Thursday, 25 June 2015

The show must go on!

Well, it all happened yesterday!

We were invited by St Albans High School for Girls to run The Boy Preference in the new Jubilee Hall. We readily greed as it's a much bigger space than we've been used to and it was nice to take the show to a school where a number of the cast attend.

It's a lovely space but has its drawbacks - particularly as it looks as if the final spec was not done by a theatre person (e.g. no ground level DMX/TSR points). But the get-in went fine, the rig was easy and Rachael the theatre manager even managed to restore two of the stage lighting bars which decided to become unresponsive during the afternoon. So all was well.

We started the show at 7.30pm and about two cues in it was apparent that the lighting desk had become possessed by a demon. Rather than moving cue to cue it moved to the next while keeping the previous one going! So we were ending up with a string of cues all merged together. Jack in the lighting box worked some wonders to keep the thing going and the cast coped with some weird effects increasingly well.

In fact all was going fine until 2 minutes before the end, just as the climatic bulldozer scene was finishing, when suddenly the fire alarm went off. At first I thought Alex had done something (actually pretty cool) to the soundtrack (and something we will now try and recreate) ... but no!

So we have to call a halt and evacuate across the road to the tennis courts to see if order could be restored. After a few minutes it was apparent that there was a real issue with the system and that carrying on inside was not going to be an option.

And then the fire fighters arrived.

So in the true spirit of theatre we decided to rerun the last two scenes on the tennis courts with the audience sitting on the ground.

Of course we didn't have the bulldozer with all its noise and lights and smoke, nor did we have the joyous cacophony of the fireworks (although we tried our best vocally). But the cast were fantastic and the applause was thoroughly deserved.

These are the memories that will stick with the cast forever. This is what theatre is all about.

Bring on the Dorfman!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Little gems

So our formal rehearsal process for The Boy Preference is now over. It has been fantastic to have the time to properly rehearse key elements of the show - analysing and testing all the decisions we've made and, in a number of cases, making new decisions. The show is different in many respects (and much better) now than the show we put on in Monday. We've found all manner of little gems!

Our new set design from the NT
How is this achieved I hear you cry? How can you change something that has been so firmly set and something that (let's face it) was extremely successful? And why would you want to?

I suppose the 'right' answer is that you always look to play the truth of the situation, so if you change assumptions and decisions made in the construction of your character and plot 'back story', this will inevitably change what appears on stage. We've looked at how we arrived at some of our character decisions and, with the benefit of hindsight and a good deal of thought (given the luxury of time), have changed our minds. And once you change one aspect of a character, then all the other characters reactions to that character change to and you are back into a dynamic and 'edgy' situation which gives the piece its fizz.

We've also gone for even more precision in the chorus work and I think they are much more scary than they were originally. We've done this by taking a step by step (literally) approach to each of their scenes and with input from all of them, it's taken new forms.

As to why we'd want to make these changes - well, it needs to be fresh for the National Theatre and, indeed, for our cast. It cannot simply be repetition, it must be as if we're doing this for the first time. And we have some really fantastic opportunities - on Wednesday we move to a much bigger hall at the High School to run the show. Then we are back to The Maltings, but with a different set configuration, and then to the Dorfman. - so all new experiences which will give the cast some great challenges.

And the final reason as to 'why change?' - it had to! It was directed for a small, intimate space with a tight set and its moving to a much larger auditorium with a high ceiling and all kinds of different aspects. the show had to 'grow' and it has.

Finally, a word about our NT Associate Director, Dan Bird. His input has been immense - without ever treading on my team's toes. He's delivered some very telling messages, all of which have supported our work. His eye for detail has also been invaluable and some of his ideas for new bits of business or staging have been inspired. It's been a privilege to have him with us and I only hope he's enjoyed his time - and that we make him proud next week! I'm sure we will.

(Next week!!!!)

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

So near...

As I write there is only 1 seat left for our show at the National Theatre. I never thought I'd be in a position to say a show we've put on has sold out the National Theatre. Good grief!

Our NT Associate Director Dan came up to share Sunday with us - a full days rehearsal. It was a fantastic day. It was so refreshing to have a new eye on everything and I was thrilled to see new threads emerging and really significant steps forward being taken by our cast.

Here he is forcing our cast to beg on their knees for pearls of wisdom!

He's with us again next Sunday and it's so exciting to think where this play could get to by the time it reaches the Dorfman. Elinor Cook, the play's author, may also be coming. Not sure she'll approve of the sudden switch to Cumbrian dialect in scene 5. But I think it adds something...

Ouistajurnmarra! - that's "How are you, mate?" in Cumbrian, of course.

Further to my previous blog, I outlined my concerns about the set to Dan who has already relayed this to the Nash so I'm hopeful that this week will give me more cause for confidence. I'm sure what they produce will be spectacular but I do want to preserve that eerie, odd, grunginess and tactile decay that made our shows here so special. Funny that they can't do low fog due to the aircon, though! Guess they could switch it off and that would help us re-establish the 'heat' thing.

Have worked out a mad schedule to move cossies and props from here to the NT, back here, back to the NT and then back here again. What could possibly go wrong?

It's getting closer folks - 2nd July is but two short weeks away. And I still can't actually believe it's going to happen.

Oh, and our hoodies arrived today and I've cocked up the sizes. What an idiot! Luckily the right ones will be here in time. Thanks Hoodyworld!

Friday, 12 June 2015


So plans progress towards the Nash (yes it's the Nash now to us insiders) but things feel a bit weird. The Nash is rebuilding our set which in effect means redesigning from top to bottom. There is no doubt our little flats need upscaling but I don't want to lose the odd qualities that my terrible attempts and painting delivered - especially the strangeness and depth we got from the real sunflowers.  With time and budget against us they are looking for an image to print rather than paint and I'm not sure exactly how that's going to work.  Having been so close to the whole project it's hard to adjust to having some decisions taken out of my hands. But they clearly know what they are doing so I just need to put my control freakery to one side.

Our NT associate director Dan is joining us this weekend for our first 'let's make it bigger' rehearsal and it will be interesting to see how his experience of the space translates to changes we need to make.

Did a very rigorous interview with the St Albans Review today - some very intelligent questions and a reporter who clearly knows what she's doing!

More news next week.