And before we know it – that’s week one done. It’s gone by in a flash (as always) and yet we feel right in the thick of the world now, having delved straight into the small matter of British politics from 1990-2017!
When I arrived for the first day, the rehearsal room seemed to be vast – the stage management team were getting set up, our designer Lee Newby was crouched by his model box getting ready for the presentation later and an impressive spread of tea, coffee, pastries and fruit was waiting for people to get stuck into. Having piously avoided being the first person to take a croissant, I got things ready from my end, getting research books out for people to dip into and generally trying to make myself useful, whilst working through that first day of school feeling that everyone must have! Soon after, people started arriving, and before long the room was bubbling with catch-ups and introductions, as people prepared for the meet and greet. By 10.30am the room didn’t seem quite so vast as 40 or so people got into the obligatory circle, where we go round and introduce ourselves and what we’re doing in the production. My consistent experience of this is that you spend the whole time planning trying to not sound like an idiot and coming in on time, that you forget to listen to everyone before you, and then when you’re done, you spend the rest of the time berating yourself for not taking in this information, and then realise you’ve not listened to the rest of the people! But it breaks the ice, and vitally, just reminds you of how enormous the team is that are working on the production, from producers, to the actors, creatives, marketing departments and many, many more.
After the introductions, we sat down and launched into the first read through, which a smaller group stayed for. It’s so great to finally hear the script out loud, after a few months of prep and reading it yourself. Two things were immediately obvious – we have a great cast and the play is brilliant. The jokes and humour flew, but also, I hadn’t anticipated how much it would move me. The characters are so human, and we spend nearly a lifetime with them, through huge experiences to the little but significant ones.
One of the main tasks this week, like I mentioned earlier, was to really get our heads round the timeline of events, which spans from 1990-2017 and includes huge global landmarks, crisis’, achievements, scandals, as well as working out the localised timelines of our characters. Before getting up on our feet, Jeremy (director) wanted us to go thoroughly through the play, scene by scene, extracting all of our questions and, as a whole group, having the big conversations together. Also, as it’s a new play, we were really lucky to have writer James Graham with us all week, who could help us with some questions, but also really excitingly, respond to how it was sounding, and to the conversations we were having, and he’s now spending the weekend making small re-writes which incorporates this week’s work. This scene analysis is really detailed and vital, but it’s quite tiring too in its intensity, so we broke the week up with visits from people directly working in the Labour Party/British politics. These included past MP’s and cabinet members, lobbyists and also a current constituency agent. They were all so fascinating, and the passion with which they all expressed themselves was incredible, and made me realise how driven they are and how much they care, irrespective of whether or not I may agree with them all 100%. It also really helped us understand the complexities within the Labour Party itself, and how there are pretty different schools of thought, that go down to grassroots, up to leadership, and how this has always been the case. This is at the heart of the play too, and so it was brilliant to get some first hand accounts and insight. And the conversations have already started to challenge my own understanding, and my own thoughts too, which I didn’t expect…
So, a really interesting and stimulating first week, and I can’t wait for us to get on our feet now. We actually don’t have lots of time (we never do!) and so we’ll be moving with real energy over the next three weeks to get us ready for tech. Game on.