An Actor's Experience
Ali directed me on a production called Settled, a new writing piece with a cast of three. The narrative is fairly fractured and jumps from the past to the present with each character taking over the story-telling from the next, sometimes speaking directly to the audience and sometimes to the other characters in the moment on stage. There was a lot of exploration to be done in the rehearsal room as the piece had never been performed and despite the fractured writing the piece needed to flow and the story needed to come across fluidly to the audience. There was also little information on who the characters were and their backgrounds. We only knew how they behaved in this story.
What drew me to the project straight away was Ali’s enthusiasm in the process of discovery and collaboration with the actors. We would solve and explore these issues together. I did not know how the final piece would turn out but I had complete confidence in her ability as a director as although she was very open, she also had clear ideas of how it could work and how we would get there as a company. She guided us through several exercises and encouraged a lot of actor preparation so we could be as productive as possible in the rehearsal room and able to build on our individual discoveries. Exercises included building up a history of our character and bringing in objects, music and images inspired by our character and the world of the play. What I was also impressed with, and appreciated, was the safe and creative environment that Ali created in the rehearsal room. Some of the subjects in the play were quite exposing and therefore had to be explored accordingly and with sensitivity. We did several hot-seating exercises led by Ali where questions were asked that explored these sensitive issues and invited the actor to explore some difficult and revealing places within. Had I felt uncomfortable and unsafe this would have been an awkward exercise. However, because we had all been open with sharing ideas and creating a non-judgemental and secure environment we were all able to learn and uncover some very interesting and enlightening truths and ideas that greatly helped in producing the final result.
Ali also placed a huge focus on ways to tell the story. The text posed several difficulties. Firstly that some of the content was some-what risqué and required careful consideration so it was not uncomfortable or “too much” for the actor and audience. Also, the narrative was not linear and flitted between past and present and between the different voices of the character. Ali helped us towards creating clear distinctions between where we interact with one another in the present moment and when we directly addressed the audience to show that we were looking back on moments or commenting on them. She used clever staging and lighting to ensure that the audience could follow and engage with this intricate and intimate narrative web with ease and objectivity.
Overall, I would highly recommend Ali as an engaging, enthusiastic and thoughtful director who is very comfortable in commanding and guiding a group of actors through a creative journey of discovery. Her rehearsal room is a focused, dynamic and enjoyable environment to collaborate and explore ideas. As an actor I felt very much a part of the creative process but also had the confidence that I was being directed towards a stimulating and wellstructured final piece of theatre which would excite and intrigue audiences!
Ellie Burrow, actress.