We’re more than halfway through the devising process for The Lost Martini and the excitement of meeting the cast and crew, initial days of discoveries about their characters, and capturing all our ideas on the post-it-covered walls have given way to an inkling of terror as each day on the calendar is crossed off, moving us swiftly to opening night on 10 March. We didn’t start with a script; we had images, burning ideas, character dossiers, music and lots and lots of different colored post-its.
I’ve worked before with Accidental in similar high-stakes theatre creation during their Fast & Loose process in 2012, in which playwrights wrote a short play overnight in 8 hours, which was then rehearsed and performed the next evening.
The benefits of writing under such time pressures are that it forces you to make quick decisions and test them out, rather than get tied up in mental circles about which is the best decision to try out in the first place. It’s only through testing things out on the page and in the room do the options reveal themselves as worthwhile.
There are a number of challenges being a writer/devisor for the kind of immersive, audience-led, devised theatre event that Accidental is creating in The Lost Martini.
Usually, a 4 week rehearsal process begins with a script already created, which has the writer’s vision. For The Lost Martini, the creative team and actors as a group have begun with characters, general story lines, themes, plenty of willingness to take risks and try things out, but no traditional script. We have worked tirelessly through improvisations and discussions to create the dialogue, scenes, and nuances of the characters, all the while furiously transcribing onto the page, discovering what works and what doesn’t. The flexible nature of the show, requires the scenes to have flexibility to give the actors enough space to improvise within a structure of a scene, because when they’re surrounded by an audience on all sides during the performances! How do we capture on paper the multiple story lines simultaneously being played the actors, in different rooms of The Lost Martini? The early drafts of the script feels more like a multi-lane motorway or a game of Twister than a traditional theatre stageplay. Then again, with the audience encouraged to explore the entire 10-room set, engage in secret quests, play with the band and mix cocktails at the bar throughout the show, The Lost Martini is the farthest thing from a traditional theatre stageplay. It’s more of a ‘choose-your-own adventure’ event where you decide what secrets you overhear, characters you follow and clues you hunt out to create your experience during the night.
Above all, how do we run dress rehearsals that test a show which is more dependant on the audience than any other play, without an audience? There’s only a couple more weeks to find out! The stakes are high, the sweat is forming, and pressure building…all for The Lost Martini.