China Chats With Jed Murray

In this installment of China Chats, Jed Murray shares his enthusiasm for Made in China and the raucous, riotous rehearsal process. 

So this is my first time writing a blog. I actually had to look up the definition. Apparently it’s just like a public diary entry ... so here goes. 

I’m directing Made in China  by Mark O’Rowe! Who happens to be my favourite contemporary Irish writer. The mind boggles. It’s an outrageous script with outrageous characters in outrageous situations. What am I doing?!  Everyone involved is so clever! It’s all so complex!  There’s a seven page fight sequence with three men, an umbrella, a baseball bat and a WHAT!? A PROSTHETIC LEG!? Help!

Thankfully we’ve approached this beast previously. We know where it lives. We know it’s general shape and make-up.  But it’s important to me that we don’t just remount the same production as before.  I know that the guys still have most of the play buried in their bodies and minds, (it’s only been a year) and we have a four week rehearsal period, which affords us the luxury of exploring characters physically before revisiting the script.  So we had a blast, playing and fighting and being exhausted at the end of the day for the first week. Creating an intimacy and physicality that would, hopefully, seep into everything we did from then on.

And then I bust my knee. This is a Made in China/Corps Ensemble tradition. Last year Neill (Kilby) was operating on a dodgy knee also. But I find it difficult to sit down - I am always moving when I’m happy and I’m happiest when I’m in a rehearsal room with people creating shit. So I’m buzzing; I keep trying to get up and the lads keep on trying to get me to sit down! I think it amuses us all. (I hope! Hmm...)

Then we started focusing on the script. Wow! It’s just bonkers and bloody and beautiful. And with lovely rhythm and rhyming!  And it’s so complex, deceptively so.  So much fun to work on! It takes stamina and timing to do justice to this script.

Once we start putting it all together, the fun really begins. My knee is has improved enough to allow me to participate more fully, which leads to my favourite moment in rehearsals so far. I find myself (volunteer myself?) bent over with Kilby (Neill Fleming) smacking my arse as Paddy (Rex Ryan) spouts obscenities at me. Then they swap! In production this scene happens without an actual person onstage, but my actors lack imagination and said it would help them if I stood in for rehearsal purposes. ...  I swear.

So, one more week of rehearsals to go! Who knows what might happen!

Jed signing out!

China Chats With Neill Fleming

In this installment of China Chats, indieFEST Best Actor Award winner Neill Fleming talks about his love of China, how he gets into a character, and his biggest rehearsal struggle. 

A strange, unpleasant thing has happened to me in both rehearsal periods for Made in China. I wake up one morning, and everything seems fine and dandy and then out of nowhere get struck with the worst case of diarrhoea imaginable. Pure pressure hose. Stomach cramps. Dehydration. Light headedness. It’s awful; normally I would never suffer from intestinal distress of any description. If something in my fridge is a day or two out of date, or smells ‘A bit Madonna’ (i.e. Borderline) I’m more than likely going to eat it anyway. Say nothing, lash it in a curry-- be grand. I have absolutely eaten things well over the week, possibly even ten day mark and suffered no ill consequences.

Then, I start rehearsal for China, get ‘bout a week in and all of a sudden, tectonic plate shifts, volcanic eruptions ensue. Kilby has taken up residence. Neill Fleming is only a paper thin mask, swept away in the foul flood that is The Kilby. 

There is internalization, and then there’s this. Subconscious. Fetid. Mephitic. Surreptitious.

I’m not much of a ‘method’ actor. I don’t generally spend a lot of time talking about and analyzing (pun intended) the character or go through a methodical process of character creation. I like to get in there, say the words, see how they make me feel, try to figure out how the character feels, say the words again and see how they sound then, listen to my director, play the scene with and for my fellow actors, milk it a bit, milk it some more, bring it back to reality and hopefully after all that messing and playing around, have discovered some things without really trying to, but more by experiencing what that has done. I usually don’t even bother reading the script before rehearsal starts -- finding everything out, especially the ending, at the first read through is a great joy.

I treated Made in China no differently. It started for me a good few years ago; myself, Ed, another actor, and a director sat down in the old Factory to have a read through. I’d never looked at it before I opened me mouth, but it just flowed out of me. Fluid. Feculent. Funny as fuck. The cadences and comedy were innate and natural, the darkness intriguing and terrifying. I knew these lads, had lived moments of their lives. Spent nights with mates just trying to wreck each other’s heads, and dying laughing because of it.

