We’re in the final stretch in rehearsals for This Beautiful Future this week, and fast approaching tech. This wonderful team of creatives are drawing together the unique components of first love, history, dreams, karaoke and chicks that make up this heart-wrenching production written by Rita Kalnejais and directed by Jay Miller. In keeping with the shows exploration of time, I want to take a moment to pause and look back to share some fragments from the research and rehearsal process with you…
Eating fried chicken with teenagers
A real highlight was chatting about the future over fried chicken and cream soda with a fantastic bunch of teenagers. The group are a part of the Company Three ensemble, an incredible theatre company who make work with young people about the teenage experience for adult audiences. Jay and Rita felt it would be useful to connect with some teens to help with character development for our 17 year old Elodie and 15 year old Otto, and to find out more about teenage attitudes towards the future at the moment, to hear about their ideas, hopes and aspirations.
I tagged along with them, and two of our incredible actors Hannah Millward and Bradley Hall. As well as some cracking fried chicken, it was super inspiring to be reminded of the positivity and energy of young people right now. But chatting about the need to get more sleep, to stop worrying about work and to stop going on our phones all the time, I did wonder if growing up actually changes anything at all.
Running the opening for the first time
Without any spoilers, Jay’s created a sort of delicate but energetic spark of an opening to our story, combining Jonah Brody’s joyous and epic karaoke music (sung beautifully by actors Alwyne Taylor and Paul Haley) and Rita’s uplifting text. The first time we put it all together it was such a thrill. It makes me smile and my heart beat a little faster every time I see it.
Big booty everyday
Every afternoon in rehearsals we play Big Booty. Everyone in the rehearsal room at the time has to join in. It involves a lot of dancing.
Researching a new past
Before rehearsals began I spent a week in the Imperial War Museum’s Research rooms (fab free archives and reading rooms should you ever need it delving into World War 2 and life in Occupied France. I thought I knew this topic pretty well through AS History, but examining my understanding of the war from a French perspective was a fascinating experience. The German invasion of France happened in the a mere 6 weeks. This whirlwind was traumatic, humiliating and deeply confusing for civilians, and left many without a clear sense of whose side they should be on. It fractured France for a generation and that the stories told in France from the period are often conflicting.
Although full of horror and tragedy, the British understanding of the most momentous period in our living memory is pretty clear cut – isn’t it? It’s easy to teach in schools, as we were on the right side of history. Our grandparents were heroes, civilians made of steel who never surrendered against the most unimaginable evil. Not to discredit their bravery and sacrifice, I’ve come to see how the sentimental story of honour could be dangerous. Perhaps it’s blindsided us to other atrocities we’ve committed in recent history, and allowed an arrogance to emerge that leaves us incapable of spotting the pattern of events that a dangerously fractured Europe can lead to.
Part of the genius of Rita’s story is in it’s offering of a fresh outlook, a view which shakes up our historical understanding of good and evil, as well as reminding us of the lessons of the past.
It’s a useful tool for young people right now as it can be hard for to understand the extremes of current world events. But what this play does offer is an injection of hope within an examination of trauma. It looks at the positive energy of youth and love to overcome the barriers to paint a beautiful future.