First day nerves kick in on my way to the Exchange, which is slightly odd because I've had a lot of first days and with this one there's literally no pressure to have done or to do anything. I do as one would expect for an Observer Monday's placement- I sit there, on a Monday, and observe. Except it's not just that. My first day feels involved, and exciting. The room is welcoming and there is a bubbling sense that something really special is about to be created.
The initial meet and greet is, as with most meet and greets, erratic and noisy, and then orderly and with purpose. The creatives are charming, the staff are friendly, and there's a real sense of excitement from everyone in the room.
James Fritz' play is being produced as a coproduction with the Royal Exchange and the Bush theatre after winning one of the judges prizes as part of the Bruntwood Playwriting competition, and there is a noticeable buzz from every person I make contact with at the meet and greet. This is concluded by dramaturg Suzanne Bell who interjects with an excitable acknowledgement that she had been reading this at 4:20am, before knowing it was James who had written it, thinking 'if this doesn't get picked, I will kill everyone'. Everyone laughs. Everyone agrees. It's an exceptional play and everyone is very clearly excited about it.
First up is a table read. In the discussion afterwards, James considers each point with as much enthusiasm and curiosity as the rest of the team. The questions that emerge are as much for James as they are for Jude, they seem to work together on the detail and are open to input from everyone. There seems to be no precious hold over what may or may not change and I'm interested to see what's added or realised or in fact, gone completely when I return next week.
As the designer, Fly Davies, isn't present today Jude takes to describing the model box and important elements of the design. It's split into 3 clear settings within the 3 separate acts and it weaves, like the play, between naturalistic and abstract. One thing I notice about the way Jude explains the set and in general about the play is that a lot of sentences end with 'and it might do this' or 'we might feel that'. There is a lot of 'might', a lot of 'maybe' and 'could be'. There are possibilities and opportunities for the play to go in various ways and Jude is open to finding this in rehearsals, nothing is definite but the ideas thrown about are detailed and specific yet interchangeable.
Next is chunking the text off into more manageable rehearsal sections. Not dissimilar to uniting, but the sections are much larger and more like scenes which is useful as the play is currently split simply into 3 acts. Jude has already decided on (some hilarious) titles and where each section begins/ends. We are then onto timeline, ironing out the key dates and events. As assistant director Amy places up a timeline of years and the cast place key events up, James and Jude take a little time to discuss thoughts, changes and cuts after the initial read this afternoon.
The first day of rehearsals with new writing is very different to working on classics, especially as having the writer in the room allows for questions you would otherwise spend a lot of time and energy on finding answers to, to be answered quickly. James is the real life Google or the hours of reading, he can answer the question straight away or often answers that he doesn't know, but 'what do you think?'. The play is set now and in the near future, the actors know this time because they currently live it. I assume the research to be done will be based more around socio-political elements rather than specific play-text based research- I wonder where, in a weeks time, the room will be at in terms of outside research.
It's only a 3 week rehearsal period which seems like no time at all, but it's been an intense afternoon and for now we venture upstairs to have a welcome drink and get to know the company a little better.
Parliament Square runs 18 - 28 October 2017, Theatre