This House UK Tour

23rd Feb 2018 - 2nd Jun 2018

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The Absence of War Rehearsal Diary - Week 4

By Hannah Banister

The start of week four begins with the preparations to move to Sheffield. Production manager Cath and her team have already begun the move and a lot of the preparations in the theatre are already taking place. The “Get in” is happening over the course of this week. This is special time for the crew and production management team to work on stage while the actors and creative team aren’t in the space. This will involve a lot of building, drilling, and people up ladders focusing lights. This week is spent building the set precisely so that the mark up that we are using in rehearsals translates exactly to the stage. They build the floor and the truss, and then rig all the lights and speakers for the sound. The dressing rooms are prepped and waiting for their new inhabitants.

In the rehearsal room, it is about bringing all the show’s chapters together. This week is spent working on the structure of the play. We want to ensure that the plot is clear and that it all knits together in the way it should to support the play.

Monday and Tuesday are spent looking at the scenes from beginning to end in order, focusing on the journey of one scene to the next. This helps the actors to learn the timings of the changes.

The day of the first stagger through came very quickly. Wednesday afternoon was the allocated slot for this and the show was in pretty good shape. It showed where the holes are, and where the energy drops, but we have time to work and redefine those areas Thursday morning before the first rehearsal room “Run” of the play. David Hare will be coming to see how developed the play is, as well as some producers from the Rose, and the Headlong team. This run through is an important step for the actors; they have people to receive the play and their performances before getting to the theatre.

The first run ran 10 minutes shorter than the stagger through, but we still need to lose precious minutes to make sure the play is driving at the right pace. David was really pleased with the run he saw. After, the actors seemed exhilarated and a bit bewildered as the size, speed and complexity of the play was presented as a whole for the first time. The second act really has no let up, particularly for lead actor Reece Dinsdale, who is the centre of the whirlwind that grows and whips round him.

Jeremy had lots of notes to improve and make the story clearer. So between Thursday’s run and the final rehearsal room run on Saturday, we will work to slot and rehearse those in.

Friday was a really fun day. This was the allocated day to complete all the filming needed for the video design sections of the play. This included a scene of George at the Dispatch box and Charles and Carole Kendrick accepting the election win. We also filmed Malcolm on the news and the crowds mobbing George for the “On The Stump” scene. For this scene, we welcomed about 20 extras to join. They all got fitted with a costume and joined us as we went on location to the car park of the Jerwood space to create the scene. It was great to have a crowd of such varying ages and personalities. They really got involved and it was exactly the energy needed.

I filled in as “Knightsbridge Ash Blond” Carole Kendrick for filming. After an hour and a half in hair and makeup, we went to the (freezing cold) car park, where Video Designer Ian had set up a green screen for us to stand in front of. I was really surprised to find it is literally a green sheet haphazardly held taught with various bits and bobs. We did a couple of takes and it was all over. It was really good fun.

Then it was on to the next shot with actor Gyuri Sarossi for his interview on the news. He is described in the text as saying “Fiscal” a lot. Gyuri wrote his own speech for it and I sat just out of frame to act as Jaqui, his interviewer.

By the end of filming, it felt like it had been sports day at school. But overall, it was a lot of fun and a different structure to the usual strict rehearsal room. A lot had been achieved and Ian was happy he had all he needed to design the show. We will see the end product once we are in tech at the theatre.

That Friday evening we all went to see The Nether for its first West End preview which was a great way to round off the day.

On Saturday, we had final run of the play in the rehearsal room and everyone working on the show was invited. It was packed with the creative team and producers that had missed Thursday’s run through. There was a level of excitement and anticipation since this was the last hurrah before hitting the pressures of tech. The play was even shorter, running now at 1 hour for the first half and 1 hour 12 minutes for the second half. We gathered one last time for notes in the rehearsal room and Jeremy outlined his corrections until close of the day at 2:00pm. Then it was time for the actors and creative team to go home, but it was only the start of a long afternoon for our tireless stage management team. They had to prepare and pack up all the props to be picked up and moved to Sheffield over the weekend.