Sunday, 30 June 2013

'The Exonerated': Opening Night

by Benjamin J Schofield

There’s a special atmosphere when you begin to rehearse a play as a full cast; the read-throughs done, the lines committed to memory (or so you’d think), apprehension is everywhere. Rehearsals for The Exonerated were much like any other in that sense, but set out far from the mainland of regular school drama. As an ensemble, we first delved into the play four fleeting days before opening night, embarking upon an intensive rehearsal process at the loss of our normal timetable.

For those four days we separated ourselves from the rest of the school almost entirely, going so far as to banish ourselves from the regular stomping ground of the Gatehouse. We entered the Round Tower for the first time on Thursday; pushing open the doors was a struggle, the two padlocks guarding it seemed as old as the tower. Once inside we found no comfort from the surroundings, dank walls dripping with white mineral deposits, fearsome stalactites hung from the ceiling.

We soon discovered that if you stood in the wrong space a drop from one of these spikes would fall on you every thirty seconds (just one of the terrible occupational hazards of being an actor, I suppose). However every aspect of the space resonated with the play as we began to hone it. Lines took on new significance in the realness of that dungeon-like space- congratulations indeed must go to Mrs Filho and Mr McCrohon for their foresight in booking it as a venue. As all who came to see the play there on Saturday 22nd can attest, no other place would suit the play as it did.

The Exonerated is itself different from many plays; as a piece of theatre it is unique for its weaving of stories and reduction of what can be a broad issue to a very human scale. The play is verbatim, meaning every word delivered came from the mouths of those we stand to represent, the accused, the bystanders, and the persecutors. As actors this simplified our task immensely; it is theatre in its purest sense: the telling of stories. We were there not to invent characters, but to relay, to reach out to a fresh audience as best we could.

Before we travel to Avignon to perform in the Off Festival, we are staging the play one more time on Thursday 11th July at 7:30 pm, again at the Round Tower.The capacity of the venue is limited to 50 people. We sold out on the previous performance, so be sure to book soon to avoid disappointment. Tickets are available at £5 from the Senior School reception.

See Alex Quarrie-Jones' review of 'The Exonerated' here.

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