Nicole Morris - Observer Mondays Director - gives us an insight into the second week of rehearsals for How My Light Is Spent, Directed by Liz Stevenson

I arrive at the studios a little early and chat to Liz the director about progress last week. It's clear from the off that the process has moved on quickly and I'm really keen to catch up. The writer Alan has now left rehearsals after a week with the company, they are now working with a new draft of the script, he's incorporated changes that were made in the room the week before and it's clear that this is already feeling like a collaborative process. 

The day begins with the cast reading through the first 2 sections of the play and then beginning a physical warm up, which we're all involved in.

The director has a playlist of tracks from the actors, these are made up of the songs their characters would listen to. Rhodri who plays Jimmy, has opted for a selection of 90's dance and Nirvana, Alex who plays Kitty has selected a mix of Ed Sheeran and current charts. Everyone is invited to dance in the space, at first in our own space and later exploring the room. This is followed by some physical breathing exercises in pairs. These exercises bring concentration, and allow us to see how each character moves physically. Although everyone had a clear role to play, it's clear that the director feels it is important that everyone should be present in the room and part of the action.

The Director then leads a discussion about the text- this morning they are studying the phone calls Jimmy makes to Kitty. Of which there are 32 during their relationship before they meet face to face.

HMLIS RehearsalPhotos 7

Doing this allows them to uncover what the characters know about each other and how their relationship developed. The actors can then start to explore the difference between their roles of narrators and characters. 

There is lots of work around the role of the storyteller in this first section as the director asks the actors to replay this several times with different points of concentration, they are then able to pinpoint why the characters are telling their story. 

After lunch the Director moves on to section 3&4 and introduces this with more physical exercises using the characters music playlists, this time on their own. They play follow the leader, leading the dance and movement during their own tracks and mirroring the others' movement on theirs. 

Liz introduces me to her thoughts on how lighting will be used to help with defining each setting in the play, the designer is also present during the afternoon and they replay the sections several times with different blocking to decide which if more effective.

During the afternoon, Liz tasks the cast with some improvisations, they set up a cafe scene and the actors play out the full conversations their character have, (that are not seen in the text) as they believe they would of happened. They are able to use the text for any facts to build this world, even small details make a difference; they did not talk for 43seconds, Kitty was eating a cake etc. After each improvisation there is a discussion to relay their findings and any action that did not feel true.  

For the final part of the day, each actor visits wardrobe for fittings with the designer, whilst the other works one to one with the director to continue this character work.

The cast have been tasked to record all the concrete facts about their characters written in the text. Along with any questions they have about them.

Rhodri is first and talks about his characters Jimmy and Stevo, together they work through each of his points for each of his characters. In order to play these roles effectively, the actors and Director work together in order to add depth, a backstory and give their characters opinions. From observing these exercises today, it's apparent that whenever they complete these exercises; physical, improvisation, fact checking, there is a conscious input of their discoveries the next time a scene is played. 

After another week of this process, I'm sure it will of jumped forward and progressed so much again. I'm keen to see how the conversations about design and lighting will affect the later rehearsals and to see the later stages of the text in rehearsals.

How My Light Is Spent runs 24 April - 13 May

How My Light Is Spent runs at The Sherman Theatre 16 - 27 May and The Theatre By The Lake 31 May - 24 June.

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