Drama Project Blog

Welcome to the third instalment of Unscene Suffolk’s Drama Project Blog.

Denise and Ann rehearsing for The Tree of Dreams. In the background, the chorus hold prototype branch props in the air.

Denise and Ann rehearsing for The Tree of Dreams. In the background, the chorus hold prototype branch props in the air. Credit Daniel McKee

This is the latest instalment of my drama project blog which aims to offer an insight into how an Unscene Suffolk production develops from first ideas to final performance.

It’s been a little while since the last blog and we’ve been very busy. Things have moved along quite rapidly (as they often do at this stage of the production process) and we now have finalised characters, script, and music!

Jenni developed her concept of ‘dreams as metaphor for our real-life fears’ into a story ‘The Tree of Dreams’ about a retired couple, Ellen and George, coping with the strains, and often stresses, of growing old and learning to accept change. In Ellen’s dreams she meets some strange yet familiar characters who need her help to save their beloved tree. George meanwhile is left to worry about Ellen’s health and tries to get into her dreams to rescue her. Some of the characters devised in earlier workshops such as Little Bo Peep, Maggie Pie and Little Boy Blue have been incorporated, and a clever divide between the ‘real’ and the ‘dream’ world allows for two sets of actors to play Ellen and George. The rest of the cast take on multiple roles as nursery rhyme characters, animals and the tree itself.

With the script mainly in place, Jenni and Nathan of Rationale Method have been working through the show as we ‘block’ the action, when we decide how each scene will look and where everyone will be on the stage. During this process the dynamic audio description has been developed and the script has evolved with it. In other words, the cast perform the dialogue, and the sound effects are created to work best with the movement of each scene, then the audio description is incorporated at the right place to enhance the audience’s comprehension and create the richest visual imagery possible. It’s fascinating to watch it develop and come together, and this time I’m the other side of the stage as Jenni has involved me and another helper in the action.

Along with the script and audio description, more music has been added. The wonderful Pat Whymark, a writer and musician who worked with the group on their first production several years ago, has returned to get involved again. Jenni has been busy providing audio tracks to people and there are even some lovely harmonies. Pat has also added a tango vibe to some of the music and Nathan took this as a cue to get ‘dream’ Ellen and George dancing!

The design of the show is also coming together as our set designer, Maia, has been working hard creating some wonderful aesthetic and tactile branches, which not only look amazing but feel realistic too. Danuta our costume designer is putting together an array of ‘tree-like’ colours and patterns for the ensemble, and creating simple and effective characters through representative pieces: a monkey in a suit, a punk skunk and ‘Lady Washalot’.

Nathan Geering with cast members rehearsing 'The Tree of Dreams''. Credit Daniel McKee

Nathan Geering with cast members rehearsing ‘The Tree of Dreams”. Credit Daniel McKee

A few weeks ago we had a visit from Daniel McKee who filmed one of our workshops with Nathan Geering as part of a documentary he is making for the “I’m Here, Where Are You?” festival at Cambridge Junction. The two-day festival was a celebration of disability arts featuring nationally and internationally renowned acts. Some of the cast attended the Symposium event to perform an extract of ‘The Tree of Dreams’ and to share the group’s work alongside other fantastic inclusive and disability arts projects from across East Anglia. The symposium was attended by arts professionals and funders from across the region and helped us to raise our profile too.

Those that were able to attend felt it had been a really good experience. Jenni suggested it allowed the group to “put something in front of an audience, get over some of our nerves and hear their enthusiastic feedback and interest in our process.” Our newest participant, Ann, was quite overwhelmed by the experience as she had never performed before, but everybody rallied round her and she gave a fantastic performance. I caught up with her at the last workshop and she explained:

It was my first ever time acting in front of an audience and I was actually so terrified and I didn’t think I could go on, my mind went blank. I had loads of support from the rest of the cast encouraging me to go ahead and do it, which I did. Afterwards I was so elated I was buzzing. I felt really good that I’d gone ahead and done it in front of an audience for the first time ever. So thanks to all my cast and the support I had on that day. Now I’m looking forward to doing the production in July

With this short performance under their belt, and every scene now ‘blocked’’, the group is going into the final rehearsal phase of strengthening characters, brushing up on movement and, most important of all, learning their lines!

As the production starts to look like a real show we’re having some longer rehearsals and extra days. Everyone is working very hard and the performances are looking good. Our production dates are set now for Saturday 6th July at the New Wolsey Studio, and two opportunities to share the group’s work with the community at the Avenue Theatre on 9th July and at the Castle Hill Community Centre on 10th July – our very own mini-tour!

We’ve had a week off for the half term but it’s back to business this Thursday. I’ll continue to keep you posted as the performances loom ever closer!

Caroline Roberts

Workshop Assistant

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