We're halfway through rehearsals and things are beginning to take shape. This week we started back at the top of the play and revisited the work from weeks one and two - only this time we delved deeper and investigated the scenes with more scrutiny. We spoke in depth about various relationships between characters and the narrative of the story. We want to make absolutely sure the plot is clear for the audience. We've also laughed a lot!
As promised, this week I'll be talking about our trip to Downing Street and the Whips' Offices in the House of Commons! We had a fantastic afternoon visiting the Government Chief Whips' Office at 9 Downing Street - a first for all the company.
We met Roy Stone, Principal Private Secretary to the Chief Whip and Kate Wilson and Anneka Kumari, both Private Secretaries. As Civil Servants, their roles are apolitical, but their insight and knowledge of parliament was fascinating. Roy has served under 7 Prime Ministers and has a wealth of knowledge and understanding that was hugely helpful.
We had a tour of the Chief Whips' office in Downing Street and discovered that the desk used by the current Chief Whip was first used by Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone, both Prime Minsters under Queen Victoria.
On the wall in the office - possibly the most exciting part of the afternoon for the company - was the actual slip of paper that brought down the Callaghan government in 1979. This House concludes with the vote of no confidence against the government in 1979. The government lost by one vote, 311 to 310. This simple slip of paper, with the result scribbled on and dated, was read out by the Speaker on 28th March and set in motion a series of events that would sweep Margaret Thatcher to power, beginning 18 years of Conservative rule. This has only happened twice in British history, so seeing the paper framed on the wall was a small reminder of the simplicity of British democracy, and the event that is so important to the story of This House.
We left Downing Street and headed across the road to the Commons. We were given a private tour of the inner workings of the Whips' offices and other locations that appear in the play - the Tea Room, River Terrace, Committee Rooms 10 and 14, and the Strangers Bar. Behind the scenes, you realise that this place isn't grand at all and that MPs are merely custodians of the office they hold. The offices felt cold and unfinished, almost temporary. Only the necessary bits of furniture scattered the poky rooms. All good stuff to take back to the rehearsal room.
Next week is our last week in London before we move down to Chichester. We'll start to include various technical elements of the show, particularly sound. This House features a live band with a couple of live vocals. We'll be rehearsing this and other sections of the show and incorporating them into the rehearsal.