Maison Foo production journal - Day 14 - By Séana Maggs Cooke
The beginning of the day starts as every other has; Beth announces ‘Company Stretches’ and The Foo get to work. Today, everyone requests a body part that they would like to warm up; Morgan rather appropriately suggests ‘the brain’. The group begin to work on tension in the body, and somehow this makes me glad to be watching from the sidelines with a brew; as some strenuous positions are attempted. When Beth mentions ‘pilates’, and Kate proposes ‘lunges’, I can’t help but pity the boys, somewhat. Like a teacher in an infant school PE lesson, Beth supervises the stretching session, and now some childlike interpretation has been added to the warm up as a source of merriment. As ever, fun and humour slowly turns serious, as concentration and a hard working persona is adapted by the group; each cast member takes turns to suggest techniques- much like they normally do during a full rehearsal session, it is a display of cooperation.
A vocal warm up consisting of siren sounds and all manner of inhuman noises follows the physical one; a sing through of the songs from the play is incorporated into this warm up, and Matt demonstrates how to get the timing right for the ‘desperate woman’ song by pressing the correct buttons on his Mac and regaining his role as music-man and conductor of the vocal warm-up. What follows, proves to be the best run through, I have seen of the ‘Desperate Woman’ song, so far! A definite promising start to the day.
When trifling with the ‘Secret of Success’ song, a range of alto-soprano tones are constituted; it makes the song a pastoral and pleasurable experience to listen to. Matt attempts to give the cast the correct starting note, and when a few off-key notes are sung, it is unconcealed that the song works better once the meaning of the lyrics is depicted through the way the characters sing it. The characters in this scene are greedy, and almost nasty; therefore, a nasty, squawking tone is adopted, it becomes almost crow-like. When the song is attempted again with this new revelation, it still manages to retain its comical integrity, but creates a more, well established meaning. Morgan does a tremendous job of becoming 3 different roles in one in this song alone; his Yorkshire accent used as characterisation of ‘Mr Wholesaler’ never ceases to make me laugh!
After the show songs are revisited, The Foo begins to pickup from where they left off yesterday. ‘The Baby Scene’ is being revisited now and the puppetry I saw more than a week ago is being reused; baby shoes are utilised as puppets and made to represent the crying mouths of babies. The cast showcase their ability to make strange noises, again, by making the crying noises for the babies; creating a loud, horrible and overwhelming intensity of noise. This scene marks the only one in the show that the ‘Shoemaker’ interacts with the other characters in the play- in this case the characters are babies; it depicts an amalgamation of eras. The cast also demonstrate their ability of being able to play a generation of ages, by becoming the children, and during the scene, Morgan, Kate and Beth enter in what appear to be pram-like shopping baskets with wheels; they almost look like a toddler’s toy car. I have no doubt that this imagery and use of props is for a symbolic purpose. No automated or Matt-complied Mac music plays; instead the ‘children’ sing a simple and melancholic melody of ‘lalalas’, which acts as an overriding soundtrack for the scene. As an incentive for getting into role, Kate discloses to the group that ‘the essence of children and play’ and ‘childhood’ needs to be captured within this scene; this is certainly something which is achieved through the use of props and childlike ‘lalala’ tune. The children come in as a train of joint trolleys-again the symbolism here is prominent, and the children attached to each other both, metaphorically, and physically depicts their relationship to one-another.
This scene, like most of the others, presents a surreal and unpleasant undertone and a whole depth of meaning is unearthed. It is revealed that these children are in fact the shop assistants from the beginning of the play, and the audience get an insight into the background of these characters. Like an almost, Pied-Piper-esque character, Matt plays a tune on his piano-flute and the Shoemaker joins in on the infant-like play, here; his character is genuinely happy, in juxtaposition to the usual pensive soliloquies displayed by the Shoemaker throughout the rest of the play, and as an audience member, the scene distinguishes itself as a heart warming occurrence. Towards the end of the scene, however, each child gets taken away, and when the the ‘lalala’ tune gradually dies out; the silence gives an unnerving convention to the whole scene.
After a couple of run-throughs of this scene, the ‘lalalaing’ is disregarded for now, and instead, a choreographed sequence and ‘trolley dance’ is focused on. This becomes, possibly the most outlandish thing I have seen the Foo attempt, to date. There seems to be so much to consider in this one scene; the proxemics between each actor has to be maintained, and controlling the trolleys proves to be a difficult task by itself; as Morgan displays, when he manages to tip himself out of his...
Like a complexly layered, absurd looking onion; The Foo seem ever more determined to make the scene doubly intricate, by throwing synchronised head movements into the mix. Now, an amalgamation of harmonious ‘lalala’s’, and a routine in a wheeling basket, whilst maintaining a childlike character have all been bestowed upon Beth, Kate and Morgan. Mick- the man of many talents, gives some judicious encouragement, and offers some simplistic advice to help break down the routine, and make it more manageable; as usual, success is never an obstacle, and the scene begins to refine itself almost effortlessly.
I leave the rehearsal for a couple of hours to attend a lecture, and when I return I find the company still hard at work. Now, the next scene and ‘the beginning of the end’ is being established. The voice over’s and recordings of awards and store openings on Friday are being used to tell a story of how Pendulum’s Emporium is becoming famous around the globe. In the background, a warped, manic, past paced version of the original ‘retail music’ is being played; the characters speech becomes distorted and staggered and what is more surreal is the fact that now both Kate and Morgan had dubbed an electric blue wig and are joining Beth in the physical representation of the ‘Shoe Makers Wife’. Here, this character distinguishes herself as a disjointed and overpowering character; shopping bags among shopping bags are placed on Matt- ‘The Shoemaker’ and he is being overwhelmed by Pendulums. It seems like the pivotal and pinnacle moment of the play. (I haven’t spoilt it, it’s much better in real life!)
Mick is only with the group until this evening, so The Foo soldier on in an attempt to show off the grand finale. This scene is still not fully scripted and the essence of exploration exposes a new, heart breaking concept. During the ‘court scene’, Matt positions himself centre stage and proceeds to stare out into the audience, listening to the shop assistants he once knew as children give evidence. His reaction is one of massive grievance and sorrow, and I am certain that this will register with the audience on an emotional level unlike any other section of the piece. Once another exulting completion of the final scene is completed, another, yet more polished run through of the show is undergone as a showcase to Mick; for some final proposals and propositions for The Foo to work on during the remainder of the week, which, no doubt I shall be witness to.
After today’s rehearsal I notice; more than ever how this show, does indeed, ‘tickle the audiences imagination’-as is in Maison Foo’s mission statement; more than that, it also allows the audience to unravel the story for themselves, in a playful and eccentric manner. The equivocalness and ambiguity of Pendulums Bargain Emporium gives a very clear message, but also manages to leave room for plenty of interpretation. Tomorrow marks the 3rd day of production week and 3 days until show day! So far, this Foo-layered onion hasn’t caused any tears of sadness, and is forever peeling away to reveal new layers of potential!