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The Bargains Begin: Starting Rehearsal For Come Bargain With Uncanny Things

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

After… four years of work, give or take, Come Bargain With Uncanny Things has reached its final R&D phase, ahead of a pilot run in late November.

As it approaches, there’ll be a fair few blogs about it here, which I hope offer some interest to people intrigued by the process and the work.

With apologies to the team (Sarah Griffin, Michelle Kelly, Zoe Flint, William Davies, CN Lester, Erika Gundesen, Charley Ipsen) for any inaccuracies, here goes…

Great Team

Ultimately, any show thrives on its team. Build it incorrectly, with the wrong harmonies between people, and it’ll be as bad as a string quartet replacing the ‘cello with a tuba. Workable, but it’ll take a lot of work to get the balance right.

Erika Gundesen (Virtually Opera’s music director) and I were rather excited by the applicants, and I’m glad to say that having rehearsed we’ve definitely brought together a great team.

Not only is the group hitting the usual essential things of ‘broadly similar understanding of how the world works’ and ‘understanding different needs and offers each person brings’, but for a project like this, we’ve managed to bring together lovely people with very different skills who can each offer something unique in cooperation with the group.

Across its team we’ve got specialists in obviously-relevant things like contemporary music and interactive theatre, and in fields that become relevant like movement work, accessibility, anthropology, sensitivity reading, the nature of the (turns out not-really-existent) Celts, various forms of folklore, linguistics, psychiatry, neuroscience, TTRPGs, and more.

And especially, for those areas that are more special interests than formal specialisms, there have been wonderfully enthusiastic conversations about those shared interests when they overlap.

Which is really nice, fundamentally. Because while opera often prides itself on how it brings together different forms, ultimately the Come Bargain room has ended up functioning very differently by virtue of having at least three different ‘default’ schools of rehearsal in it (opera, interactive theatre, traditional acting). By ongoing negotiation about what’s useful, it’s stronger, and makes quite an exciting show in the midst of it.

Wearing and Worldbuilding

Something interesting in this strand of work encountering its performers is the twofold nature of their engagement.

First, there is worldbuilding. While I’ve done quite a lot of worldforging already (which the team has been kind enough to engage with), there are always things that are important to an individual role or performer.

How exactly does this official relationship work?

If X happens, that’s going to have a knock-on effect on my Y. Would it work better if…

The people I’m facilitating might enjoy it more if Z works more like this…

So such a room inevitably involves lots of detailed worldbuilding, especially for the specifics of characters.

And there is the second aspect of engagement, in which they learn to wear the world.

This is a metaphor I’ve found useful with Shakespeare, where nobody can claim Macbeth, but each performer of the role gets to wear it for a little while.

In imaginative worlds, wearing the world offers unique challenges, and part of the wonder of reaching this stage of work is establishing how to wear the world.

Does my head go here or here?

Can my character be nervous, or is it better if they are more direct and confident?

I’m coming away from two days of R&D with a good list of things to do, fuel for more useful conversations with the designer Charley Ipsen, and the knowledge that we’ve already made quite a few changes that have led to a stronger show. So I hope that, as we tailor the world a bit around the characters, the cast are feeling the same.

Four people sit in a white-walled room.
From left: Will, Gryph, Michelle, and CN in rehearsal.

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