Grace Cordell - Observer Mondays Director - gives us an insight into the second week of rehearsals for Parliament Square, directed by Jude Christian

OBSERVATION ON THE WEEK OF 2ND OCT 2017

At the end of my last blog, I wrote that I wondered where the room would be when I returned a week later. Well James Fritz, the Writer, has gone, nowhere to be seen. One of the actors is today, gone, nowhere to be seen. And I still have first day nerves, so. Yes.

Yet again I feel wholly welcomed into this group of people who have spent the last week bonding and chatting, detailing character relationships and forming real friendships. It certainly helps that a few seconds after Assistant Director Amy Hailwood, expresses her desire to join in the group warm up, Jude invites us both and stage management to join. Thankfully Amy knows exactly when to join in and when to leave the actors to it, so I follow suit. The Movement Director, Jennifer Jackson, beautifully balances the importance of getting limber and the relevance of it within the play. From a Director’s point of view, these two days have given me solid confirmation of just how important a good Movement Director is to the creation of a piece.

Parliament Square Rehearsals Image, Royal Exchange Theatre

A LOT HAS CHANGED

James isn't in today but script wise, things have changed quite a lot since I was last in. I am filled in on what has happened during the past week - lines have been cut, added, shifted around a bit and mostly, act three has changed quite significantly. I don't get to see this in practice right away because after a rigorous warm up led by Jennifer, we are straight into act one, scene one, line one. Go.

One thing I'm struck by is how prop heavy the room has become. There are A LOT. Thankfully, stage management make the room transform from plain floor space to this colourful, incomplete, homely space that feels under construction in all the right ways. They remind me of the swarm of ticket inspectors getting on the tram ready to f**k sh*t up. The props aren't always literal in act one and make up the actual set so, along with the lyrical language of this complex play, the work to be done is daunting. These challenges inform the detail in Jude and Jennifer's work which is intricate and necessary, but exhausting and I am in awe of the actors' patience and the creatives' integrity. This is not lost on Jude and she manages to keep everyone focused, and in tune with one another. And so, "once more from the immortal line '15 seconds'" Jude says.

Parliament Square from Royal Exchange Theatre on Vimeo.

Jude and Jennifer work well together, I'm not sure of the relationship between them but I wouldn't be surprised if they'd spent years working together. They seamlessly trade leadership in the room and, like the first two characters of the play, they finish each other's sentences with the others thought. The room feels well balanced. Whilst Jennifer addresses the ensemble, Jude takes this time to guide a pair of actors toward a shift in the scene they're playing.

THE ENSEMBLE

The ensemble is such an important entity in this first act, it works in harmony with the scene that is being played out alongside. Ultimately, I think this is why the work done is so specific and detailed. This is confirmed just before we break for lunch when Jude says 'it's soul crushingly technical', which it is. She compares is to 'wading through blood' (which it is) but none of the actors seem frustrated. Sure there are moments of lost focus and uncertainly, but this is expected and importantly, questions and discussion are weaved into the rehearsal. There is reason for every movement, not just a journey as I've noticed with more naturalistic work but also a specific thought or feeling shared which I think is important so as not to lose the ensemble entity.

My Observer Mondays is split over two days this week and on the second, we are in the Module. Jennifer focuses a lot of the warm up on getting to know how our bodies work differently in this space. Some of the actors haven't worked in such a large 'in the round' space before and it is technically demanding. There is focus on spiral, on freedom and on the challenges that come with being in this space. It's decided that the company should spend as many mornings as they can in the Module and be really familiar with the text, even the bits they don't say. This is so that the ensemble moments in act one can really be precise and mean exactly what they're meant to in this beautiful and demanding script. From reading the script a few weeks ago, to seeing week two of rehearsals, I have learnt just how important it is to pay attention to the musicality of the language, the pace, the words. It feels composed.

WELL DONE JAMES.

THINGS I'VE LEARNT

  • How important the Movement Director is.

  • How much a 750 seat 'in the round' theatre, changes things.

  • First day nerves stop on Day 3.


Parliament Square runs 18 - 28 October 2017, Theatre

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