Updated: Mar 15, 2020
Photo by Catriona Bonner photography. From Left to Right: Rena Bryson, Elizabeth Flaherty, Sabrina Kelleher and Hazel Doolan
Director Blog – Elizabeth Flaherty
It has been a delightful experience for me, to come back and work with Eva’s Echo Theatre Company once again. After acting as the lead character Ann, in the company’s first production ‘Match’, I was given the wonderful opportunity to return as the director for ‘Jungle Door’. The rehearsal stages of this play have been full of surprises, immense thoughts and stunning feelings and I look forward to bringing this play to life on the stage in Sligo.
After reading the script of Jungle Door, I was immediately drawn to direct it. It’s captivating and powerfully real story, along with its female characters brought to life by their humour, personalities and feelings caught my eye, and I knew bringing this play to life would really be a personal achievement for me.
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.
I’m very excited to see ‘Jungle Door’, brought to life onstage. I truly hope the audience are immersed in the story and entranced by the actors. A play like this deserves an audience and an audience most definitely deserve to see this play.
Playwrights Blog – Rena Bryson
Now as rehearsals are flying by and the world of the play is coming to life it is difficult to reflect on the writing of Jungle Door. I will always view myself as an actor first and a playwright second, this perspective allows me not to be too precious regarding the script once we are in the rehearsal room. This openness to collaboration and change has only benefited the play, especially regarding some exciting elements that have been added due to the beautiful set created by designer Sabrina Kelleher. If you don’t want any spoilers I’d skip the rest of this blog. 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 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 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 from people 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. 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, as she believes 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 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.
Photo by Piotr Lyszkiewicz. From Left to right: Rena Bryson & Hazel Doolan.
Actors Blog – Hazel Doolan
An actor has to burn inside with an outer ease. - Michael Chekhov
The rehearsal process thus far has been insightful and influential not only for ‘Jungle Door’ by Rena Bryson, but also as an actor as a whole. Having completed my Honours Degree in 2015 I was naive in believing that my learning as an actor was over. Acting is a vocation and a lifelong learning process.
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.
Designers Blog – Sabrina Kelleher
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.
Catch Jungle Door in the Black Box in IT Sligo on 8pm on the 3rd to the 4th May & at 2pm on the 5th May. Buy tickets here.