A first read through is always quite a daunting experience. There are the normal fears: what will the rest of the cast be like? What if I only have three lines and everyone thinks I’m rubbish at those and I get cut? It’s made even more nerve-wracking when you pick up the script to see that there’s no punctuation, no stage directions and your character has a number instead of a name. I honestly questioned how on earth we were ever going to perform this text. It’s been a long, challenging and very emotional rehearsal process. But, here we are a couple of months later all set to perform for the whole month at the Fringe. And I couldn’t be prouder to be taking ‘The Investigation’.
So, how do you cope with a script that not only gives you very little guidance but also deals with a subject matter like the holocaust? The answer lies in the text. While the lack of stage directions seems very daunting, it’s actually quite freeing. There’s nothing to get bogged down in apart from the words. And the words the characters speak (and often the ones they don’t) tell you everything you need to know as an actor. These words have even more meaning when you consider that this is a piece of verbatim theatre. No matter how many times I hear or say some of the text, there are still moments when it shocks me that someone actually spoke these words and that these things really happened.
It’s been fascinating researching these characters and trying to piece together the real person behind them based purely on what they say and what others say about them. As a performer this has been one of the most interesting and rewarding parts I’ve ever played. Trying to bring these words to life and place my witness and defendant in the camp and court hasn’t been easy. These are characters which need real thought and understanding put into them and the challenge will be bringing them to life every night for a month. But it’s a challenge I greatly look forward to. This has been a rehearsal process full or experimenting, questioning and discovering. It’s often been very difficult, but the results have been well worth the effort.
Finally, we’ve put a lot of thought and discussion in to the subject matter of the play. Over these past few months I’ve thought and read a lot about the holocaust in preparation. And, I have to say that I disagree with one of the witnesses, the camp world is beyond my imagination. But I do agree that we all know the society in which such regimes are brought about. We read about them in recent history and we see them on the news every day. I’m a big believer that theatre can teach, inform and influence people more than any news report or politician. So, although it may be questioned what place a play about the holocaust has at the Edinburgh Fringe, the answer can be found in this quote from holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal: “For your benefit, learn from our tragedy.It is not a written law that the next victims must be Jews”. We all have a responsibility to speak out against racism, prejudice and genocide. And as performers, we’re just doing it in the most effective way we know how.
The Investigation, 21:00, 5-29 August, Zoo Southside, Venue 82.