We sat down with the cast of The Violent Outburst That Drew Me to You during rehearsals to learn more about their work.
What is the driving force of your character(s)?
Harry Tseng: Connor’s driving force is wanting to find his people, and wanting to be in a place where he can be himself with his people. He always asks ‘why’, but people don’t really answer him.
Izabella Yena: Compared to Connor, Lotte’s anger is, in her perception, genuine. It’s valid. It’s from a place of hurt. I think the difference is that Connor frustrated, while Lotte is angry. She’s actively angry. She chooses anger. As well as having reason to be angry and sad. I think she wants people to know she’s angry because she’s scared of being left by the sidelines. She’s been expelled, she’s been dumped, that makes you feel ‘second’, so as a way of counteracting that feeling, she makes herself known.
Josh Price: In the text, Timo and Mal both play pivotal roles in terms of Connor’s journey and creating or inciting incidents, or road blocks that challenge him the most. Mal has the clearest backstory on the page. For me, all my characters’ drives are in relation to Connor. Mal’s drive is to make sure Connor doesn’t make the same mistakes that he did. Timo’s driving force is just to get his mate to calm down, just chill out. That’s the clearest and most playable thing for me, and the most enjoyable. There’s a sense of warning with Mal.
How do you embody your character(s)?
Izabella Yena: We did some work with Laban, which explores effort actions. I found that informative when starting to work with a new character. Asking questions like ‘what is their literal weight in space/are they direct or indirect’, then putting on each one until it feels in the ballpark. Lotte is quite direct.
Harry Tseng: I come from more of a script analysis point of view, so I start by looking at where my character sits within the story - what device I serve within the story.
Josh Price: Prue [Clark] was quite generous at the start of rehearsals in terms of giving us time to improvise and experiment. We had a session at the start of rehearsals where we Izabella and I anatomised all of our individual characters and their qualities. We did an exercise where we had to appear in a doorway ‘cutting a shape’ that we might associate with that particular character, and then there was a series of tasks we had to do (e.g. deliver a line). That was really useful in terms of defining character for me. Particularly with this piece, where I play so many characters with very quick changes, I want to make sure they’re distinct from each other in terms of the storytelling.
Design plays into characterisation too – I had been thinking of Mr. Brenner as a sports teacher, but when I saw Romanie [Harper]’s costume design for him, that led me down a different pathway that was more fun. It has been about playing in the room, and a lot of my access to characters has been vocal. Finding where Mal’s voice sits led me into a physical shape for him. Similarly with Timo, finding a vocal quality and using some of those Laban efforts has been useful.
What’s it like rehearsing with the set? How does the design affect the work?
Josh Price: We’re literally performing in frames in Part One, and Prue has given Izabella and myself the limitation of only being able to perform within the hallways. That’s been really interesting and useful to have the frames in the rehearsal room – to work out how to fill the frame and communicate the character in relation to the frame – and I think it would be almost impossible to do that without the set in the space.
It dictates a very specific style of performance, because you can’t necessarily engage naturalistically. There’s no couch, no TV, you’ve just got your body in that space, with maybe a prop, so the work that you’re doing is dictated by the space.
Izabella Yena: It informs so much of the tone. When we go to the forest, we've seen that space filled or blocked, so what does it mean for it to be hollow? As Lotte, I enter that space in Part Two and explore what are the extremes of motion and movement that I couldn’t do in Part One. The terrain is different. Many of the characters is Part One are seen through Connor’s eyes, in the way that they react to him. It’s about marrying everything together: design, style, tone, performance.
Harry Tseng: It’s interesting having such a specific and bold structure to work with in rehearsal. I was reading about Peter Brook, who doesn’t like to have a set in rehearsal until he gets a clear idea of a show, because theatre can be so organic. But at the same time, it’s helpful to have something so clear and structured. It’s always about the mix.
Harry Tseng and Josh Price in rehearsal. Photo: Nick Tranter
In your opinion, what is this play about?
Harry Tseng: This is a classic coming of age story. It’s about Connor discovering that it’s ok to be angry. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. I think we’re so scared of change. Good or bad, change needs to, and will, happen. The play puts a negative tone on phases, but Connor is going through a chapter in his life. Those chapters will keep going. His monologue at the end really explores that, he lists the chapters ahead. It’s dealing with heavy issues by making them light.
Izabella Yena: I think it would be easy to say ‘this is a play about anger’, but I think it’s a play about identity through anger and adolescence, and discovering who you are in the absolutely chaos that is being a teenager. It’s about how friendship can have redemptive qualities. That point when you’re a teenager when your friends become more important figures than your family. It’s still totally a comedy. Growing up is hard, but it’s funny. In retrospect. It’s about recognising that you can change.
Josh Price: For me, the play speaks to the importance of moving through change, through chapters of life, and allowing yourself to change and not get stuck in a phase. Lotte and Connor are both in a phase that’s about change. Looking back, when I was in that stage of life it was about change and big choices.
What’s an interesting rehearsal moment/technique?
Izabella Yena: We often do ‘fun runs’ before we delve into the nuts and bolts of a scene, which I find quite liberating. We did one on the second day of rehearsal, book in hand. It was an informed improvisation, where we just power through the play and make choices based on impulse. It’s there, up for grabs, to be played with and moulded, or not. We have a chat after about what worked, what didn’t, what we want to hold onto and let go of.
Harry Tseng: That was a new approach for me. When you’re filming, you can’t waste shooting time, so it’s interesting for me here being more vulnerable. Those improvisations are useful so long as you’re with a team that’s supportive and doesn’t make you feel stupid. Work toward who you think you are, play to your strengths.
Josh Price: The ‘fun runs’ approach has been good to quickly generate new, fun things. Particularly when you’re doing multi-character work, being given the license to make a new choice and try something stupid. It’s been good to have the time to explore those possibilities, because you don’t always get that time in rehearsal.
What’s your favourite line in the play?
Josh Price: I like Mal’s line ‘That is an excellent clock’. It reminds me of my dad.
Harry Tseng: The sentimentalist in me likes Connor’s line ‘That’s what I’ve missed, getting to know you.’ But structurally, I really like how Kruckemeyer flips the meaning of ‘Where are you going?’ from the start of Part Two to the end. It sounds like something’s going to blossom, and then when we hear it again, it sounds like something’s coming to an end.
Izabella Yena: I just generally like swearing! It’s quite aggressive and punctual. I like Lotte’s line: ‘I need to piss.’ It’s so unapologetic, and it’s not something you really say as a woman in real life, and she says it twice!
Izabelle Yena in rehearsal. Photo: Nick Tranter