Rehearsals for Jungle Door started on the 15th of March and continued until April 9th followed by three performances from the 3rd to the 5th of May at the Black Box, I.T Sligo as part of the Where We Are Now LGBT+ Theatre Festival 2018.
Jungle Door was written by Rena Bryson, directed by Elizabeth Flaherty, performed by Rena Bryson and Hazel Doolan, designed by Sabrina Kelleher and contained projections created by Piotr Lyszkiewicz.
In rehearsals the actors and myself were constantly exploring and moving forward. This play has two characters and gave me the intricate experience of directing just two actors. It was then vital for this play and for the exploration rehearsals, that the actors had great relationships with each other and would be willing to open and explore the full extent of their imagination and their creativity. I’m thrilled to note that both actors exceeded expectations in their creative abilities and I was very happy to see the fantastic relations that already co-existed between them flourish even more throughout rehearsals. To me, movement and characterisation were two main components I wanted to work on, in the development of this play.
I used Chekhov techniques and exercises to help the actors develop gestures, centres and qualities for their characters. I though these exercises worked really well, and helped the actors steadily develop characterisation throughout rehearsals. The exercises further helped the actors develop their relationship with one another and find pivotal moments and emotions that exist between the two characters. The Chekhov technique very much pushes the imagination and the actors to their limits and that is what I felt the play needed. To have the thoughts, feelings and emotions played to the limit was vital to me, as I felt that these thoughts, feelings and emotions were the core of the script and the core needed to be created and developed first and foremost. A lot of the movement in this play also stemmed from Chekhov exercises and was workshopped quite a lot throughout rehearsals, while slowly being interwoven into the play. – Elizabeth Flaherty
Our director Elizabeth Flaherty has been heavily influenced by Chekhov in her approach to acting which translated into her directing methods. In the process of characterization, we were required to carry out Chekhov exercises before running scenes. This was to enable what we have created thus far, make new discoveries and exploration of characters and the text. An example of this was using personal experiences of the character in different locations and how they reacted physically and emotionally. I imagined my character Michelle walking through a park with her partner Darren, setting up a picnic and his proposal. My way of walking changed from the previous exercises from quick small steps to small relaxed steps while my posture was expressing genuine confidence unlike the false confidence she presents to the world. I also got emotional during the proposal. Although Michelle is engaged prior to the text, the experience gave me an insight into her feelings, her memories and how she acts around different people.
Another example is an exercise where the characters had to acknowledge and interact with each other. In my experience, Michelle was seeing Louise again for the first time since they ended their relationship. There were moments of playfulness, curiosity (Louise kept running away from me as I tried to follow and figure her out), fear (Louise encouraged me to climb up a platform when I was afraid of heights), nostalgia and sadness (I felt myself get emotional as we departed as I didn’t want her to leave). This experience answered numerous of questions I had as I struggled to figure out why Michelle went out with and then started talking to Louise again in the first place. Michelle missed the innocence, playfulness and sense of freedom in her life which was always structured and routined. She missed the spontaneity and vulnerability that came with being in Louise’s company.
In using the Chekhov technique during rehearsals, many professional and personal discoveries have been made throughout. It has reengaged my love and respect for the craft, taught me what I need to further improve, encouraged me to think independently as an actor and reminded me that acting is a lifelong learning experience. – Hazel Doolan
Photo Credit – Piotr Lyszkiewicz
When it comes to the design in this show, I wanted to create something simple but powerful. The set, costumes and props are decorated with flowers, nature and lots of other floral patterns. At the beginning of the play, Louise talks about this jungle she envisions in her mind and how real it felt to her. This is where the inspiration started when it came to designing “Jungle Door”. The use of the floral patterns in the design is also seen by the girl’s planning Michelle’s wedding. We see a girly-girl sense in this as well when the two begin make arrangements for the wedding.
The sense of the jungle also comes back to the wedding as we see Michelle walking down the aisle with all these floral patterns around her. The colours used are to try and help replicate that as well. We decided on using a lot of pinks and purples with some greens thrown in as well. For the two characters, each of their looks are quite different but we were able to find them both by using these particular colours. For Michelle, she is a real “girly-girl” and loves to look her best. She wears a lot of dresses and will not settle for second best. The pinks and purples really help in accentuating this and making it “pop” that bit more on stage. Louise on the other hand, is the complete opposite. She doesn’t make a fuss when it comes to her looks and just tries to get through the day in the best way possible. The pinks and greens help in expressing her freedom and relaxed attitude to life. – Sabrina Kelleher
I was inspired to write Jungle Door after reading an article about the hidden homeless, this article featured the story of a young woman living and working full time in London who could not afford rent, each night she would sleep in her car. Another story highlighted in the article revealed the dangerous situations renters can be forced into following sudden unemployment in expensive cities. Newly unemployed a young woman was manipulated into exchanging sex for rent and sharing the apartment she once called her own with her landlord. Further research revealed this arrangement is becoming more common in high priced cities, with advertisements placed by landlords looking for female companions. The advertisements are aimed at students and women completing unpaid internships in order to work in the field of their degree, a work phase that is very common now. Although the article that initiated my research was based in London, this issue is also prevalent in Dublin and Galway.
As the housing crisis worsens in Galway everyday I hear people are struggling to pay rent even if they are in full time employment. The hidden homeless are prevalent in this city but are as the title suggests hidden. When writing the play, it was very important to me that the audience become familiar with Louise as a flawed individual prior to associating her with the hidden homeless, showcasing the humanity of a large national crisis. The use of multimedia in this production allows the audience to view Louise’s life as Michelle does through social media, a tool that can be used effectively to portray the life Louise wants to believe that she has.
Michelle also uses social media to create a persona quite distant from her own, but unlike Louise she is desperately attempting to become that persona. This leads to obsessive dieting and exercise and eventually paying for plastic surgery. Michelle also risks putting her and her partner in debt by deciding to pay extra rent so that they can live alone as a married couple. She is driven to this action by a belief that they should at this stage in their life’s, even if they can’t afford it. Exploring the risks some undertake to keep up appearances especially via social media. Michelle and Louise’s relationship is at the heart of this play, the love that was once shared and the friendship that remains drives both of the characters to grow and change for better or worse. – Rena Bryson
Photo Credit – Piotr Lyszkiewicz
OUT OF THE REHEARSAL ROOM
Elizabeth Flaherty and Rena Bryson with Rabbit’s Riot founders Sonia Norris and Treasa Nealon at the official launch of Where We Are Now 2018 at Anderson’s Bar and Grill Sligo on May 1st 2018.
Photo Credit – Catriona Bonner Photography, Programme image credit – Hazel Stanley
The Jungle Door team in between shows at the Black Box, I.T Sligo. Picture one (left to right) – Elizabeth Flaherty, Sabrina Kelleher, Hazel Doolan, Rena Bryson and Gillian Duignan. Picture two (front row to back) – Catriona Bonner, Sabrina Kelleher, Elizabeth Flaherty, Hazel Doolan, Darren Barrett and Rena Bryson.
Photo Credit – Catriona Bonner Photography