Christopher Patrick Nolan, Mandi Symonds, Stephen Fewell, Matthew Spencer, Gavin Spokes and Mark Arends in rehearsal. Photo: Manuel Harlan.
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. The more exposed they are to it now, the easier the transition will be when we get to Nottingham for the technical rehearsals in a fortnight’s time. What is remarkable when introducing these elements is just how vital they are in supporting the production – and this one in particular. Due to the fluid nature of the narrative, in both the novel and the play, Winston moves through worlds quickly and finds himself in particular places without a clearly defined change. Something as simple as a sound effect - for example, the ticking clocks in an antique shop - can provide a real sense of place for an audience.
The appearance of these new faces, and new tricks, in the room is also a sign that from this point the full form of the production will begin to crystallise. Not only in the technical sense, but also in terms of the play’s action. Every day there are more props onstage and less scripts. The time has come to refine and rework what we have been in the process of shaping. Robert and Duncan are adamant about maintaining an environment of continued exploration; as well as moving closer to fixing certain portions, the cast are still encouraged to try new things, to interrogate the text or to attempt new blocking.
The week begins with the company running whole chunks of the play. This is important as it is the first time we are able to see how the individual scenes slot together. A crucial step, as it flags up any bumps or areas which don’t feel right. These could be inconsistencies in the plot or merely a moment where the rhythm is upset. With each section that we run, the confidence of the cast grows. By the end of the week we are ready for our first full stagger through. Not only is it is exciting to see the show in its entirety but we are also able to assess the piece as a whole, with a view to ascertaining both what works and what doesn’t, giving us a head start for our final week of polishing and fixing.
On Thursday of week four, the rehearsal room is transformed into a film set as the afternoon is given over to shooting the video clips that will be worked into the production. New faces arrive, to play supporting roles or to help with the filming, and the entire team work as quickly as possible to ensure that as little rehearsal time as possible is lost. Meanwhile, many of the cast have costume fittings to follow up on or rework costumes.
We have been rehearsing six days a week throughout the process, and Robert uses the final morning of this week to work individually with any cast members who want to ask any questions or work on particular sections. Then, in the afternoon he spends the rest of the day with the technical team, gathering their feedback on the run and working with them to further shape the technical elements of the show. It is already apparent that some of the responses that come out of these discussions will prove extremely useful in addressing issues in the piece as a whole. Aside from merely a technical response the creative team and stage management help to highlight moments which have still not been entirely achieved in the run. An objective view can be extremely useful and as a theatre-maker it is important to be attuned to the opinions and responses of all those around you. These can reveal readings that you may not have been aware of or obstacles that you might need to see with fresh eyes. Often, the best ideas can come unexpectedly from these sort of places.