity becomes the issue.  

The final part of the game is where this gesture/sound can be thrown across the circle, provided the energy doesn’t drop. It is great fun and develops good focus.

Walks with characters … leading to mirror with specific companion actor

We carried on with the walks; moving with the physicality of the characters in the play; developing them; trying their voices. Then enlarging the characters, taking their characteristics and making them bigger –– seeing where the embodiment of this character really is (not restricting the character at this stage of the rehearsals); playing around with the sex of the character, moving from being one type of male or female to another, as the individual actor wished.

This is internal work for an actor a lot of the time. Though, I may spot something, or try to develop it with an instruction at the time to an individual or a group. In one case, I suggested later to an Actor that he use what I saw in the walk to develop his character with his particular movement / embodiment.

The development of this exercise was in mirroring, dividing the actors into twos, paired off deliberately: Mozart with Constanza, for example.

An Aside

It seems to me that having a particular partner may help in this work. Some are obvious, like the two Salieris. Others I am creating, as feels right.

The mirror exercise began as usual, working with locked eyes. At the beginning, the actors could choose where to stand, close or far away from each other. But, I did eventually play with them being far apart.

When there was a certain level of involvement in the exercise, I introduced an new element … that of the voice (but no words). This was really interesting. There were giggles and odd sounds, but there was a curious feeling about the noises coming from people and a certain understanding in it, from my perspective as an observer. And they moved position, some of them, with the sounds …

The actors in feedback afterwards concentrated more on the difficulties of this exercise. At the end, I had asked the actors to step apart from each other so the sounds were a little difficult to distinguish, apparently. I’ll have to do this again, see if it changes or whether repetition of it brings a deeper understanding.

Exercise with Chairs

Being nicely warmed up, I asked the actors to take a chair and set it up on one side of the room. Salieri entered the acting space with his chair then, one by one, with the aim of taking the power in the image, each of the actors joined in with a chair and positioned themselves in a place chosen by them to reflect their relationship with Salieri. Fabulous image. Great poses and positions taken up, sometimes engaging with the others around.

Power Exercise- Day 10.png
‘Power with chair’ exercise

The Embassy Ball

After that exercise, I asked the actors to take up position again within the room. They were at a Ball as their character. And food (cake) was being handed around. This cake was drugged, so as they took the first three slices, they got progressively more carried away with impact of the drug.

How would they react? let themselves go? Lovely to see how this develops and the chaos that results.

With slice number four they returned to ‘normal’. Though the normal was now different for some people, judging by the looks on their faces.


We had a brief chat about the exercises. It’s hard to judge precisely when to talk about things, I find, not wanting to destroy a mood or focus. Sometimes, when you least expect it, the actors speak a lot on the impact of the exercises. Sometimes, the moment has passed in relation to a mood or impact when you decide to talk. It felt this way tonight.

We spoke briefly about how the characters were developing, whether actors see themselves as masculine or feminine; how that masculinity or femininity expresses itself. The Venticelli, it seems, are like current day influencers / gossip columnists.

I mentioned about the sense of people aligning with one another, having a specific allegiance to one other person as well as the group.

An Aside

Not sure how far this pairing needs to go, not very far probably.

The Play … the text

Venticelli 1 and 2

I was planning to work with the Venticelli only briefly tonight, to warm us all up before moving to Constanza and Mozart. Sometimes I am surprised by the turn the evening takes.

Along the room, we lined up chairs in a row, facing the same direction, bar one, for Salieri, which faced the others. The Venticelli were sitting in a central position, with the others in their group sitting beside them.

We workshopped the text: the Venticelli said their lines, copied by the group together; the group then started the text, one by one like a Mexican wave, copied by the Venticelli. Then walking, the group individually approached the Venticelli who stood facing Salieri and said one line, which was then repeated by the Venticelli to Salieri. The next time, the whole group approached as a unit, walking and furnishing information on their own to start, and then grouped to give the information in the second half of the scene.

It was fabulous, and got progressively better throughout the time: the Venticelli speaking to Salieri, his responses, the responses of the other actors, the positioning –– the visual potential!

Mozart and Constanze

With the other actors still present, and the cat-walk set created by the chairs still lining up in the hall, Mozart and Constanza had their moment to read and play with their first scene.

What a first Introduction for both of these characters in this play!: both of them squirming around on the floor, in a scene of steaminess and scatology.

And hidden in a chair in the same room is the younger Salieri, horrified at this carry-on, yet not budging to reveal himself.

Extract from Act One Scene Five.png
Extract from Amadeus: Act One Scene Five


And shortly afterwards in the play, the glory of Mozart’s music is revealed to Salieri, and transports him to the presence of his God, who has given this gift to someone deeply unworthy, in Salieri’s eyes. We hear the sublime music of Mozart and then we see the ensuing devastation when Salieri comes to know of this brilliant sound and the resulting impact on his personality and ego.

