A View From Rehearsals: Penguins Week 1
Assistant Director Hannah Jones gives us an insight into Penguins rehearsals...
Penguins is based on the true story of two male penguins who lived in Central Park Zoo; together they hatched an egg and became a family. This charming tale that reached the New York Times in 1999 touched many of its readers and has now begun a new journey into an enchanting children's dance piece, directed by Paul McEneaney and choreographed by Carlos Pons Guerra.
Family is at the heart of the story, as is the idea of alternative family units, identity and acceptance. Penguins is a co-production between Cahoots NI, Prime Theatre and the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. It will start its life in The DOOR here at The REP before going on a UK tour, so there is no reason to miss out on this absolute treat of a show!
We have hit the ground running in our first week of rehearsals. Not only do we have our set fully built into the rehearsal room, but we have Composer, Garth McConaghie, creating the underscore to the piece in the room and Dave Morgan, our Illusions Consultant, making all the gadgets and gizmos that will create the magic. Devising is a new experience for me but something that has intrigued me for a long time. Something I have quickly learnt is that there is never a stupid question and never a wrong answer. This has been extremely refreshing and collaborative, but also prevents organic ideas from being squashed.
As we are devising the piece it's important, particularly in this first week, to find the narrative and discover the possibilities of the world we are creating. We have created a visual storyboard in the room that everyone can refer back to. Adjustments are constantly being made and it is important to keep testing the narrative to make sure the story is coherent.
Having the set from day one has been extremely beneficial. Our dancers are going to be living and breathing this set for the next five months, so it is important for them to explore it physically and find both the possibilities but also the limitations of it, and how we can work around these. The set is another character in the piece, with its own charm and personality that feeds into and drives the narrative. Each compartment has its own story to tell and world that we need to create, so it is important that we discover these worlds together and keep exploring.
If someone had said to me as part of my residency at The REP I would be assisting a devised dance show about penguins, I don't think I would have believed them. As a director, I had firmly based myself in the world of new writing, where the script is like The Bible, so to assist on a devised dance piece for children is a complete eye opener. Although it is only week one, my imagination has exploded into the realms of possibility. As Paul has said to me, there is no place for the word 'No' in theatre.