Most of all, it reminds me of a time in my life when going to the local row of shops to ‘Videolink’ to search the shelves for a kung-fu movie, or manga, that we hadn’t seen was Friday night. (We’d seen them all, but we still spent ten fruitless minutes every time scouring the five or six shelves labelled ‘Action’)

 I still know most of Invincible Pole Fighters, The Fearless Hyena, and Ninja Scrolls by heart, word for word, frame for frame.  I certainly was never ‘battering’ people for money, but I certainly knew me fair share of Snorkels, loved the film Serpico and most of all spoofed my face off with my best mates.

So it’s safe to say that Made in China has a special place in my heart. Apparently, it reserves a very particular place in my bowels also, and when I start to become the ‘permy cocksucker’, my body prepares in an extremely debilitating, painful manner. And when that is happening to someone else, it’s fucking hilarious.

China Chats With Rex Ryan

Hillary Dziminski, Creative Producer for the Corps Ensemble and upcoming national tour of Made in China, asks Artistic Director and recent Manchester Theatre Award nominee Rex Ryan a few questions about his process, character, and his biggest challenges. 

Do you feel you identify with your character? In what ways do you/don’t you?

I’m playing a young man called Paddy in Made In China. In many ways he is the purest character in the play and the other two characters fight for his loyalty throughout the story. I love Paddy. He is sensitive, caring and observant. He’s also crude, ignorant and frustrating at times. Like us all, he’s a contradiction. It’s my job to identify things within Paddy I understand, and that which I don’t initially understand I work on.

He is vastly different to me in many ways; his thought process/speed, accent, I imagine him to move totally different to me. He has a different body. I’ve become more relaxed recently with letting the character come through me naturally in rehearsals as opposed to grabbing at things. If you’re open, it will come.

What is the most challenging thing about Made in China for you as an actor?

It’s a beautiful piece of writing so it’s a pleasure to do it. I believe in the story too. The most challenging thing is probably the concentration that's required in performance. Paddy thinks totally different to myself and he often gets lost in his own thoughts while conversations continue on stage. So I need to get into his mental rhythms and stay there for a couple of hours while also being conscious of giving the story to our audience.

How do you feel that Made in China is relevant and resonant in today’s society?

It’s a story of friendship, loyalty, betrayal, parenthood…These are themes that transcend time from ancient Greek theatre, to Shakespeare, to our Dublin Noir thriller.

If we do it well, I hope the audience will see bits of themselves within the characters. I hope they will see them as complex humans, because they could easily be discounted as thugs, scumbags or simply stupid, when of course that is never the case. Life is in the grey, the unexplainable, the mystery of our ridiculous minds.

Perhaps that’s it? I’d like people to give a character they’d usually ignore on the street some more thought. I’d just like people to have an emotional experience with them…and I think today, more understanding and attention to human beings is sorely needed.

What feelings or questions do you hope an audience will take away from Made in China?

I don’t think the theatre is for ‘teaching’ or trying to militantly get a point across or to project your ‘concept ‘. We are so full of the energy and complications of life anyway that it’s enough for an audience to sit in a theatre with a bunch of characters they believe and have a visceral and emotional experience with them. A soulful experience that makes you think something that causes a stir in your soul that was asleep.

My favourite theatre affects you subconsciously 4 days later when you’re walking your dog…

The Corps Ensemble produced Made in China last year as it’s first production…are there any of the same challenges in preparing for this remount and tour? Are there any new challenges? What has it been like to revisit the script again?

We are lucky in that the script is so detailed, it holds up to a second rehearsal as you find so many more details in the story and also within your character.

I love Paddy too so I like jumping back into his mind.

And f*** me… the play is hilarious…we’ve laughed a lot.

Do you prepare for a tour differently than you prepare for a one-time run?

No, just the boring stuff. Logistics, vans, how much money do we need for dinner…does the hostel have a jacks?… is that a human head in the shower Neill? etc …

What is your favorite part of the preparation process for a show?

I love the chase of the character. There’s always one moment when something happens; a move, a thought, and you have him. It takes patience though, which I’m working on…

What I really love though is the performance. The energy.

And the fact you have to just let go at that point and see what the hell happens.

You have to trust.

Do you find it difficult to get out of the head of your character when you leave the stage or the rehearsal room?

Sometimes I’m wired and need to do a jog after a show or take 15 minutes listening to some relaxing music. Other nights I’m wrecked and just want my bed.

But if you’ve done the work, you should be able to sort of click in and out of the character when you need to.