A world of seemingly separate people, and a terrible tragedy. Strangers are meeting – or are they really strangers? As the play begins, a series of unique people are forced to interact, and each of their lives is changed by this meeting.
Each of the characters in Indigo is based off of an archetype. “I wanted to observe [the] reactions of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and the way of extracting the essence of each character was to narrow it down into an archetype. This doesn’t mean I want the characters to be flat or stereotypical, I want them to be defined by what they are, their specific condition and standing at a crossroads where they have to make a decision.”, says author and director Magdalena Skerencakova.
Rather than writing a firm script and handing it to her actors, Magdalena is choosing to have the actors be actively involved in creating and shaping the play. “The characters are fixed and the actors are through improvisation finding their different layers. I am trying to pile other aspects of the play on top of that, so one week they have to work on their physicality alongside with their character and then the week after we add atmosphere or status. This way, whilst still devising the play, the characters become rounded and multi-layered as the process goes on.”
Although the play has a cast of ten characters, most people are in scenes only with one or maybe two others. This separation adds another element to the play. For the first several rehearsals, none of the actors knew each other’s characters. “I wanted to make the process interesting for the actors and I wanted them to focus on their character and their own journey and exploration, therefore I decided not to let them communicate with each other and I kept their characters secret from each other. This would support their listening in the improvisations because they didn’t know what to expect. There are still secrets not all of them know about and I like it that way. It keeps them on edge, it keeps it real.”
The improvisation has also helped keep the play fresh as new perspectives and actors bring new material to the table. “I was terrified when I found out I have to direct my own play, I didn’t know how easily I am able to give up my visions and ideas, but so far it has been very inspiring. The play has changed through all the suggestions coming from my actors, although I filter them carefully and make sure the final message does not change and stays the same. The close collaboration with all the actors has helped me see what the play needed and what had to change, which would not be possible from the position of a writer.”
As the play and its characters become more defined through improvisation, the visual images that inspired the play and came out of the improvisations are becoming essential parts of the play as well. “Use of colours, eccentric light design and unusual darkness in the staging are something I am more than willing to experiment with in order to get my message across.”
This play will not be a play like you think it will be, but its world is not the world you think it is.
Indigo, created and directed by Magdalena Skerencakova, co-directed by Heidi Nielsen. At the International Festival of New Work, Corbett Theatre, East 15 Acting School, November 13-18, 2017.
by Liesl Jensen