The whole truth & nothing but the truth

With less than a week to go, read the third installment of our director’s blog from Chris Honer.

‘I feel weird here’ says Sophie, talking about a moment in the play when her character, Phoebe, the very bright, anorexic daughter of Earth Sciences lecturer Diane, wants to confront her mother over her attitude to her new boyfriend. What Sophie is talking about is ‘truth’. There is a lot of talk about ‘truth’ in rehearsal. Is this a truthful response to the situation the character is in? What is the truth about that moment? Another way of putting it: for the actor ‘Do I believe what I’m doing here?’ For the director: ‘Do I believe what I’m seeing?’. When an audience watches truthful acting they will be captivated and engrossed, so may be moved or want to laugh. If it’s not truthful they will, sooner or later, turn off.

Cliché and generalisation are the enemies of ‘truth’. By cliché we mean reproducing an idea of other performances we may have seen on stage or screen rather than making it true to our own character and their situation. By generalisation we mean colouring speech with a vague splurge of emotion rather than making it precise.

And good actors are always the best judges of something that’s not quite right. So when Sophie says ‘I feel weird here’ we need to investigate because she will have put her finger on a moment, or a part of a scene, which for her feels unreal or unbelievable.
We sorted out a couple of those moments in the morning before running the play again in the afternoon. The first half felt a bit lacklustre, the second bounced along.

Next I was off to MediaCity to fine tune the editing on a piece of film that’s used in the show. The story of The Heretic involves Diane giving a controversial interview on a national current affairs programme. When the play was first done at the Royal Court, Jeremy Paxman did the interviewing honours. For us, we were delighted to get John Humphrys. He managed to fit it in while filming Mastermind up here. And we’re very grateful to Salford University and some very bright students on their journalism course who provided the facilities and the skills to do the filming.

The Heretic opens on Thursday 27 September at the Lowry and runs until Saturday 13 October. You can book tickets here.