So we’re into week 5 and we’re all settling into the comfortable surroundings of the Nuffield Theatre Southampton. The set has been built and installed on stage so it’s time for tech rehearsals. This is when the actors get onto the set for the first time and the technical crew get a chance to rehearse the lighting and sound. The lighting and sound desks are out in the auditorium rather than hidden away in the lighting box. There are wires everywhere and there are countless calls from the various technical people that seem to be in a different language, which sounds like English, but it seems to be in a strange code. Phrases like "Put the SL Boom Base DS of the leg. Don't think we'll need an Iris, but you never know" might sound mystifying to the casual listener but they are clear as day to the technical crew.
The shorthand developed amongst stage managers, lighting designers, sound designers and backstage crew enabled something which is pretty unusual for a tech rehearsal; everything went ahead of schedule. Nearly half a day ahead in fact.
During the tech, Simon, our company stage manager, was sat perched on the edge of downstage left with the script spread across a music stand and, like the late Sir Colin Davis himself, conducted the ebb and flow of different minds and skills towards the all important dress rehearsal.
We were lucky enough to get two full, and most importantly calm, dress reherasals in before the first performance. This gave the cast and creative team plenty of time to tinker and evolve those vital nuances in tone and pace which are so delicate and important in creating the volatile mood and texture of these great Russian plays.
After each dress rehearsal, jotting pads in hand, notes happened in the dressing room.
Now the kinds of choices a director makes when giving notes to the company is a much longer conversation. I noticed that Blanche offered a deep sense of compassion and diplomacy when giving notes at this this delicate moment in the process.
There comes a point in every show you’ll ever do, be it as an actor, a director, a designer or a producer, where you genuinely ask yourself – is it all going to be ok? Is it going to be any good? Are audiences going to connect with our emotional and intellectual decisions in the storytelling? And this point is the point where you see that the company are true professionals, who are comfortable with the fact that a dress rehearsal might not have been perfect and willing to find solutions to any problems that might have been discovered during the process. In order to solve problems, you need to call upon everything that has happened in all four weeks of rehearsals prior to the dress rehearsal. Sometimes, half-forgotten ideas from week one suddenly make sense of something strange happening during the dress rehearsal.
Alex Cobb took an incredible picture of us all doing a line-run in the green room at Southampton. A different set of emotions. The quiet before the storm.
With our tech week also saw an introduction of a new member of the cast, Samovar the Seagull. To be honest, he’s been a bit of a nightmare; late for calls, hasn’t learnt his lines, wants his own dressing room, generally makes the other actors uncomfortable etc. In short, he’s a big Russian Diva. So we’ve decided that our company manager, Simon Sinfield, is going to take him for a fly at each venue. Here he is appearing on the Radio Solent with John far left, Katie Martin the presenter in the middle and Blanche on the right. He’s telling a particularly funny joke in this picture, stealing the lime-light. But that’s what we’ve come to expect from Samovar. He’s unpredictable. Who knows what he’ll get up to next…