The final week in the rehearsal room began with detailed notes and reflection on the first run, and a second run to try and incorporate this feedback. The headline from group discussion was that the characters most of the actors play are essentially the same selves, with different lenses applied. The same essence, distilled through different filters.
Three milestones were passed this week: the citizens caught both of the mafia for the first time and saved their village, the Green Diamond game was successfully executed without any diagrams, and the company ran the play in its entirety for the first time.
We are frequently discussing where Newspeak departs from Oldspeak, why and what impact this has on the language and climate of Winston’s Oceania. However Newspeak is not the only language our cast are getting to grips with, as we’re also building our shared vocabulary within the rehearsal room.
Downloadable Resource Pack for 1984.
Following the first week of rehearsals, I sat down to reflect with Associate Director Daniel Raggett, who is redirecting 1984 in conjunction with Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan for this West End return. I was particularly interested to discuss the place of our production in relation to other incarnations of this adaptation. In a pleasantly doublethink way, it is essentially something simultaneously brand new and pre-existing.
Get a glimpse of what's happening in 1984 rehearsal room.
Since its publication in 1949, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four has become one of the most popular and iconic novels of all time. It was named Britain’s eighth favourite novel in the 2003 BBC Big Read survey, it appears on countless lists of must-read books, is one of the top ten most searched books on the internet and remains a staple of school syllabuses and reading lists across the world. In his review of 1984 for the New York Review of Books, Timothy Garton Ash calls it ‘indispensable for understanding modern history’. But how does one set about adapting a book with such a weight of cultural history and influence behind it?
By the beginning of Week 2 the mark up - a detailed plan of the set with all the entrances and exits - has been drawn out on the floor of the rehearsal room in coloured tape, but Rob and Duncan are still reluctant to move towards a literal blocking of each scene. Instead, the play has been broken down into sections - like scenes, except the play contains no scenes - and the company are called to work on one or more of these at a time. The idea now is to focus in on exploring the physical nature of the scenes and what this might unlock.
The third week of rehearsals - by virtue of (usually) being the middle week of the process and so reminding everyone that the point at which more time has passed than there is to come will soon be upon us - can be a nervous one.
The most significant difference going into the fourth and penultimate week of rehearsals is the introduction of the technical elements of 1984, albeit in a primitive form. At the beginning of the week we are joined in the rehearsal room by the sound designer (Tom Gibbons) and video designer (Tim Reid). They begin to experiment with soudn and video - slotting various approximations into the action, adding in an underscore for one scene or setting up the cameras for another. Chloe Lamford (designer) and Natasha Chivers (lighting designer) are present as often as possible as well to get a feel for the show and for how it will translate to the stage.
Having staggered through the show on the Friday of the fourth week we were in the unprecedented position of being to run it in its entirety every day of the fifth and final week. This production is very much the sum of its parts and so each day’s iteration brings both clarity and confidence to the cast and the creative team.
The sixth and final week of rehearsals differs dramatically from the preceding five weeks. Firstly, we have relocated to the Nottingham Playhouse, where 1984 will have its official opening ahead of touring to seven other venues across the country. The set has been built on the stage, the lighting, sound and projection all rigged and the finishing touches made to costumes and props. This state of preparation is vital as we will have only three days worth of ‘tech’ (or technical rehearsals) during which all the technical elements of the show are introduced and implemented for the first time.