At the halfway point of our six-week rehearsal period it’s all about the practical. Gone are the days of long conversation, emotional exploration and research; it is time to stage the play and learn the lines.
This week the actors have rehearsed mainly with scripts in their hands (playwright Duncan Macmillan has given us some cuts and rewrites), whilst concentrating on problem solving quick costume changes and complicated entrances and exits. We have also been working with props for the first time, spending twenty minutes on Denise Gough’s increasingly complicated ‘cigarette-lighter-handbag- whilst-on-the-phone’ routine!
Our show is in ‘short traverse’, meaning the audience are on both sides of the stage and on three levels, so discussions about sightlines (how good the audience’s view is) have been reoccurring this week. This is one of the many pragmatic focuses for the director at this stage of the rehearsal process, as is (in Jeremy's case) working out whether an actor has time to get changed, crawl under the stage and be ready to appear in the next scene, or how to make a lot of chairs appear very quickly on set, and what on earth to do with them once they are there…
Week three also means it is time for Jeremy to give concrete answers to certain practical questions about the show in the production meeting (the meeting where we discuss the technical elements of the show). It is time to decide whether the doors on set need to be self closing or not, and how many wigs we are likely to use. The technical team need time to prepare and build the set and props and as we move closer to the technical rehearsal questions about the show that have been previously left up for grabs are beginning to be set in stone.
It often feels that you reach a place of emotional truth early on in a rehearsal process but once you put down the script, stand in the right place and introduce props, you can feel like Bambi on ice. Slowly this will disappear and the practical foundations of the show will become invisible once again, but for now, this period really is about orange chairs.