From actor Pearce Bunting: I shout but nowt is comin’ out
I shout but nowt is comin’ out
I love to explode. It’s easy for me. It’s in my wheelhouse. I can’t resist it. BOOM! Show it! Prove it! Demonstrate it! ANNIHILATE IT! Anger, rage, frustration - all the vexed vomitings of a little kid (who’s still alive and well inside me- thank you very much!), the man-child, screaming, “I DIDN’T SAY THIS 45 YEARS AGO BUT I’M SAYING IT NOW, MOTHERFUCKERS!”
Ain’t I dangerous? Ooooooo!
Alright, we’ve all got our baggage, our sore spots, our go tos. And I don’t walk down the street screaming at the world, but when I’m on stage it comes really easy.
We just finished our 2nd week of rehearsals and spent a large chunk of it exploring our voices with Jean-René Toussaint. Jean-René is a theatre artist and therapist who has worked with deaf children for many years, exploring with them the sounds they make – sounds that the modern world often thinks of as inappropriate and even offensive – “Can you please quiet your child down?”, “He’s making me feel uncomfortable!”, “Did you hear that kid???”– Why do we respond that way? Is it because it doesn’t make sense to us? Is it too intimate? Too inhuman? Jean-René believes that these sounds are more “human” and expressive in their unblocked, vertical journey from deep in the body than most of the sounds we make horizontally with our talking heads as we shuffle through our practical lives. And in letting our bodies and voices truly express our humanity, all the many things we feel, sometimes all at once, we also become better listeners, to ourselves and everyone and everything around us. I’ve heard him call it “spontaneous humanity” and to hear it, to witness it in our cast as we work, is something so rich, so unpredictable, so dangerously beautiful, we realize how little of ourselves we’ve been using in our work.
In Under the Whaleback, we’re playing men more rooted to nature than we are. Their bodies are connected to ships, which are connected to the sea, which is connected to itself and the weather around it. Like the sea, their lives are ferocious, unpredictable, rarely peaceful, and often glorious. They work hard with their bodies and souls and in doing it, stay connected to each other. They only feel truly alive when they’re on the water, so they keep going back to it, and their worlds back on land suffer for it. The world of this play is Greek in size, epic. Some of the characters shout out their feelings, others run away from them. But they all have secrets and every breath they take and sound they make vibrates with their complicated humanity.
So in rehearsal, we vibrate with each other, with the floor, with the wood panels around us. We breathe in quick, urgent shallow breaths and in deep inhalations. We quietly explore our insides with our voices and we let them rise, sometimes thunderously, out of us. We talk to each other with improvised sounds and text, back to back, side to side, and facing each other, always with soft eyes focused on what’s happening inside but somehow aware of the outside too. We laugh from different parts of our bodies, and we cry from the release we feel. And amazingly, we stop thinking and planning what we’re going to do next, asking questions, not looking for answers. We get closer to living in the present with each other.
It’s exhausting. Our voices are tired. But when we let go of the plans we made about a scene, beforehand, and trust the work we’ve been doing, things start to get interesting. We get closer to the desires and circumstances of these characters without thinking so much. We stop being selfish. We become bigger than we are.
So all this exploding I’ve been doing for years, my planned spontaneity? No doubt it’s a lot more predictable and shallow than I intend. Noisy acting, hysterical deafness, or what someone this week called "toxic listening." I hate to admit it to myself but there it is. And it’s hard to trust and not do something you’ve been doing for so long but life’s a lot bigger when you’re connected. You don’t have to work so hard
None of us has any idea what happens next.
Photo: Jean-René Toussaint with Pearce Bunting