Sanitise is devised which means we do not have a script and we don't work with a writer. Myself and performer Melanie Jordan create the show by coming up with some ideas we're interested in and improvising around those ideas. Then we choose the bits we like and refine it until we are happy with the show. Devising for me is a thrilling combination of limitless creative possibilities and a perpetual fear that we might end up with nothing at all. The process is always a little different so as we are about to start rehearsals I thought it would be good to write a little about what I think we are going to do.
GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD!
The central idea in Sanitise is that we are exploring someone's fantasies, her stream of consciousness, and so in the process we try to use improvising in a free way to see where our imaginations take us. In order to do this we have to 'get out of our heads' and experiment with ideas in a spontaneous way without thinking about it too much. We generate lots and lots of ideas and only then do we stop and talk about what we like and don't like. Some of my favourite bits in the show came completely unexpectedly out of improvising and playing around.
THE SET FROM DAY ONE
We are very lucky that our designer Alice Wilson has worked super hard to make sure we can have the actual set in the rehearsal room from day one. This is a real treat as it means we can spend the first few days playing just to find out what the set can do. The bathroom is such an important part of the play, it is important that we make the most of the space and that Mel knows every inch of the bathroom as intimately as her character does.
STARTING FROM POST-IT'S
Sanitise doesn't have any spoken words so at the moment the play exists as a series of post-it notes with the characters actions or thoughts written on them. A few weeks ago we were able to decide on how to put these in order which was a big breakthrough! Although we have created shorter scratch versions of the show before we have decided that this time we will approach the play as if for the first time because we want to tell a whole story from beginning to end and not just tack new material onto the stuff we developed before. Luckily we have a lot of new people on the team so they will help us to let go.
One of the scariest but most important parts of the process will be the first 'stagger through'. This is a bit like a first draft where we will do a very rough run through of the whole show and have the whole production team and a few helpful outsiders come and watch. Even though we haven't polished a lot of the scenes we need to see how the show fits together as a whole and it's important to have someone who knows nothing about the show tell us what they understand from watching it. There are three important criteria- 1. Does it make sense? 2. Is it engaging? 3. Does it communicate what we want it to communicate?
Above all else I know that at one point or another in the process it will feel impossible and as if we really are going to be left with nothing at all. In order for us to create something original, new and exciting we need to ride this period of uncertainty otherwise the show will be safe and predictable. I am telling myself this now, writing it for everyone to see, so that when we reach this point probably in mid-July, I will remember that it's all a normal part of devising theatre.
Wish us luck!