Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Rehearsals Week One

As our first week of rehearsals draws to a close, we thought we’d share with you some of the events of the week so far.

Its not that we forgive him,
Because we can’t,
We can’t do that.
But I’m fed up with him
Having this power,
This power over us. (Sc. 9, pg. 36)

As with any new production this first week has been about getting to know each other, the characters, the stage-space and the rules of the world of the play (an explanation of what I mean by this will follow). It has been a week of line by line read-throughs, walk-throughs and discussions about intentions and meaning, and how these affect the play as a whole. One line said differently can change the whole meaning of a scene, or explain just one aspect of a character, but each and every nuance is important to the narrative. It has been a week filled with intense Four Square battles and gentle dance warm-ups, neither of which have directly affected our interpretation of the play, but nevertheless were very fun.

Despite only having three people on stage at the most, this play has presented its challenges when it comes to blocking (where the actors move and when) and staging (where the set moves and when). The transitions between scenes are something which are particularly challenging due to the quick changes in subject matter, and the potential for an emotional ending of one scene to be under-mined by the relatively jovial start of the next. One way to get around this is to have moments, or beats, between each scene change where the characters, actors and audience have a small chance to digest and process the action, and to metaphorically wipe the slate clean for a whole new scene. To coincide with this, the set is “reset” to its original position at the start of the play, to visually signify a definitive ending and an upcoming change of space.

Aside from the three main characters who appear onstage, After the Accident also contains a few unseen characters, in particular the looming presence of Mr. Casey, the restorative counsellor. What we have been working on this week is where this imaginary character can be on stage and how to make him look the most real. This means that we have had to decide on a concrete set of rules which will make the world of the play seem as real as possible. Asking an audience to come and see a production is asking them to suspend their disbelief and really trust that what is happening on stage is something to emotionally invest in. Especially in a production such as this where there is a high-emotion subject matter, anything which is jarring or distracting, for example, a clunky scene change or a difference in where each actor looks to signify an unseen character, can break the spell and weaken the emotional integrity of the production. So as you can see, we are taking this very seriously and working hard to tell the story of these characters in the best way we possibly can.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

An introduction to After the Accident and Restorative Justice

“How would you like to meet the people you did this too?” (Sc. 13, pg. 51) 

Julian Armistead mixes poetic language and compelling subject matter in After the Accident to create stark observations about the society we live in. The play doesn’t shy away from some hard issues, and Armistead expertly uses passion and emotion to underpin the dramatic, thought-provoking themes contained within his narrative. Centred around the tragic story of a little girl, three people come together to pick apart their feelings about each other, themselves and the wider world around them. It is impossible not to be drawn in by the characters, so real and respectfully are they depicted in the text. This goes some way to explaining why cube essential theatre chose this play to perform as our next project. 

Another reason why we feel this play is vital is because of the theme of Restorative Justice (referred to as “RJ” from now on) which runs through the narrative. The action takes place at a “restorative conference” where victim(s) and offender(s) meet, to try to work together to move forward. RJ aims to empower victims by giving them the ability to express just how a crime affected them, and to personally explain to the perpetrator the consequences of their actions. 

This is a real practice, used across the UK, with some excellent results: there has been a 14% reduction in the rate of reoffending amongst offenders who have been through an RJ programme (according to the latest Ministry of Justice research) and 85% victims who have participated say they feel satisfied that the conferences are effective in helping them move forward after a crime. 

Restorative Justice holds offenders to account, directly and personally, gives them an insight into the real impact of their behaviour, and an opportunity to make amends. Restorative Justice gives victims the chance to have their say, to get answers to their questions, to receive an apology and move on with their lives. – This is from the RJ website ( 

However, the reality is that only a small number of victims and offenders have access to RJ as an aid to rehabilitation. In an effort to raise awareness, Cube has led workshops across Cornwall, engaging community leaders, young people and drug and alcohol awareness groups. Using scenes from the play in order to facilitate a greater understanding of RJ, these workshops were hugely successful and the participants could see how such a programme would benefit Cornish communities if used more widely. 

RJ is often assumed to be something which is an easy way out for the offender, an unviable option especially for victims and perpetrators of serious crimes. After the Accident challenges this assumption; the play’s aim isn’t to glamorise a crime or patronise the audience with simple answers, but to use dramatic devices to show how RJ can work effectively alongside the criminal justice system, to repair trust within a community.