eden end - august 2004
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DESCRIPTIONDirector Andrew Rogers writes on his production of Eden End by J B Preistley for Loughton Amateur Dramatic Society
The Play Produced
by J BPriestley
PLOT AND CASTING His arrival is the catalyst for some powerful scenes. This is a simple tale of two Written in 1934 the play has
sisters. One who leaves home an old-fashioned feel about it, to follow her destiny and one with a box set, staged
who stays behind. When the duologues and progressive wanderer returns, raw
narrative; but the key themes emotions are uncovered. Set in are current and accessible to 1912, in Eden End, the North modern audiences. For us inCountry home of the village LADS it offered nicely rounded doctor, all the participants characters and strong acting would have been born into the opportunities.Victorian era. All of them, LADS operates a casting except Sarah, the old nurse, system without specific look forward to the modern auditions for plays, although world they feel is approaching: there is a general 'audition' for cleaner, brighter, faster. But the new members. We try to cast irony of 1914 hangs over every our plays from within the optimistic remark. regular membership but, Doctor Kirby is a widower occasionally, have the need to living with his younger go outside the Society. This daughter, Lilian. His other does have an advantagedaughter, Stella, left home though, in that when we do, eight years previously to the new people thus gained pursue her ambition to be an invariably become members actress, a profession greatly themselves.frowned on by her mother, and these sections. This was My only casting problem followed by Making It Real: has never been back. After her
was for Wilfred. Described as concentrating on peoples' departure, her mother died and 24, but appearing younger and emotional reactions and the Lilian assumed the role of unsophisticated, this is an age ensemble playing. The final homemaker, setting aside her group for which acting is either section was devoted to own ambitions. Their brother, un-cool or those who are Wilfred, has joined the British running the whole play several interested are away at college. West African Development times to work on the story LADS had no one in their telling and building the Company and returns home regular membership to fill the required tension. annually on leave. part but I was lucky to get hold Rehearsals were hard work It is during one such leave of someone, at a college and great fun. Set in the north that Stella unexpectedly locally, who exceeded our of the country it was important returns home, disillusioned by expectations with his ability. to have realistic northern the theatre and with a secret. The other parts, so clearly She married a fellow actor, accents and this was done drawn by Priestley, were easily Charles Appleby, three years with success and from the cast.previously but they are now outset! There was some
separated. Her return stirs up straying around the north, the household and also local REHEARSALS ranging at times from landowner Geoffrey Farrant, Following blocking Manchester to Sunderland, who was Stella's beau before rehearsals, I divided the rest of within the same scene, but I she left and who then became the schedule into four parts. was very happy with the close to Lilian. Stella and Firstly, Familiarisation: working finished article. Stella and Geoffrey pick up their on moves and interaction while Charles need to have the relationship and Lilian, the developing character and Home Counties accent of the jealousies of childhood re relationships. Secondly, as the travelling repertory company ignited, discovers the key scenes in the play are the but we also worked on Stella's existence of Stella's husband duologues, we had a series of accent slipping as she and and invites him to Eden End. rehearsals focussing on just Lilian round on each other, and
10 Amateur Stage
this was handled most skilfully by the actress concerned.
I have a reputation as a Director who is passionate about accurate and early line learning and I was very pleased with the application in this area. There were a few books in back pockets or appearances of hand written 'prompt' cards but, on the whole, books went down early and this was a huge help in developing the comfortable feeling of people who have lived almost all their lives together. We worked on moving and inter-reacting in the Edwardian style. This meant movements were, by necessity, more precise and stylised than would be so for a contemporary piece. These days we all tend to stand and, especially, sit in a more relaxed way, with legs crossed and hands in pockets, which would not have been so for the period. However everyone
worked well on their bearing and therefore when , for example, Wilfred did slouch as a displaced and disaffected youth, the effect was marked.
