We speak with all 4 cast members of FourPlays: ABCD about their emotions, feelings and state of mind at this halfway point. While these 4 members may not be prolific writers or personalities like the Arlt, Borges, Cortazar and Duras, they each have an interesting tale to tell…
Tell us about yourself, who you are?
V: I’m Vanessa Vanderstraaten, (reluctantly) turning 25 in July, Eurasian. I enjoy theatre, literature, Smurfs Village and ogling Andrew Garfield.
T: Hello, I’m Tim, and this is my first time performing with TheatreWorks.
S: I am a French who has been living in Singapore for 4 years. I started to be involved in drama since 1997 in France. Ever since, I performed in different plays in French until I received the opportunity to perform in English for the first time in Vertical Submarine’s FourPlays: ABCD. Last year I acted in the French play, Venice under the Snow in Singapore with the French Stage.
R: Rayann Condy
What do you do?
V: I’m a full-time actress, presenter, host and model. More interestingly, I am also mummy/slave girl to two precocious cats, and in my free time I enjoy sleeping, playing poker and Big Fish Games.
T: I suppose the best answer would be that I ‘do theatre’. Right now that encompasses singing, dancing, acting, producing, directing, choreographing, writing…many parts of this one concept, career, lifestyle that only theatre people can embrace in all its risks and unknowns and singular moments. But the entry point for me was performing from my teenage years, and over time my appreciation for the other integral components of the theatre grew to where I am now – a hunger to do everything.
S: I am a professional in Human Resource management. I am working for a French company selling services to broadcasters.
R: I am a professional actor (BA Hons Acting Lasalle College of the Arts) and theatre director who also dabbles in corporate training and education from time to time.
Where do you come from?
V: Born and bred in sunny Singapore.
T: I’m from New Zealand originally, and proud to be a Kiwi. I also do a great impression of Murray from Flight of the Conchords.
R: I was born in Canada, immigrated to Australia then adopted Singapore as a PR nearly a decade ago.
Is there one word that best describes you?
T: Well, I’m a Libran, and a big proponent of all things cosmic so I tend to agree with the description of Librans being balanced…Balanced is probably the word.
R: No, on both levels 😉
What are your personal goals as a member of cast for FourPlays: ABCD?
V: To work with my director and co-actors and bring these four texts to life.
T: Ideally, and I’m sure many other actors would have a similar objective, to play my roles as best I can in the Universe of the plays, to represent the essence of what the original writers intended their readers to see, and what our directors intend for our audience to experience. At the same time while trying to be a good company member to TheatreWorks, Vertical Submarine, and my co-actors, I try to bring out characters from within myself that I’ve not had the chance to play before. Characters of vastly different backgrounds and inclinations from myself, in the frame of times and lifestyles far from anything we know today.
S: This is my first experience in an English play and I want to learn from a professional team
R: To not behave like a director.
Share with us your experience working with Vertical Submarine and other members of cast?
V: It’s been a great deal of fun getting to know everyone and working together to bring these 4 amazing stories to life. Working on the Duras piece was especially fun as we were all equally confused, and finding clues and making discoveries about the text together was a very enjoyable process.
T: So far, it’s all been quite gentle, with certain ease. We’re all discovering this together with guidance and overall curation from Joshua and Justin…and rehearsing in that wonderful big room means there is plenty of air around the process – both literally and figuratively – giving a feeling of freedom. And I’m acting with friends, really. I think we are each quite compatible with each other in this project. And with a cast of four and with steady progress being made, there has also been plenty of laughter in the room – if you make a joke out of something, there aren’t as many people inconvenienced, in terms of rehearsal progress, as there might be on a show with a larger cast with musicians, etc. And without realising it at the time, I think this internal comedy has been essential – after all, ABCD isn’t Neil Simon or Noel Coward. We need lightness as well as balance.
S: So far, working with the team has been very pleasant. We listen to everybody’s point of views to propose the best acting possible.
R: It has been a very interesting process thus far as we have visual artists working with professional theatre actors and amateur actors. So there are different levels of ability, expectation and process. So it makes for an unexpected journey as no one shares the same method of working. This also creates interesting dialogue and makes you investigate the elements of process you normally take for granted.
It has been almost a month into rehearsals, what challenges have you faced? How did you manage overcome them?
V: As these texts were not written as plays, there is sometimes a great deal of narration. In terms of staging, it then becomes challenging to find actions to do because you don’t want to be a puppet behaving exactly as it is narrated, but you don’t want to be distracted from the narration either. You’ll just have to buy a ticket and see if we succeed in finding a middle-ground…
T: There have definitely been moments of confusion about what exactly a character is saying, how they’re saying it, how they’re feeling when they’re saying it. It’s a bit like those moments when you have to re-read a paragraph of a novel because the implications aren’t totally obvious. And, to use another novel analogy, it’s a bit like a “choose your own ending” situation. There are a few ways certain moments could be played or interpreted…more ways than I’ve encountered in other roles I’ve played. When these challenges arise, we might sit for a few minutes reading the section quietly until Joshua or one of the cast has a realisation moment, or offers an opinion that sets something off in another person and leads to a collective clarity. Collaboration at its finest!
S: Rehearsals have started only 3 weeks ago for me. My biggest challenge, which I haven’t overcome yet, is to be at ease with the English script. Knowing it by heart will help to overcome it.
R: Actually it’s only been a few weeks, I think the main challenge for me at the moment is getting to grips with the text, working out what’s its about, what it means and how to play it. It’s literature not a play so it needs a different approach that is interesting to discover.
In your opinion, what do you feel is the most defining moment of the performance?
V: I don’t think there is a singular defining moment, but there are many beautiful tableaux in each of the 4 plays, and this is largely fuelled by the intricate relationships between the characters. Whether it’s Enrique and Luba in a heated argument or Quelic and Irene quietly passing the time, I think the audience will be able to find many moments that will resonate for them.
T: I think I’ll mostly leave this one to our audience to discern and decide, as there are many possibilities across the four plays, and we are, afterall, vehicles (Vertical Submarines?) for the texts. But for me, a highlight in this (and any) piece is the catharsis, the surrender, the resolution, the acceptance…it might not be an easy step to take, but it always furthers us.
S: Too early to tell
R: It’s probably too early to say but I doubt it will be just one. So far Luba is mad and fun
Has FourPlays: ABCD influenced your personal life?
V: Yes. Because of our rehearsal schedule, I now have dinner at 6.30pm instead of 7.30pm.
T: Well, our evening rehearsal schedule has kept me out of the wine bars, and artistically enriched! So in more practical terms, there’s something that has fed both the wallet and the soul. At this point I’m still on the memorisation side of my characters, and we’re still finalising blocking, so when I’m free of the pages and everything flows will be the ripe time for personal epiphanies. These epiphanies will then be discussed over wine.
S: No, luckily my personal life is not influenced by the plays I act in.
R: Only in that I no longer have one as I’m at rehearsals every night.