Faustus: That Damned Woman

22nd Jan 2020 - 4th Apr 2020

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5th Sep 2020 - 30th Oct 2020

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1984 Branding

1984 West End 2016 - Re-Rehearsal Diary Week 3

Jocelyn Cox

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.

The ‘mafia’ victory led to a valuable conversation centring on the idea that the whole production requires a flavour of that uncertainty, paranoia, and danger. In the world of the play, as much as the game of mafia, everyone poses a potential threat, nobody is certain where the secrets lie, and all involved engage in surveillance not only of those around them, but also themselves. The suspicion is palpable, but so too is the widespread desire to appear innocent, even from those who really are innocent. This helps build the sense of ‘World Fear’ we need throughout the production. In simplest terms, ‘World Fear’ means turning up the contrast on things which already exist in our world; iPhones mapping our movements multiplied by 100 and being monitored more closely and acted upon more readily against harsher and less transparent laws with stronger consequences.

‘World Fear’ is particularly important as motivation for Winston. We discussed this week the necessity of a reason for Winston to do what he does. He goes on this journey rather than maintaining his routine existence, and there must be something considerable in his world which makes him do this. It is therefore down to the company to create an oppressive atmosphere of fear and danger significant enough to force him to jump down the rabbit hole. This relies on a collective inhabitation and sense of heightened awareness from the company, and rests on the hive mentality that we have been building throughout the rehearsal process.

We began the week with continued work on sections. This involved running exchanges with an eye on practicalities, as many props have now joined us in the room, which pose new challenges. As the practicalities become more habitual and settled, we are able to focus on the possibilities which must be kept alive, and the options which the actors must constantly balance. This week music was used a few times to aid the actors' understanding of a given atmosphere. Although not everything they heard is part of the sound design, feeling the shift of the exchanges when underscored with those particular sounds or tempos, has better equipped them to live in the relevant moods.

The first run through was an exciting achievement for everyone, and very heartening for the cast to get a full picture of how this play fits together in performance. It helped ground the reassurance that they have been receiving that many aspects are heading firmly in the right direction, and the world is really starting to take shape. Viewing it as a whole facilitates an important realisation – it is important that this grows from an initial group of people. It is not scenes, but rather, as Robert Icke described it, one complete experience that flows and joins itself up again, having solved some problems en route. Everyone was suddenly equipped with the knowledge that there are no scenes and it requires significant momentum from the company to retain an energy akin to Winston’s adrenaline levels. The quality of the final moment is entirely dependent on the performance that has gone before, and will therefore be slightly different each night.

The challenges for next week, aside from honing and enhancing throughout so that every moment can land appropriately, are to find a lightness of touch in the playing – the metaphor of an orchestra playing together is often used, to take on an ownership of the weird and of being confrontational, and to guard against the whole piece taking on a homogenous pace – we need to find the rhythms within the arc of it. The play offers a bold challenge; the company collectively build this reality – it can’t exist outside their shared imagination. At the end of a heartening and productive week, Daniel Raggett reminded the cast: “We build the worlds, we dictate what we create and when, and it’s predicated on a shared secret within the company. A constant desire to deliver, but on our terms.”

On that note they embarked on a well-earned rest day, ready for our final week in the rehearsal room to begin, bringing with it much tweaking and polishing and many more runs.