The idea of walking out onto a stage with a little preparation and a lot of heart is the starting point for my character in ‘Five Tins’, and one which took a very small imaginative leap! I joined the Conker Group to work on 'Five Tins' quite late in the process, replacing another actor with only 10 days until the show opened. There was an idea, a script, a structure already there which the company had been creating. Tom Penn, who I was replacing, had been part of the creation of all of that. Slotting into it was daunting and there were moments early on where I felt very unsuited to what I was facing.
But there are two things about creating new work together which became evident over the rehearsal period and into production. Firstly, there is very little room for trepidation. When a play is dependent on the company's constant input and invention, you have to jump without knowing where you'll land. You must be willing to say something stupid or do something silly because someone else might very well turn it into something clever. An eagerness to imagine and play and charm is a great start. It’s not rocket science, it’s applicable to pretty much every artistic endeavour, but it was brought into sharper focus in the intensive short period before we opened the show.
And secondly, when you know what sort of things you want a piece to say, you'll find how to say it. Tara, Seiriol and I would spend long periods in rehearsal or over dinner talking through where we were, what we were saying and whether we were saying it right. The fact that this anchor was in place (or that we kept reassuring ourselves of its existence) allowed us to keep shaping and re-shaping the show, adapting it to fit me into it and to suit my different skill-set, building a different but equally valid relationship between my new character and Seiriol's. Not only that, but it saw some lines swap between our characters four times as the show evolved and as we debated what best served the central messages we wanted to deliver.
I was lucky to have worked with both Seiriol and Tara before and this allowed us to keep tinkering happily with the show right into performance week. I'm a big believer in two ideas: that a 'devised' show should know what it wants to say; and that it should have fun saying it. The intellectual rigour and freedom to play which Tara encouraged within rehearsals has come with us onto stage and hopefully allows us to adhere to those ideas. Then again, it has helped being chucked in with an idea and not too much time to think about it! It’s been short but very sweet.