Thursday, 24 May 2018

Highlights of the Detailed Adjudication of “Little Gem” at Theatre Ontario Festival 2018

Toronto Irish Players' production of Little Gem
by Brandon Moore, Community Theatre and Communications Manager

Highlights of the detailed adjudication by Maja Ardal of Toronto Irish Players’ production of Little Gem by Elaine Murphy (representing ACT-CO, the Association of Community Theatres—Central Ontario.)

As always, this is my best effort to record the conversation at the Detailed Adjudication, with apology for any misrepresentations of the ideas of the members of the company and the adjudicator. Corrections and clarifications are always welcome in the comments.
  • Elaine Murphy’s script is the authentic voices of working class women, love her ear and how she powered the voices into her work
  • In Ireland, monologue is an art form—in the pub, over coffee
  • This production was taken from an intimate environment (the Alumnae Theatre in Toronto) to a spacious environment (the Palace Theatre in London)
  • Entirely direct address, which means you need to answer the question: Who are they talking to?
  • Lovely set, felt airy, includes sketches of the unseen men from the play
  • Three defined areas for each women
  • Pre-show music was gently playing: Irish fusion soundscape; sound designer took play’s tag line of “birth, death and salsa” and sought out Celtic salsa
  • The music playing quietly invited us in: created the expectation of an experience of intimacy
  • Cyc created opportunities for colour
  • Actors need to not feel rushed: establish the atmosphere in the opening moments
  • The play functions as 3 one-person shows: fundamentals in a one-person show are the clear journey, take time to digest… how much did they break down the text?
  • Also provides opportunities to create other characters
  • All three start in a place of desperation (e.g. Kay has “an itch”)
  • Challenging to act someone else’s stream of consciousness, with its digressions and the dilemmas that pop up in the text
  • Amber’s opening monologue is challenging: mentions 15 characters; don’t always depend on just the text to find the characters, body language can help us find them too
  • Lorraine’s journey is compelling, and the more of a freaked out mess she is at the beginning, the more we will enjoy it—opportunities are to let us hear the voices of the other characters (e.g. the customer, the HR person, etc.)
  • The clarity of the text helped us immerse ourselves in the Irish culture, slang, etc.
  • Irish are brilliant at “trouble” and making it funny
  • Difficulty in one-person play is the characters have things done to themselves, they are not affecting each other in the moment
  • Physical moments like the salsa dancing helped us to see what another character was like
  • Plays has been seen both with and without an intermission; text doesn’t define it either way
  • How do we feel closer to this work: follow the play by seeing every detail, the brightness of the lighting presented challenges (e.g. didn’t see the pregnancy test scene on the toilet), the dramatics and the colour can create a perfect mood
  • The D.S. area had blue tips side-lighting, but 50% of the dimensional lighting did not work; it was a technical problem that the designer could not overcome while trying to adapt from the original space to this theatre; the set was set back because the U.S. top lights worked successfully
  • Always take the risk of stopping the play and living the moment; Murphy goes off on tangents, so always explore every full stop, every period
  • The stories are also filled with subtle details (e.g. how Kay stole Gem)
  • Amber’s story has so many voices, hardest to connect (she also has the fewest people in the audience her age), the writing of her character is frantic
  • Who are they talking to in their direct address?  The fourth wall changes throughout the play: sometimes stream of consciousness, talking to themselves, replaying a moment in the present tense; director focus on the flow so it wouldn’t look like stand-up, with movement to keep the play flowing
  • Identify if the person being address is a friend or enemy; someone intimate or someone like a social worker you are explaining things to; that person may change—even in mid-monologue
  • This venue had superior cyc lighting than previous venue; gave them the opportunity to make the visuals of the dance club far more significant, and to try and coordinate with the beats in the music
  • Fundamentally, we felt these three women
Learn more about Theatre Ontario Festival 2018

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