From 3rd to 9th March Mercury Theatre Wales invited actors and writers to participate in their research and development week at Chapter Arts Centre. The aim of the week was to take the next step in the development of the company’s upcoming Christmas show.
|An improvisation session in the Loft|
The Mercury team have already conducted numerous recorded interviews with a wide range of people; from pensioners to school children and wanted to use this week to dramatically explore the ideas and traditions each of us have around the festive period. By watching some of these recorded interviews the actors were able to begin creating characters in workshop sessions, some everyday, some extraordinary. By playing around with different scenarios and character types the actors provided a wealth of starting points for the writers’ imaginations to run with.
One of the characters who reappeared throughout the week was a homeless big issue seller for whom Christmas is just another day. In huge contrast was the domineering matriarch thrown into turmoil by an unexpected guest; ‘but I haven’t got him a present!’, her bah-humbug husband and his aging, alcoholic mother who only cared about the sherry and mince pies.
|Some of the writers hard at work|
Through a number of discussions different combinations of performers and writers explored their own views of Christmas, many of us realising that things we thought everyone did at Christmas are unique to our families whereas other traditions seemed universal. The orange at the bottom of the stocking provided a whole afternoon of improvised entertainment.
Although the festive season is usually seen as, well festive, the R&D week also allowed time to explore some of the darker stories. From the now grown up child of divorced parents for whom Christmas is a time struggle in order to see everyone, to those who spend Christmas alone or who can’t afford the now extravagant holiday. Perhaps the most common reason for a blighted Noel is one most of us can relate to; alcohol.
On the final day the whole group of writers reconvened to share their thoughts and initial script ideas inspired by what they had seen throughout the R&D process. As the production develops it will be fascinating to see if any of the quirky characters developed throughout the week will make an appearance in the final production. I really hope so!
For more about the production please contact Mercury Theatre Wales email: firstname.lastname@example.org