Bilquis Bibi rehearsals: week 1

Over the rehearsal period for The House of Bilquis Bibi, observers Andrea Milde, Rebecca Morahan and Renu Arora will be blogging their thoughts as they go.


Very intensive stuff! Kristine communicates with the actors in a very direct way, and she is open about it. One of the many things I already found impressive so far is the  way she makes use of improvisation. She quickly creates carefully chosen scenarios for improvisation to trigger the actor’s exploration for a particular attitude or relationship. I don’t know if I have ever met a director who is so determined to see each actor at their very best; and she is not willing to put up with anything less. Kristine knows the qualities and strength of each individual actor and might at times have to show them what they are capable of. The working process isn’t about following a ready-made concept and squeezing the actors into their character. It is rather about challenging and confronting the individual actor and make them open up to the working process.

And opening up is certainly what they all did after those complex and always straightforward rehearsals, interwoven with those very clever improvisation parts. Kristine wants to have a conversation with the cast and wants to explore things herself, which is very unique, I think. It’s amazing what comes to light during those highly energetic sessions, unpredictable and exciting actors and unpredictable and exciting characters.


After just two days as an observer I feel I am already learning a lot about directing and the rehearsal process. I am struck by how Kristine injects energy into the room and keeps the pace going – it feels like every moment is being used constructively. At the same time, there is space for playfulness and for discovering the play through a very precise and creative use of improvisation. This is really valuable to witness, as I am realising that analysing and talking about the text in rehearsals is not always the most useful ‘way in’ to creating a performance and can be a distraction or even a hindrance for actors.  I’m really enjoying watching the cast work with each other and start to create the world of the play and live the relationships between them.

Another fascinating aspect is the use of different languages and accents in rehearsal. I understand that his is an integral part of the way Tamasha work. Using different languages in a piece of theatre is something I’ve been thinking about recently and it’s really exciting to see it in action.


Kristine’s use of improvisation, and how she tailors her approach to each individual actor is inspiring.  Whilst working with one of the actors, she noticed that she needed to be more neutral. Through setting up improvisations both in her own language and in English but with a heavy Punjabi accent , the actor was able to find ‘more of a ‘neutrality’ in her performance. Kristine mentions that the more neutral we are, the more free we are to actually hear the other person, and to react truthfully.

I am particularly interested in how Kristine finds exactly what is stopping each actor being true to the text. Sometimes an actor’s preparation of the character can block them from being open.  An actor can have a beautiful quality of simplicity and presence whilst improvising, but when it comes to the text, unnecessary embellishments can sacrifice its simplicity.

I am also fascinated by Kristine’s use of imaginative exercises – in order to help one actor assume a more ‘active’ energy in one of her scenes, she set up an improvisation where the actor would copy and imitate the energy/body language/tone of voice etc. of the actor she was playing against – the result was very interesting as energy shifted in that moment, and consequently the scene became much more engaging and dynamic.

I am already learning so much from observing this process, finding ways in which this will help shape my own style.


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