Wow wow wow. Putting on Charisma I never expected the response I had - so much energy and buzz in the audience post-performance, with many coming up to me afterward asking if I’d really written the play myself, and how I’d done it, and why I cast Ella and many more excitable questions asked with intrigue. To see my play raise so many questions in an audience makes me feel I’ve achieved my gaol, a goal to raise empathy and further understanding for other life experiences. That is always my goal when I write. Many have said they appreciated the dialogue on diagnosis within the play, while others were curious about the philosophical conversation or the curious mix between romance and friendship that Charlie and Fifi experience toward one another.
I am still editing the script, and found several faults within it as we put it on its feet. This said, I couldn’t be more please with what audiences said, specifically many mentioning how awkward they often felt, as if they were experiencing the tension felt by Charlie and Fifi themselves. Many of them said they felt as if they shouldn’t be there -as if they were spying on a private conversation between two people. This is a massive compliment to my aim of writing naturalistic dialogue, as well as a props my fellow actor Ella. Several audience members also contacted me days after the performance to let me know they had been thinking about it still.
I can’t say it wasn’t challenging directing and acting at the same time - and I can’t say I fully achieved it. Personally, I don't feel I did my best acting, but I do think I did near the best I could have done sans direction. This said, I remain proud of what I was able to offer Ella and thoroughly enjoyed watching her discover and become Fifi. Here’s what an old drama teacher of mine had to say about the direction: “I remain impressed by the way Nay was able to selflessly work on the direction of the other person he was acting with. The temptation for a young writer/director to focus purely on themselves is significant. He allowed Ella ['Fifi'] to discover and perform a character with vim and vigour.”
Pictures of the play are up on 'Past Productions' and a description of the rehearsal process can be found if you scroll down this page.
A video of the performance is being published on Thursday 9th of July 2021 at 7PM BST. Save the date!
I have been editing this script since 'That Face' was put on last summer with Naked Bear. I am proud to say it has been longlisted for the New Views Competition at the National Theatre. After some delays due to the pandemic, it is finally live on June 16th at the Bedales Drama Studio. I don't know about you, but I have been booking tickets all over the place - after a year without live theatre, we've got to make up for it.
'The Definition of Charisma' is a two-person play performed by myself and the hilarious Ella Peattie. We have begun with an R&D period over zoom, which ended with a rehearsed reading. We'll be rehearsing for the performance in June over an intensive period of 9 days. I've decided to place the focus in rehearsals on knowing the characters inside out, as opposed to defining exact blocking; the play is in real time and is set in one room - I'm hoping this rehearsal method will allow for a completely natural and instinctive performance; what's most important is the connection between the two actors, Ella and myself, the rest will follow.
I’ve learned in the rehearsal process that performing one’s own work can be quite challenging - I’m performing a kind of version of myself, who’s also not me. It becomes hard to think of the character objectively, given that they are my own creation. This is a challenge I’m completely willing and happy to face and intrigued to see the outcome - only by accepting challenges and having a willingness to fail can we produce our best work.
As these two best friends tidy up from a party, the tensions of the weekend unfold. Infatuated with Fifi’s mind, Charlie makes her the unwitting subject of a psychological study. But perhaps Fifi knows more than Charlie realises...
The play explores what it means to have a big imagination; it is about self love and confidence, discussing religion, sexuality, philosophy and gender. I would say that above all, 'The Definition of Charisma' is about friendship and the intensity that that can bring.
Here's what Ella has to say:
"Sophia is an enigma. Cultivating her thoughts and reactions has been confusing, yet thrilling. It's been a delightful experience creating her life story, cultivating her manner of walking and so much more. Come and see this freaky fun-packed show XD".
If you'd like to come along, tickets will be made available soon - join our mailing list to keep up to date.
If you're unavailable or feel unsafe in live theatre due to the pandemic - not to worry! There will be an online stream of the performance later on in the summer.
Putting on a zero-budget production, in the midst of a pandemic, in an open-air venue, with a goal to raise money for charity is just as challenging as it sounds! But who doesn’t like a good challenge? Sophia Gunneburg and myself co-directed the production amongst trees. Those who could not be part of the in person audience were able to watch a livestream.
This unusual circumstance actually allowed us to think outside of the box in terms of our production concept, thereby creating a more unique interpretation. The set was a bed placed on a grass lawn in the centre of two trees, which marked the boundaries of the stage. We decided to ask the actors to make use of this unusual setting in their performance in order for the audience to forget their surroundings and be completely immersed in the story and action of the play. For example, at one moment an actor scraped the moss off a tree and threw it at another actor exclaiming “Look! Look at where we live! While you, you shack up in your palace in the sun.” The audience begins to see the surrounding forest as the flat - if the actors embrace it, the audience does too. In a review, the critic Dafydd White states that “even though this production was set in a garden, the intimate and beautiful atmosphere transported us to the home of Martha”. Although it didn’t appear ideal at first, the outdoors ended up adding elements of intrigue for the actors, directors and audience, pushing our show, I believe, to be even better.
My philosophy is get the actor that is best for the part, regardless of looks or gender. This meant that we ended up with an all-male cast for a play with several female parts and the audience barely seemed to notice. Gender-blind casting is something that Naked Bear will continue throughout future productions.
That Face was a fundraiser for The Zoe Sarojini Trust to enable psycho-social support for young refugees in Greece. By the end of the production, we were able to raise GBP 1,000, which went beyond expectation! The in-person and online audience were encouraged to make donations instead of buying tickets. I was touched to receive a handwritten thank you card from the director of the programme we contributed to. It feels great to have contributed to other young people in the process of creating our passion project.
- Nay Murphy