A Comment

There is a brilliant juxtaposition of tempos and energy in this one scene. We had giggling and miaowing, acting from underneath the furniture. We had discussion about what the characters were thinking; what their understanding of the situation was. Wonderful material.

Salieris plus the Valet and the Cook

Just to finish off tonight (the other actors had left at this point), I asked the Valet and the Cook to remain on to recap what we had done last week, where they worked with the Salieris. They tended to him as the younger Salieri and also as the elder –– both times bringing food, dressing him, cleaning him, helping him to his chair as the Elder.

There was lovely tenderness evident but exploration too of the withheld tensions, that come from status / power situations.

Another comment

This play is such a pleasure to work on. The actors are invested in the process and up for the challenge. They will be fantastic.

An Aside

Often I say that I am looking for just one or two moments in a  rehearsal that I can see will bring intense beauty or intensity to a production –– where it feels right. Then I know we are on the right track.

I getting that in every rehearsal of Amadeus. Tonight, there was moment after moment after moment, from all of the actors.

The Amadeus Project: Day 9

Rehearsals: Day 9

27th May, 2019

I was very pleased with the planning for this evening. Following the meeting with the two Salieris on Saturday, the work that needed to be done in the rehearsal was clear to me. The plan came together easily –– I noted down what I wanted to tease out and try with the Venticelli and their groups, with the Salieris and the whole group and the Cook and Valet with their Master(s).

When I went to find some exercises and games for the group, they too came easily. The first three exercises I read about in Boal (GAMES FOR ACTORS AND NON-ACTORS) were perfect for the mood and intensity I wished to create. I sought and found three new pieces of music for the playlist to add to our existing songs.  Perfect!

An Aside

One of the chosen pieces –– have a listen to ‘Sister’ by Mongoose … so beautiful.

Mongoose 2
‘Sister’ is from this new album.

Apologies came from some actors in the afternoon. And there were some people on holidays.

Day 9.png
The Plan – Day 9

The warm up

A great warm-up. The music was on and we sat on chairs, following each other or playing. People were easygoing and playful … using the body and a little voice.

Then people used the music to move around the room, flowing first of all, then moving abruptly and finally with free movement.

At the end of this, I asked the actors to move into pairs, shut their eyes and explore the face of the other, feeling gently and delicately. It was so beautiful to watch, so tender and intimate. I could only partly watch, it felt invasive to observe too closely.

We said hello to each other after that, connecting in with each person present.

Walking with the suit jacket as the character

Everybody has their character in the cast at this stage. So, I asked everyone to walk using their suit as the clothing of the character, now moving as that person rather than as themselves as we had done up to today; recalling  moving from the centre, radiating, flowing. I wanted to get the exercise going with the characters, rather than talk abut the text, analyst or intellectualise at this point.

This is probably where I could have done it differently!

It seemed to be straightforward for those with the speaking, defined roles to embody them. We have read the lines of the main characters a number of times in the past weeks, so it’s easier to know them.

As the actors passed by me, I might ask them a question, or in the middle of the walking, I froze everybody to enquire how an individual in the group was developing their character –– what they were, were they going somewhere? Expanding the character references / body movement.

The other roles were coming, developing.

The image 

Before we headed into the text, I asked the actors to create a group sculpture around the Salieris. Clair was confined to her chair (minding her leg) and Victor had chosen to be standing on a chair as part of the exercise.

I was following the exercise called ‘Where is my place?’ (Boal: p.163). It asks for the actors to choose a chair around a focal point, to find the position / the place where they are comfortable.

In this case, I brought Victor closer to Clair, so that the Salieris were beside each other, creating a picture together. Then, one by one, the other actors joined, choosing which chair to be on or near according to their own status and the status of the Salieris, creating a larger picture around them.

What would I call this image? ‘Knowing your status’? ‘Power’?

It was great.

The text

I’m not sure I knew what I was looking for in the rehearsal with text. Although, I could see a picture in my head –– the specific actors with a certain tone / mood / physicality –– on the night, I didn’t achieve this in reality.

We worked on the opening scene, playing with it, splitting it up between the various group members, trying to create a distinction between the two groups –– followers of the Valet, followers of the Cook. Creating a moment around the entrance of the actors.

I tried different instructions, different pacing but, no, it just didn’t work. Am I wrong to believe that the text will just happen in some intriguing way that will be compelling to an audience?

I admitted it to everyone at the time. We could all relax in that knowledge. Sometimes, a rehearsal just doesn’t work and I knew I would have to rethink my strategy and change tack for now.

Much later the use of text did work when everyone grouped together on the set, near the Salieris, as they will do in the final performance. (Note to self!)

Moving on to developing the Salieri text was also intriguing. We were trying to get a greater understanding of where Salieri was mentally and physically in his opening scene: his relationship with his servants, with the ‘Ghosts of the Future’ that he is addressing.

Victor jumped in with a line, taking the initiative, which shifted the words and the potential for weaving the text in and out between the actors.

