ACTOR’S DIARY: SAM O’SULLIVAN, THE NORMAN CONQUESTS
The devil is in the details.
I don’t know if I’ve ever used those words in earnest before but this week has given me a new appreciation of what that phrase might mean.
As we cycle back through the plays, still running them quite slowly in order to detail and discuss them, we’re all finding that we have a lot of conversations where text is similar to a scene that comes immediately before or after it. As Norman, Yalin Ozucelik attempts to woo more than one of the female characters at various times (hence THE NORMAN CONQUESTS) and his tactics in doing so are subtly different while the language he uses in each scene is similar. Likewise, Reg and Sarah (Brian Meegan and Danielle Carter) have been married for nearly ten years and have the kind of circular arguments only married couples can have. In seeing one play, audiences might witness the beginning of one argument and what they believe to be the end of it in a later scene. However, when they see more than one play, they will come to realise that in fact what they saw was two separate arguments flare up in different locations. With me? Good! So am I. Just.
The experience feels similar to a play I was in a few years ago called CONSTELLATIONS. That play is an exploration of love and multiverse theory. In it, each scene replays seven or eight times and each time it does the universe changes, altering the relationship between the two characters. Sometimes the changes are drastic as the characters react to different situations. Sometimes the changes are as little as a shifting comma or a subtle reordering of lines. Our job as a company, therefore, was to figure out what was going on underneath these shifts in order to differentiate between the universes. At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious – we had to find the subtext.
The key to THE NORMAN CONQUESTS is no different. Although the text is similar on the surface, each scene has its own unique dynamic as characters bounce off each other in different ways and as they learn new pieces of information (or misinformation, in my case). In the end, the subtle differences in the writing are gifts from the playwright that tell us how each relationship differs, how our characters are feeling at any given moment and what tactics they are employing to get what they want.
For now, however, as we continue to navigate the subtext, the devil truly is in the details. As Tom, I seek advice on my relationship with Annie (Matilda Ridgway) from a number of different characters over a short space of time, using similar phrases in each conversation. Yesterday, as Brian and I ran such a scene between Reg and Tom, my experience was one where I heard my cue, knew it was my cue, knew I said something – but like the three stooges trying to get through a door at the same time, multiple lines tried to rush out of my face in response.
I think I sounded possessed.
– Sam O’Sullivan