The central section of rehearsals, focussing on and running each of the duologues several times over in one evening, really paid dividends. By the end, Lilian and Wilfred bickered with tenderness, as they must have always done, Stella 's scenes with Sarah and Dr Kirby were most moving , the drunk scene that opens Act 3 was very funny, without being over the top and the climactic row between Lilian and Stella evoked spontaneous applause from the other actors at rehearsal. In our short rehearsal period, 18 evenings over 6-8 weeks, it is not easy to set aside one particular section of any play and really concentrate on it, but in this instance it paid off. These were really satisfying rehearsals.
The technical rehearsal was a frustrating hiatus as the lighting and sound effects took longer to get right than expected, meaning that there was little time for the cast to familiarise themselves with the set. However, by the first dress rehearsal on the next evening , the actors swept away my concerns. Our society is now looking for ways to be able to rehearse with the correct sound effects and music much earlier than show week, maybe taking the major step of purchasing its own sound equipment, rather than relying on just hiring for the week!
SCENERY I decided the feel of the play
needed a box set with all the period dressing. The text calls
for a piano, window, fireplace and a door leading off, up a few steps. This door therefore needs to be at a higher level than the rest of the set. Although this does create entrances of some impact, particularly those of Stella and Charles, it also creates a few problems. With a limited depth to our stage, the steps needed to be steep and we could not have a deep top step, which would have allowed the door to open onstage, for those exiting. The door, therefore, opened offstage which slightly spoilt the impact of a couple of entrances but the cast managed to overcome this.
With hindsight, a different arrangement could have been found, but we build our set on the Sunday of show week and the problem only became apparent when it was too late. I suppose it is not essential to have the door set higher than the stage and one could then do away with the steps. However without a raked auditorium, the entrances are more enhanced with the splitlevel. Also Priestley must have known north country houses laid out on different levels and set the scene accordingly and I do try, wherever possible, to keep the playwright's setting in mind for any production .
I' decided to fix door closers to both the exits - as one of my bugbears is a door either left open or banging shut. However this made the doors heavy to open and difficult to manoeuvre props through , but again the cast dealt with this admirably, with many a filthy look in my direction.
The set was dressed with great skill by those around me, finding perfect period wallpaper and paint effects,
authentic furniture without the need to hire anything and set dressing with all the knick knacks and pictures typical of Edwardian parlours. The view from the window, of misty autumnal hills, was very realistic.
LIGHTING The text calls for gas lamps
and together with firelight, these were the key effects. Set in autumn. with two scenes in late afternoon, I wanted to create the effect of the natural light fading, necessitat ing the lighting of the gas lamps. The firelight needed some work for it to be convincing but I was delighted with the gas lamps provided by our lighting team albeit at the first dress rehearsal - and the way the cast quickly learnt to light them most realistically.
We found the key with the lamps was to use very low wattage bulbs in clear glass . Anything more than 25 watt bulbs would have "burnt" the audiences eyes, particularly when scenes were played next to the lamps and these low watt bulbs had the advantage of slightly flickering when turned down, a realistic, if accidental, effect. We made sure there was a ready supply of Swan Vesta matchboxes around for people to light the lamps, as well as pipes and cigarettes. The design of the Swan Vesta matchbox does not seem to have changed for a century!
The fading of the daylight was also very effective, using up to a five-minute fade, to get the right feel. This necessitated some juggling of the settings once the natural light had faded and before the lamps were lit, in order to ensure
there was enough light for expressions to be seen. Again, I was delighted with the end result.
COSTUMES Costume is the area I know
least about and always leave it to the excellent wardrobe mistress LADS is so fortunate to have. She has a huge stock of period costumes and was able to adapt, or even produce from scratch , costumes which gave the production the right feel throughout.
The contrast between the quiet unprepossessing Lilian and her confident over-the-top actress sister Stella, was shown starkly in the scene when, dressed in their nightwear, they finally come to a bitter understanding; Lilian with her plain brown dressing gown wrapped tightly around her, whilst Stella dazzled in a flowing bright yellow negligee.
The right hats and coats always add authenticity, typified by Charles' astrakhan coat and floppy hat, very much the actor in the country.
All scripts. scores and libretti
featured in 'The Play Produced'
and 'The Musical Produced'
can be obtained from
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