‘For learning lines actors use a part of the brain that isn’t used for anything else,’ says Maureen Beattie.
We are at the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles, watching an open rehearsal of The List, directed by Muriel Romanes of Stellar Quines Theatre Company.
A number of people interested in the process sit watching and listening as lines are spoken, and respoken, behind a table, in front of a table. Muriel enthuses and suggests. Maureen is animated. She seems to come alive with an audience, enjoys delivering the lines of her character in the play, but also toys with director and audience. On one try, after various members of the audience respond to her questioning of character and character’s actions she even goes through the lines again, leaves the table, leaves the stage area and comes right into the body of the kirk. The atmosphere fizzes as people feeling words are directed at them individually, engage with the mood and the action.
Maureen interweaves stories and pithy comments in between the snippets of the play. We as audience are not just watching sixty minutes of rehearsal, we are watching a one-off performance about a rehearsal. In those sixty minutes we are entertained but we are also privileged to watch a professional actor and director tease out the meaning of words, how the character would respond, the emphasis she would put on words and which words, whether she would sit to deliver them, or stand, and where. We watch fascinated to see the difference this and that makes, as slowly they wriggle under the character’s skin into her very being.
All too soon our hour is over and we are sent on our way with a flyer for the play. We’re now hooked, desperate to know what comes before and after the short piece we have seen rehearsed.
See The List at the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles on Saturday 28th July and Heart of Hawick on Tuesday 31st July.
I and the others attending the open rehearsal can recommend it.