Last week we concluded our first two weeks in the rehearsal room for our brand new production ‘Woven Bones’. We spent the fortnight devising with three actors and writer Laura Lindow, around the stories of the Scottish prisoners of war from the 17th century Battle of Dunbar whose bones were found buried in Durham in 2013. On hand to help were also academics from Durham University’s Department of Archaeology who conducted the analysis of the skeletons and uncovered their stories.
We’ve worked with academics many times in the past and there are two things that really stand out for me about working in this way:
- Having such specific expertise plugged into the work in real-time. After we show a researcher something we’ve made or complete an improvisation, they can suggest tweaks to better align the theatre with the research which in turn can have incredibly useful outcomes for character and story.
The process here was slightly different in that the Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project has a small team of researchers attached to it so we were visited by four academics during our time in the rehearsal room, as opposed to just one in previous projects. Each had their own specific knowledge and were never without some kind of considered and knowledgeable answer to our myriad questions.
I said to the actors at one point that if they were able to pose a question to a researcher that didn’t elicit a response then I would give them £10.
I am yet to pay anything out.
- You are opened up to worlds that you didn’t know much or anything about. Things that help feed you creatively but are also just interesting and useful to know about. What struck me most about this aspect in this project is that there seemed to be a palpable sense of interest and enthusiasm coming to us about the work that we do. That is, the researchers themselves, who had little knowledge about making theatre, were fascinated about how we work.
Having such a clear and democratic exchange of expertise was really heartening and bodes well for the rest of the process.