Updated: Sep 22, 2019
The director of our upcoming production of The Tempest will be keeping a note of each day in the rehearsal room. Follow the updates throughout the rehearsal process.
22nd September 2019
I missed a day! I cannot believe I missed a day. Actually...I can. Saturday was our last rehearsal at the Swan Theatre and we were lucky enough to get on to the main stage to be able to give our vocal work the full treatment and work in a space of similar size to the stage we'll be working on. After that, the cast took some much needed R&R and were hosted very generously by two of our supportive patrons. It was great to see the entire cast unwind after a long week of rehearsals and get some much needed downtime.
I wish the same could be said of the crew! They were very hard at work yesterday, transforming the Huntingdon Hall into a completely new theatrical space. Today I was in with the Production Manager and Designer, to go through last minute issues with the set and then myself and Designer, Jack Coleman, settled in for the plotting of the show.
I don't know whether any director is ever completely happy with a production. I would imagine that it will be the same as an artist with one of their paintings or an author with one of their books; it's never perfect. I'm always finding things I would change, add or take away. If only there were more time! But that is the joy of a live production. Its imperfections are unique and never to be repeated. Each performance is different. This is as it should be. Theatre is a living, breathing art-form and relies just as much on the audience as it does on the cast and crew. It's a team effort. The more that we all put in, the more we will get out of it.
I am beginning to waffle. It's been a long day and I am up-and-about early tomorrow ahead of blocking, teching and a dress rehearsal.
I shall let you know how it goes.
20th September 2019
Today has been a good day. We've brought the scenes together, and we started to get a real feel for the story in its entirety. The Tempest is structurally, very modular. Each group of characters appear without interacting with another group. This isolation creates a feeling that each group is wandering around the island in the same direction, missing the other groups at every turn. Eventually, all groups are brought together by the island's magic and of course, our central character. Many of the cast had not yet seen the other scenes from the play. So, to be able to pull all the threads together in the same room definitely gave us a feel for how the production will look and feel.
The cast is an incredibly strong one, and there is a lot of trust and support in the rehearsal room. This allows them to try new things, experiment with the development of character, and discuss new and different ideas about how to tell this particular story.
There have been some things that I've seen today that I've hated. All of which were my own mistakes in direction. The one thing that I think is important to understand as a director is when you are wrong. Not every decision that you make will be the right one, and it's important to recognise when something you've asked for doesn't work. Holding your hands up and saying "that was bad direction; let's change it" is always better than just ploughing through.
At the end of the day, you have to trust the team and recognise that you are only one part of it. Today I have reaped the rewards of having a fabulous team, both on and backstage. It was an excellent feeling.
Tomorrow we will be taking to the stage for more run-throughs and then a well-earned session of unwinding. See you then.
19th September 2019
For some reason, today has been a bit of an uphill struggle. Not for the show; the show is now getting to the stage where we really need to explore the space and figure out what is going to work and what isn’t. Today has been a day of tying up loose ends and making sure all of the logistics work.
To up-route an entire company and move them to a venue that has not created performances in this way before is a major operation. Does the costume department have an iron and ironing board? Where are he programmes being delivered? Do the phones need silencing in the box office? All perfectly valid questions and each department must have the answer before we get to Huntingdon Hall. But these are not things my brain has prepared for contemplation today.
Anyway...the answers have been given and we’re ready to move venues!
The rehearsals (disjointed as they might have been today) have been excellent, and the story is very much coming to life! I watched the first half in its entirety and was completely sucked in to the plot, characters and relationship. It really is the most fabulous cast.
Tomorrow, we go for our first full run-through. I shall let you know how it goes.
P.S At the end of my day I met with the fabulous Swan Youth Theatre Tutors! So many fantastic ideas! More on that later in the year.
18th September 2019
Today we’ve spent some time in Huntingdon Hall, getting to grips with the incredible space and testing out the acoustics.
The ability to be heard is obviously essential in a production like this, but it’s how the audience hear the story that is important. Often, in sight specific work, the actor will have to sacrifice character and intention for that of clarity and understand. After all, if the audience can’t hear what’s going on then there is little point in them being there. The Huntingdon Hall acoustic works in a way that means that none of the cast have to sacrifice any of their work on the characters or their relationships with each other, just to be heard. This was a massive relief! The Tempest has so many beautiful and tender moments that require a subtlety and lightness of touch; it would have been a great shame to have had to sacrifice them.
The cast have now had the ability to walk through the venue’s entrances and exits and see what it’s potential really is.
The entire team was genuinely excited by the prospect of being able to work in the newly imagined space.
It’s going to be a very special piece of theatre.
17th September 2019
Today has been exhilarating. The cast have settled into the swing of rehearsals and begun to really use the space to their advantage. Characters are starting to develop and the whole play is now finding its shape on the stage.
There are some genuinely heartbreaking moments that we’ve discovered through experimenting with the text and drawing on the actor‘s pre-production work. There is no doubt that the team is completely committed to the story.
‘Team’ is an important word and I have really begun to appreciate the team around me. Our Costume Designer, Hannah Marshall, has come up with some fabulous kit for the characters; Set and Lighting Designer, Jack Coleman, is bringing his vibrant creativity and ideas to each scene; our DSM, Milli Wilton, has taken on the challenge of organising both cast and crew with a superb air of calm and authority; and our Movement Director, Helen Leek, has crafted some superb physical attributes to the production.
It is definitely a piece of theatre that makes you glad to come to work. Long hours...stressful days...and lots of hard work. I wouldn‘t change this cast and crew for the world.
16th September 2019
My good lord...day one and I am exhausted. The rehearsal room today has been a bit of a blur. Getting used to a different space, bringing a cast together and working a little bit out of the company's comfort zone has been somewhat of a rollercoaster. But very much in a good way. We started with a meet and greet, which is becoming almost unnecessary theses days; everyone knows each other. We then went straight for the play!
Prospero never ceases to amaze me. The more I read the play, the more Prospero grates on me. I've never much liked him as a character. He is cruel, manipulative and infected with a bitterness that he never seems to purge. What made rehearsal more difficult is that the actor playing him, Jonathan Darby, is a dear friend and is so far removed from the central core of Prospero's being, that to watch him became quite uncomfortable. Jonathan is loveable, charming and the kindest soul you'll ever meet. For me, Prospero is none of these things. It makes for an interesting dynamic during rehearsals and will undoubtedly make for a fabulous 'watch' from the audience point of view.
Tomorrow we're exploring some of the physical aspects of Ariel and Caliban with our Movement Director, Helen Leek and blocking the rest of the play.
It has been a very exciting day and I've got such a rush out of being back with the company.
See you tomorrow.