Rehearsal blog for Moby Dick: Week Three. From the perspective of Actor and Simple8 member, Hannah Emanuel

simple8 Production Diary

The excitement has ramped up this week, along with nerves and focus. Now comes
the time to delve fully into the scenes and begin charting the characters’ emotional

There can be a propensity in early days of scene work to ‘generalise’ or ‘play state’,
ie play the overall emotion of a scene until we find and understand the shifts and
variations that will create dramatic tension. To find variety it helps to think about
‘previous circumstances’, ie what has just happened when the scene starts.
Importantly, I need to ask myself what does my character know at this stage of the
story? And what is he yet to discover?

At the start of the play when we first meet him, Starbuck must admire and trust Ahab
enough to desire to ship with him. This means there is initially room for excitement
and joy as they set sail – a useful colour to help avoid pre-empting the eventual fear
and desolation that will come later.

It also helps to look for when the character’s expectations are defied; for example,
when Starbuck comes to Ahab after the first whale kill, his expectation is that Ahab
will wish to continue hunting there, given so many whales have been spotted. What
actually happens is that Ahab reveals his desire to hunt only Moby Dick, proposing a
long, dangerous and otherwise unnecessary detour for that singular purpose. If, as
Starbuck, I play fear of Ahab’s obsession too soon, I will have nowhere left to go in
the later scenes. At this stage it is certainly a red flag for Starbuck to witness the
beginning of Ahab’s obsession, but it is not yet a complete loss of hope.

Physical details are also coming; the sense of space – open ocean for miles in all
directions – has an impact on how I hold myself as Starbuck, particularly in his chest
and head where I feel a sense of expansion and lift.

I had a wobble this week regarding Starbuck’s emotional expression in the latter
stages of the play. Seb, the writer, sees him as someone who would never lose
control of his emotions – it is, after all, Ahab who is lost. Here, stakes are key; if
Starbuck fails to influence Ahab, he will most likely die and never again return to his
beloved family. This is what he is fighting for, along with the lives of all his comrades.
No wonder he is emotionally charged by the end of the story. Does this cause him to
lose control of himself like Ahab does? No – on this, the writer and I agree. Does
some of that desperation show in his fight to save the ship and his comrades
however? Surely it must?

Having trust in your director is key when these wobbles occur. Jesse is fantastically
perceptive and intuitive and extremely good at creating a space safe enough within
which to be vulnerable. Acting can be extremely exposing, so without a safe
environment in which to work we cannot easily free ourselves enough to take risks –
and it is this risk-taking that can often lead to the most exciting discoveries in
rehearsal. I’m hugely grateful to him for creating the trust needed for us to explore
these more challenging, vulnerable scenes freely.
Thank you, Jesse.