Having worked on the text, acting and blocking of the show with the actors from January, the past few weeks have been about bringing the world of the play to life. This exists in many different forms.
First up…the music:
The show is a co-production with The Sibelius Academy of Music Folk Music Department, and we have 3 musicians (Irina Cederberg, Noora Kauppila, and Michael Ferrie), and composer Anna-Karin Korhonen over from Finland playing live music to accompany the show. The original compositions inspired by Russian folk music, along with traditional Russian songs, help us experience life in the sleepy provincial town. It adds lightness and life to a birthday and carnival, panic and agitation through a threatening fire, and contemplative restfulness for the garden. The musicians weave on and off stage creating all the sound effects, and playing some of the characters too. From clocks smashing (made out of various percussion instruments Noora has brought over), to a gun shot played on a traditional frame drum from Lapland, to fire sirens using the voice, along with knocking the side of the guitar to show ‘the drunk doctor’ knocking- all create a theatrical concept that allows the musicians to go between ‘The Three Sisters’ world and the storytelling world. The musicians have really bonded with the Lung Ha actors, and openness from both collaborators has led to a strong, lively (and large!) ensemble. Adding live music (as it so often does), makes this play, which generally has a 4th wall, touchable in a way that nothing else quite can. On top of that, we have Irina playing the Kantele (traditional Finnish harp), a rare treat on a Scottish stage!
As well as the music, the set design (Karen Tennent), costume design (Alison Brown), and lighting design (Andrew Gannon) all work beautifully together to aid the reality and storytelling of the world. Unfortunately, we only got to see most of these elements once we were at the Traverse (thanks ‘Beast from the East’…), but that made the technical rehearsals all the more exciting, as what had been tape marked out in a rehearsal room became walls and beds. With the soldiers walking smartly in their boots, atmospheric lighting during the fire scene, and the literal visual of a living room- the magic of the design lifted the performance of the piece just that little bit more.
Finally, it’s been really interesting seeing what space does to the performance. Although our set stays the same, we have performed in two very different theatres. Traverse 1 being large in size with the audience looking down onto the play (due to the angle of the seating), whereas in Perth the studio space was smaller, and so our audience more intimate and flatter too. This definitely changes the feel of the show, with the audience feeling almost like an extension of the performance in Perth. Both compliment the show in different ways- it's interesting to note what a theatre, and it's audience does to the performance as well. The Citizens again is a very different space with it being a large (multi-tiered audience), proscenium arch (the traditional frame around the stage) space, with the added challenge of a rake (the stage is at an angle). It will be interesting again to see how the play translates in this new space. This is my first time touring a show, and I have found this experience fascinating.
As I go into my final day with Lung Ha, and our final performance at the Citizens Theatre (I hope I see you there!), I feel so extremely lucky to have got to work with such an incredible company over the past three months. We’ve tackled a few obstacles…(snow, funding, illness- to name a few…) but the hard work, passion and positivity of this company are incomparable. I’m definitely going to feel lost not seeing everyone every day. Thanks for having me Lung Ha.
Fiona Mackinnon, Assistant Director on Lung Ha Theatre Company's Three Sisters.
This position is supported by The Federation of Scottish Theatre Assistant Director Bursary Scheme