12th of June 2013



Starting a project from scratch is a wonderful idea on paper, but soon, even with the strongest will in the world, inspiration might run dry. As we researched old age and its physical implications, we felt something was missing, something to make these characters human. When one day one of us jokingly said, “yes, it’s like they are Chekhov’s Three Sisters” we all laughed. And then we paused and looked at each other. You know, that look that says, “hold on, I think we’ve got something”. We dismissed it for a while but the seed was planted.

Using the characters as a point of departure, we started identifying the relationships we wanted to explore. Chekhov’s characters are so rich, so much is left unsaid, yet they are laden with feelings and pasts. We decided to find out what might have happened to Irina, Masha and Olga as they reached their senior years. And we delved into what children they may have been.


With Alice guiding the rehearsals, we responded to tasks and let the characters respond. Concentrating on the absurd and grotesque aspect, each rehearsal helped us creating a fantastic bond between the characters and having a go at establishing their bodies. Slowly, we discovered the messages we wanted to look into: how differently people get old, how relationships evolve through time. Other characters started to come alive as we tried exercises where other parts had to be involved: carers came to play with the sisters.

Using exercises, tasks and external stimuli, we ended up with a series of vignettes, moments that could already stand on their own or that could be the impulse for something else.

As the project became clearer not only on paper but within the rehearsal room, the matter of producing and programming loomed closer, the project needed impetus as well as potential investors to go to the next stage. Working for free is all well and good but a project can’t happen that fast when we all have to work at the same time as rehearsing to put a roof, however leaky, over our determined heads.

So we took the decision to organise a ‘work-in-progress’ sharing. To be honest, it felt like it was time to test this material and to perform. Because, let’s not lie to ourselves, we want to share all this with an audience, if not what is the point?! We needed to not only share but also enthuse. We invited our peers, from actors and directors to writers and stage managers, our mentors, creative directors of potential venues, promoters and investors. A few came. And after a 25 mins showing of some of the ideas, characters, moments that we’d been developing and playing with for the past few months, they told us what they thought as we shared a glass of wine. Their feedbacks, their reaction, were invaluable. We have a lot of notes that are going to enable us to go forward. But this showing was essential for three other reasons, and here is why I would encourage any other company starting up to face its audience before the product is final.
First, it allowed us to see what work and what did not, which direction to leave behind and which to go into and gave us a massive confidence boost that yes, what we’re doing is worth it.

Which leads me to the second reason. To show to our peers, other artists, and investors what you’re doing gets them to see for themselves why they should back you up and work with you. You’re not telling them, you’re showing them.

And finally, (this blog falls into that bracket too), it is important to involve your future audience as early as possible into what you do. A relationship is hard to create, even harder to maintain, and a work-in-progress is one of the tools to do just that.


So now you’re more or less caught up on what we’ve been up to. Not sure what the next blog will be about but I know I can’t wait to tell you more about nurturing relationships and tips, about the project itself and my character, Olga Sergeyevna Prozorova…


By Margot Courtemanche

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© Jo Sargeant