Last week, the room we always use had been a temporary mosque; this time, it seems to have been a staff rest area. At least, there was a small group of hotel employees who came in and made themselves at home, (though mostly this involved them looking at their phones.) But once some of my actors had arrived, I went over and asked if they had to be here – Drama does require a certain amount of privacy, which seems perverse, seeing as it is an art form which eventually relies upon an audience – and they then left, though with very little grace.
There were some absentees from the usual crew; Sherwan had told me he would have to miss the class because of a dental appointment, for which he had already been waiting months. More worryingly, there was no sign of Ali, who had been so upset at the end of last week’s class, and there were indications that he was quitting the group, largely, so far as I could understand, because of his insecurity about English. I hope we can persuade him to return, as he is one of our strongest actors.
However, I also had two newcomers today, both young women, both persuaded to come by Aisha, my best recruitment officer. Frishta was Kurdish, from Iran, and had recently fled Iran after being involved in the protests there, and then had spent ten days in Manston, the holding camp in Kent. And Ju came from Saudi Arabia. I knew we needed another woman, as we needed to fill the role of Phebe in the play. And now I had two.
Hamed was also late, but this did give me a pause to think about what to do. Going straight in to the script seemed out of the question, as only Hamed, Azi and Aisha would have any idea what it was all about. So we began with some stretching, swimming (on land) exercises, and then a game of Zip zap boing, at which our newcomers were surprisingly good. And then we did some characterisation work, creating characters through body shape, and then using those characters in a Park Bench improvisation. Reading a couple of pages of the script followed, so that I could make a decision about who would play Phebe, then a quick intro to the Hokey Cokey.
Finally, we looked at the third element of the play, in which their own stories are used, in a theatre machine, (repeating some lines and movements in a fixed sequence) which once again produced some magical moments.
And so, by the end of the rehearsal, I was very buoyed up. Both the newcomers had seemed to very much enjoy the class, though I have learnt not to place too much store in that, as it does not guarantee anything. But the other parts are now cast, just so long as we manage to persuade Ali to return.