There are so many things happening in the rehearsal room, it’s sometimes difficult to know what might be interesting for you folks to see.
So to give you an overarching feel for week two, I’ll start with how I’m trying to use day-to-day observations to visualise the process.
Above is a “Wordle” of the most prominent words which have come up in discussions during week two. It’s a simple way of seeing the room. So you can see that words such as ‘decay’, ‘release’ and ‘public/private’ are on the tongue tips of cast and creative team alike. Hopefully I’ll be showing you some other, more inventive, ways in which I’ve been doing this, but for now it gives you a quick flash at the way I’m trying to see and capture the rehearsal room for you.
One of the perks of having an incredible stage management team means that there’s a constant stream of props, mark ups and generally bits and pieces arriving in the room. I suppose weeks one to four are like the gradual uphill part of a rollercoaster ride ready for tech/dress where everyone goes “ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh?!!”
Midway through week two, amongst many other props, (which will eventually get replaced but are there for the time being), was a head bandage for Konstantin. This bandage, like a tickly elephant in the room, was the single handed cause for surely some of the worst corpsing in the history of rehearsing Chekhov. I’m talking minutes of giggles. With the risk of this feeling like an in-joke, I include a picture of Alexander Cobb modelling the bandage.
Alexander Cobb wearing the bandage at The Jerwood Space
From Laura our designer thinking he’d gone and had a Mohawk haircut to most of us agreeing that the pineapple look would perhaps be slightly distracting for an audience, there were giggles galore all thanks to a simple bandage. The Seagull is, on many levels, a very funny play. The scene we were working on is in Act III where for a glimmer of a moment Irina and Konstantin have reconciled their differences. Irina re-bandages Konstantin’s head wound and they reminisce about his childhood. Then Konstantin chooses to unpick Irina’s relationship with Boris and all hell breaks loose. This scene should be very painful to watch as you’re witnessing the neuroses of mother/son at play and so laughing through it did, it has to be said, provide light relief within the painful situation we find them in.
Chekhov lived with tuberculosis for most of his adult life, which of course is even more of a testament to his brilliance in the face of illness. His plays are peppered with doctor characters but on Tuesday we welcomed into the room a different sort of doctor. Dr. Jim Hopkins from King’s College London, confidently paced through the doors of our rehearsal room, sat down in a circle of chairs, and introduced the cast to the endless and fascinating world of consciousness.
Dr Jim Hopkins talking to the cast at The Jerwood Space
Now. consciousness is a slippery beast. There are many different schools of thought who argue different things about it, but from the start Blanche had been talking about “consciousness” as a way of understanding the characters in the piece. John’s version of the play, at times, really hones in on the idea of that each of the eleven characters in the play are conscious of very different things according to how they personally see things
The hour with Dr.Hopkins was hotly anticipated and didn’t disappoint. He spoke beautifully about a number of areas but one really stood out: the importance of early childhood (0-4 months) in how our world views are shaped. This gave the cast some empirical starting points for why their characters might be or might have behaved in certain ways in the past and indeed in real time during the play. During the hour of Q&A, there were moments where actors looked across at each other and smiled when Dr.Hopkins inadvertently landed on the exact cause for certain moment in the play. In a way, this shared moment of understanding between the actors is, in itself, the exact same feeling we hope you, the audience, will experience.