Duncan Macmillan and Robert Icke in rehearsal. Photo:Manuel Harlan.
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 structure is such that the rhythm of each individual section – as there are no defined scenes – is dictated by that which has gone before it. This has the virtue of meaning that the energy of the show is often different, and fresh, depending on the way in which the company have left the starting blocks at the very beginning. However, it also means that without a strong start the run can be under-energised, or a small trip-up can cause the rest of the show to unravel. This makes it essential that the company know the whole production inside out, affording them confidence to keep it on track at all times. This confidence comes from the run-throughs and also from the return of the Green Diamond game, which is indispensable for focusing the cast each day.
Seeing the big picture - the play in its entirety - clearly highlighted areas which needed more work, and inconsistencies in terms of rhythm or narrative. These ‘bumps’ were addressed in remaining sessions of the day, and occasionally a re-write would be delivered the following day to be worked in. The great advantage of having the writers in the room is that quite a few difficulties can be resolved with an alteration to the script; however, Robert and Duncan are careful to limit returning to this, as often difficulties with the text can find solutions through a particular staging. It is important to remember that altering the text can cause you equal problems in another area of the staging.
By now, most of the technical aspects are fully operational and our run-throughs are supported by elements of both video and sound design. Both Tim (video) and Tom (sound) are in constant discussion with Rob and Duncan throughout the rehearsal day adding, removing or editing according to their notes. Essentially, the technical aspects of the production are being built in real time and so can respond to the myriad changes which continue to be made. These drafts which are ‘roughed in’ will continue to be worked on throughout the technical rehearsals and the previews in the coming weeks. Chloe (designer) and Holly (costume supervisor) have now sourced and fitted all the costumes and are busy making alterations. Meanwhile, Amy (deputy stage manager) has been busy filling up her ‘book’ (a master copy of the script) with the hundreds of queues she will use to ‘call’ the show (cue the lighting, sound and video at the correct point). This is done in pencil, of course, so that the inevitable changes can be made easily when necessary!
This work, as well as finishing touches to the set, will continue when we reach Nottingham for the technical rehearsals in a week’s time. To get an idea of the show ahead of this, the run-throughs are attended by staff from Headlong and the Nottingham Playhouse, who are also able to offer an objective view of the show – input which is certainly welcomed at this stage of rehearsals.