For someone who's spent the last few months cramming for their GCSEs, being involved with Metta Theatre's energetic and exciting rehearsal process for The King of Tiny Things was a refreshing use of my week. The production has taken shape rapidly, with the prospect of an informal showing of the work on Friday afternoon working as a constant source of motivation. This week has mainly been spent creating and perfecting the show's circus sequences, and then joining them together to make a performance that runs smoothly. The company also familiarised themselves with their costumes, with one performer, who plays the Daddy Long Legs learning a complicated movement routine on stilts and our Slug getting used to her sleeping bag. Dealing with important themes like fear of change and ageing, the show uses insects to teach its two protagonists, Jeanne and Chrissie, about how it's important to accept, embrace and enjoy the complicated affair of growing up. It's touching to see such small organisms used to convey enormously relevant ideas. The method of doing this was quite unlike anything I'd ever observed before, as director Poppy is not overly prescriptive or constantly giving specific instructions. Instead, she trusts the company's combined knowledge and experience of circus, allowing them to work together to develop powerful scenes. Their confidence in their creation meant that they became braver and more inventive as the week progressed. The faith that the performers have in one another allows them to constantly throw ideas into the continuous discussion forum that defines this rehearsal method. However, she skilfully facilitates this process so that the outcome is not only physically impressive, but also highly focused towards the objective of any given moment. This collaborative technique was just as engaging to watch as the theatre that it produced was.
One of the aspects of the rehearsal process at Metta that intrigues me the most is the fluidity of it: no idea is ever set in stone. This flexibility means that scenes never cease to be altered for the better, and there's always room for a new and ingenious way of doing something. Aside from watching the four performers in action, I was sent on various errands on behalf of the company. Meeting a complete stranger in central London to pick up a trolley full of juggling clubs made me realise what a sociable profession circus-theatre is - it feels like nobody is unwilling to help a fellow juggler or hand-balancer. This experience has not only opened my eyes to the brilliance of The King of Tiny Things, but the exuberance and enthusiasm of those who work so tirelessly and creatively to tell his story. I've not only gained an insight into acrobatics, stilt work and juggling, but the way in which a small company manages to pull off spectacular work. Thank you Metta and hope the production flies!
By Laura Henderson