What also worked with the Salieris ws bringing the Cook and someone as a stand-in for the Valet forward to take care of the Salieris –– tend to them. In role play, they served and dressed the Salieris. It allowed an understanding of the status that the Masters enjoyed by having servants and the status accruing to the servants behaving Masters with power and standing in their community.

An Aside

It may be that I may have to leave this opening scene to the end, that all of the actors require a level of certainty about the play before I can do this part, before I can know and explain what I want them to do.

The Plan

I know what I need to do in terms of a next step. Think a lot. Walk a lot. Continue to practice together, and spend time focusing on the individual characters and the two groups. Make the interplay between them make sense to me and to the actors.

Specific questions to be answered next:

What are the Venticelli characters like? –– the Valet and the Cook?

Who are the other characters?

What is the relationship between the two Venticelli and the Valet and the Cook?

What are the relationships between the others and the Venticelli, Valet and Cook?

What are the relationships? each actor with the others in their own group and then with the characters in the other group.

Taking stock

Again tonight, small things brought moments of acute interest: the look of an actor as they moved or stood; an unexpected physical stance when I invited an actor to take on a new role; an experienced actor in full concentration; the group focusing their attention on the two Salieris together; the exploration of the physicality of the other actors.

Although I found my own difficulties with enlivening the text very frustrating at the time, there were more than enough fantastic bits to lift the spirits!

I was also very aware that the Fastnet Film Festival (held last weekend in Schull) creative hangover was affecting me too … all those days of visual and emotional stimulation and intellectual analysis.

Coming together

Before the main group left, I asked them to do a game together. We passed the energy ball from person to person and the exercise was fantastic. The energy was small, large, full of vigour, then controlled and playful, culminating in the entire group involved together, stretching to the limits of their fingertips!

The Salieris and I

I had arranged with the Salieris to linger after the rehearsal without the larger troupe, so we remained on in the hall.

We discussed the rehearsal from their perspectives, the unexpected revelations of workshopping with the Cook and the stand-in Valet, the clarity that came from playing with the text when the others were present … the understanding that came from that, the variety for them depending on who takes what lines.

It seems clear that sorting the text between them will work far better when done in conjunction with the other actors. The atmosphere and the emotional impact can be seized upon and flow from the words at that moment.

There was also discussion on whether Salieri is dying or not (he doesn’t succeed in killing himself at the end of the play, so strictly speaking he is not at the end of his life at this point); whether he is creating / manipulating –– perhaps it is about being in control –– all of this drama around him? Thereby implying that he is strong and more able-bodied than the text suggests (we may have to explore two options here).

The text recalls the ‘Agony in the Garden’ for me, when Jesus asks his followers  to wait up with him as he suffers through the night.Therefore I think the tone of this play recalls a death-bed scene.

An Aside

The image here is one I am very familiar with from my childhood.

The Agony in the Garden by El Greco, 1590

Discussion and rehearsal –– the learning

Discussion and analysis with the actors seems to be an essential (and highly enjoyable) part of the process of this play to come to an understanding of the play / the emotional states or life experiences of the characters  –– the Salieris were the actors in this case plus one other actor who had remained on –– and then to develop the understanding further in rehearsal with the others.

And, as a further step, to reflect on all of this development alone afterwards, by writing this blog and by further discussions with the actors.

This a change from the way I’ve worked before where these processes seem to have been mixed up together. Now, they occur at separate times it seems to me.

An Aside

I often aware of not wanting to talk too much in rehearsal. Analysis alone and sitting down rather than being physical stifles the text, in my view. Once I am approaching a ‘lecture mode’ I know I need to stop. So the essential discussion raised above is something that has piqued my curiosity and is something I will consider again as the rehearsals go along.

Next Monday, we will look again at Salieri in conjunction with the other actors rather than in isolation together. Then, meet again in a smaller group.

Where’s the photo??

With Julia being absent, and my head being slightly distracted, there was no photograph of the rehearsal taken tonight … oops!

Email to Amadeus Troupe: 29th May, 2019

Hi all of you in the Amadeus Troupe,

many thanks for the rehearsal Monday night. As I write the blogpost, I am recalling the wonderful moments that I observed on the evening. It is interesting in that the preparation for the evening was the easiest yet…the exercises were on the very pages that I first opened…and those exercises were beautiful on the night. Bits of the work later on in the evening that I thought would be ‘nyah’ were great.
As those who were able to be there know, other parts of the evening were less successful for me. And I left frustrated, not with you or your commitment to the evening, but with what I was trying to achieve.
I know exactly what I need to do…lots of walking…lots of thinking. In my head it’s there, just not knowing how to communicate or mould it yet! (Actually, following some walking and thinking already, I know where to start!)
So, onwards and upwards.
It’s getting increasingly more tricky if actors aren’t present for rehearsals.
See you Monday night, although a Bank Holiday.
Karen x