Edinburgh Fringe 2016 - Ascension Rehearsal: Blog 1

8th July 2016

Blind Faith

We are the 2014-2016 Two Year Reppers… I am a lucky monkey. (‘Monkey’ is a common turn of phrase here) and we have embarked on an odyssey with our Artistic Director, Steve Green, to loosely adapt stories from the bible. 

The bible is a feeding ground for some of the most well known stories in history, whenever I have asked others what makes good story telling I have often been referred to it. Steve – in his rather relentless pursuit of exciting and bold theatre – jumped head first into the deep end and told us we would all be jumping with him as we adapt the book of Revelation. For anyone who has read it… I am sure you understand, if not I thoroughly recommend a perusal. The research and work that must have preceded the day of us being handed the script must have been extensive. The first impressions exploded into what I could only describe as Picasso’s colour palette after a heavy day in the studio. There are just so many things to take from Revelation and what it reflects on in terms of our humanity and indeed our human race. But, one of the most eye-opening aspects for me has been working on a character who faces becoming blind. 

This character is John, you could say an ‘apostle’ I suppose. John is a writer, he writes what he sees and it is all he has ever done! But how do you write what you see when you are blind? And how, as an actor, do you still connect, shift and play with other actors when something that you rely on without thinking suddenly disappears? Sight is something I think we as human beings naturally take for granted, John certainly did, and I don’t ‘see’ (hah!) that as a crime, its natural. But I now see loss of sight as something everyone should understand and even experience. My immediate reaction to losing my vision (in this case, some rag tied around my face) was probably as you’d expect – I cheated. Just like in blind mans buff when you look down through the gap by your nose. Admittedly if only to read my lines from the script. But, it took away from the reality of the situation.

A few days and this time I have a scene off book. Change. Darkness is everything I see. Everything now becomes incredibly important – very quickly. Little things you never think about too much! Touch, minor shifts in weight, that ‘sixth sense’ feeling of a warm human presence near you, tiny noises you often miss or disregard, millions of things I never normally notice. The most obvious and weighty feeling of it all however, is the loneliness.

I am someone who voices their thoughts aloud quite often, but I suddenly feel very quiet… Now, thoughts that I voice quite naturally are an impulse I sit on. It’s like you have less of a presence. You can never experience what so many have so easily. The simplest of connections, a human looking at you, and you looking back at them. How much that tells you subconsciously is incredible when you lose it, believe me. The beautiful flip side of this is how much you hear in return! Suddenly every word, every slight shift of their tone, the breath, even how I now picture them holding themselves physically whilst they speak matters. (You can actually hear a persons physicality. That is one of the most interesting things!) But everything matters. Things become very deliberate in total darkness, because they have to be. There is no extraneous movement. Absolutely everything has a function and an importance. It sounds very un-human at first.

Only thinking of functionality and not even considering any of the rule-breaking, disregarding fun that humans should naturally revel in! And I can tell you… it feels exactly like that. It feels restrictive. You feel useless. You feel like you aren’t even yourself. But let me also tell you, once I accepted it, it is the most human I have ever felt whilst pretending to be another human! Deep I know, I’m two teas and a biscuit deep myself right now. But you become more grounded, you feel the Earth around you, you feel other’s presences, even their mood before they even speak, you respond as an actor completely differently, listening makes it more about them than before, although I am only just scraping the surface of what this all is at the moment. 

The documentaries, films, blogs and things I have seen and read have taught me so very much about this sensitive and still deeply unexplored topic, and I fortunately, have the gift that is sight. As a rehearsal process it has been the most exciting so far, as we edit and re-edit and find new shifts 

In the scenes Steve has written and is probably now re-writing as I write. The process of this season as a company is as organic as your local greengrocer (hopefully). It is excitement at every turn, never have I had an experience quite like this one, to have the input on a script somebody else has written, work with the Director/Writer and fellow actors on dissecting what makes this stonking theatre, and how we can make a scene not just work, but fucking spark. The rehearsals so far have been as playful and as unpredictable as Fourth Monkey like to be. I look forward to seeing where it takes us next… as ever I have my faith. (Though some have called it ‘blind’ at times) 

By William Hunt