The making of… A Brief History Of Struggle

We asked the lovely Sophie Doyle, one of the Guildhall School graduates that we cast in Dipo Baruwa-Etti and Calle Fuhr’s lockdown collaboration, to tell us a bit about her experience of rehearsing via Zoom and filming on her own. She didn’t disappoint!

Hiya, my name is Sophie Doyle and I graduated this year from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I play ‘Woman’ in the London 1966 section of ‘A Brief History of Struggle’.

It all started a few months ago on a Zoom call (what else?) with the Paines Plough team – Guildhall had only informed myself and the rest of the cast a couple of days before that we were going to be working with an AWESOME and GROUNDBREAKING theatre company and to put it bluntly – it was my first time working with practitioners outside my safe Drama School training bubble. Gulp.

But everyone was lovely! Really lovely. And straight away I felt this feeling go through my bloodstream – something that had been lying dormant for quite some time – excitement. Excitement at the thought that we were collaborating and making something that would actually have an end product. This was a good three months into lockdown and the closest I had felt to that had been when I had tried making a banana bread (which ended up being a complete disaster and now I refuse to attempt one again – I just can’t get my head around loaf tins, they NEVER work for me. Maybe it’s my oven?)

We read through the play and got to ask the writers Dipo Baruwa-Etti and Calle Fuhr all the questions we had in terms of characters, meanings and motivations – all the actory questions that felt great to ask after such a long time feeling stuck in our own homes not quite sure what was happening in the world. It was like dusting off your winter coat for the first time in months and feeling all the places it had worn in to fit you and it felt so good.

We were then informed that the idea was to each find a bench in our local area and film there. Yes we said that’s totally fine! Such a cool idea. I mean it would be fine right? Not that many people would stare would they? Cue to me sat in my local park dressed to the nines in a 60s style outfit and realising that being outside was one of life’s true luxuries at this point and that many people were out – but I digress…

Martyn (my scene partner) and I then had a rehearsal session with Katie Posner. We threw around ideas, talked about making some music to go along with our scene, looked at costume ideas. It was all pretty gung-ho after that. Matt the Producer was going to send us microphones and tripods and SD cards. We had a meeting with Ben Pugh the Digital Consultant about how to set up frame, what type of look we were going for – it was all very sexy and grown up.

That evening my Mum and I went round our local park searching for the perfect bench. It is amazing how many benches you walk past without realising they’re there. Short backed ones, high-backed ones, ones with handles, wooden ones, metal ones, ones with heart-breaking dedications, ones next to bins, lopsided ones. My camera roll is filled with random pictures of me sat on random benches. It was hilarious.

Going away, filming it, coming back, getting notes, having to go out and film it again. It was strange and different, but what isn’t at the moment? That’s the beautiful thing that has come out of this time I suppose. Nothing’s shocking. We adapt, we work it out. And checking back in with Katie and Martyn, laughing about the random bloke who shouted “This is a bit different, what you up to then?”  in the middle of one of my takes, or the kids who decided to run past Martyn screaming bloody murder in the middle of one of his, made it feel like we actually were back in a rehearsal room. I don’t know how Katie and Paines Plough did it, but they did. I felt we were back.

Reading this script for the first time, I thought it was like nothing I’d ever read before (no but seriously – half of the script was in German!) And making it was like nothing I’d ever done before. The piece is funny, heartbreaking, poignant and shares unexplored voices in history – as well as featuring actors from two different countries! Tickets can be bought from the Paines Plough website for just £1 (!) or found through the link in the Paines Plough Instagram bio. The show will be delivered through WhatsApp, straight to your pocket (how awesome is that?) with a daily link to scenes set in different moments of history.

I’m so excited to see what the future holds for Dipo and Calle, and feel honoured to have been part of this project. I was moved working on it and hopefully it will move you too. 

And another little shout out to Paines Plough – you rock.

You can buy tickets for A BRIEF HISTORY OF STRUGGLE right here.

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