After being on tour since October 1st, it is now time to say goodbye to Ranger Ratcliffe and Molly, it has been an adventure and a half!
The devising/rehearsal process for By the River Bank was very interesting for me. I was curious to see how it would work devising with a director and to see how you can produce a relevant educational programme from a traditional story for Key Stage 1. The story of The Wind in the Willows had its challenges because the story doesn’t present very many obvious issues that we could work with. Then we started talking about the idea of adventure, taking risks and possible danger versus home. This closely linked with the part of the story where ‘Mole’ gets lost in the Wild Wood wherefrom we came up with our character the poor lost soul Molly (get it?), played by yours truly!
We made a conscious decision for this character to not talk. We didn’t establish why or whether she can talk, we just thought it would be a very interesting thing to experiment with. It turns out this decision had a very positive impact on the piece for many reasons. It made Molly quite a vulnerable person which then allowed the children to take her under their wing and look after her, with the result that Molly had the lowest status rather than the children. The thing that surprised me the most was how the children reacted to Molly. Not speaking and being very vulnerable had a very interesting impact on the children and how they participated. They grew very fond of her very quickly which was lovely. The fact that Molly doesn’t speak instigated a lot of discussion amongst them but in the end, most children just accepted it and moved on, which was great. I even got my first ever bit of fan mail! Our other character was Ranger Ratcliffe the insect inspector based on the character ‘Ratty’ and played by the one and only Malcolm Jennings!
Working with a director whilst devising was a new thing to me. It involved a lot of experimenting here and there, talking about random things and lots of cups of tea until we came up with our piece and then rehearsed it lots. It was good having an outside eye when we were rehearsing and someone to give an opinion on how to improve. It was difficult to rehearse without the children so the first time we took it out we were curious to see how it would work! It wouldn’t work as a piece of Theatre without the children since they are main characters in the story! It was different each time we did it and were constantly tweaking things. I found it great how we had the freedom to do that up until the last day. It has been an excellent two months touring around Birmingham, I need to hibernate now!
I am now an expert in staying still for very long periods of time under piles of leave or alike, not talking (which some people may enjoy!) and pretending to laugh at Malcolm’s jokes!
I will miss Molly but now it is time to start thinking about the next project All Aboard! which I am looking forward to!
Have a merry Christmas!