Park bench

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The first person through the door today was Yasser, a young man from Yemen.  I thought at first he had happened upon us by chance, but Thomas arrived shortly after, and things became clearer; that Yasser was another resident of Best Western, another nearby hotel, and had been encouraged to come along by Thomas (taking over recruiting officer duties from Aisha.)  In fact, as people drifted in, it turned out that everyone knew Yasser (except me.)  He expressed the usual desire to watch from the sides, but I more or less joked with him that he would be expected to join in.

In fact, apart from Frishta, who told me last week that she would attending a sewing course, and Alem, the attendance was very good, so that we were able to rehearse a couple of scenes from the play: Godot, the opening “station” scene, and the Hokey-Cokey section, into which we inserted Tulsi, who has worked with us enough now to be a member of the full cast.

For the final part of the session, we used a spontaneous improvisation set-up called The Park Bench, in which characters come and go in turn, creating a series of duologues, or more often scenes with little actual dialogue.  Both Tulsi and Yasser joined in, showing themselves to be very comfortable as members of the group.  All in all, it was an encouraging and positive session.


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By recent standards, we had quite a respectable showing today; only Alem was missing, and he has to come all the way from Barbican, quite a trek, and with an attendant cost – no small matter.  We will look into what we can do to both help and encourage him.  Tulsi, the trans person from Malaysia who came last week, turned up again – it is generally something of a surprise when somebody makes a return visit, as there have been so many that we only see the once.  There was also a young man from Nigeria – I am not sure I got his name – who made a tentative appearance, and I hope he too will join the group.  His English is excellent, and he shows some promise, but there is no point in getting excited about him until he shows he is interested.

Abdulaziz was late as usual – he has college, so cannot come earlier, but he has otherwise been most reliable recently.  And (fanfare etc) for the first time since the performance, we had Ali join us.  He was much his usual self, and fairly typically had no knowledge of the additional performance; his lack of English does make it very hard to be able to communicate with him.

I have decided that for the time being we will mostly leave No Waiting, as I am worried that it will become counter-productive.  But we did spend some time looking at the new scene; having additional people made it run all the more smoothly.  But I am very pleased that I chose Thomas to play the lead in this one, as he has a natural ability to react to all that happens to him.

For the rest of the session, we played a game or two, tried out some improvisations based on the idea of slow-motion, and then finished with the improve game Freeze!  This was most successful, and led to some excellent and hugely entertaining scenes.  In all, it was a successful session today, but I do have to allow myself just to go with it, and not become too stressed and anxious about the coming performance.


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Arrived to find the room partially decorated – well, one big cluster of balloons – and then a group of ladies and small children arrived, hoping to continue blowing up balloons for a small child’s birthday party later today.  They were a little concerned to discover me, but we managed to  more or less share the room for the next hour or two (though eventually we Drama people moved out into the adjacent dining hall for the last part of the session.)  The room does host various activities – sometimes prayer, or an English class, or a meetings room, or a social area, or a dining room annexe…  Quite takes me back to Drama lessons in a school hall, working around dinner ladies sweeping up sandwich crusts.

No Ali today again, and no Alem, so a bit thin on the ground.  It means the rehearsal has no structure, just doing whatever we can with whomever is there, and very little focus.  For the rest of the time, we are as much a general social group as anything, chatting about their situation, their frustrations… 

But we did manage to do some work on the new scene – a group sketch which riffs on two competing queues, with one person (Thomas) always finding himself in the slowest and most frustrating.  We could do with having more people involved, as everyone except Tom plays more than one character, but they do seem to be enjoying it, and I think it more or less works.  We did have a new person join us for a while, a trans person called Tulsi, who lives in the Best Western.  He is a Tamil from Malaysia (another country to add to the list) and he was persuaded to play one small role in this scene, but there is little point on building him permanently into the performance until we see that he continues to turn up; there are still a lot of people who turn up just for the one session.

The class finished early, as first Dasha and then Aisha and Frishta had to leave early; increasingly, it is proving difficult to find a time when all of us can be focused on the class. 

But to bring the subject once more round to parties, we were able to confirm that all of them there today will be coming to my own celebration at the end of the month; just a case of working out the logistics of getting them to (and from) Ickford.