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


This week I was in Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Maybe we should change the name of this scheme - I suggest Observer Day Days. And nights.

As this coming week is technical rehearsal week so no doubt I'll be present well into the evening. The most prominent detail of this week has been the importance of good actors. I've noticed this before in a room with an unhelpful, vague, and guarded director, luckily the production was fairly successful due to its good actors.


I use the word good a few times in this blog and it is by no means used as simplistically as it may seem, when I refer to good actors what I mean specifically is that they are intelligent, instinctive and emotionally connected. Even with a skilled director there is often so much going on that the director doesn't have time to think of every specific detail and so it's important to have actors in the room that will, to a certain extent, do this themselves. Something that is difficult when you have very good actors, is knowing when to stop and when to keep going. I saw work this week that I was sure was perfect for the scene, it felt complete and whole but Jude often finds something more within the performances that allows the bigger, whole play to make sense. I often get lost in the detail of a scene that makes little difference to the overall piece, and I'm not sure how Jude knows what to work on to make the whole page, unit, scene make more sense than it did before.

Image of Parliament Square, Royal Exchange Theatre

There is the constant thought of what everything means. I'm learning a lot about what I don't know as a director, and I think I’ll leave this placement wondering how/what my next step is to achieve that. Perhaps it comes from experience within the industry, which I feel like I have a slight hold on, or perhaps it comes from schemes or courses, which I have no idea about.

I've not worked on much (if any) abstract theatre before and I don't have a grasp on how to deal with that. I think that it's useful to see difficult points in the text as where devices/ideas go, where you can challenge yourself and the actors to achieve something really unique that you can't always get in naturalistic pieces. There is a particular device used in act three that comes from one idea and entirely transforms the space and the feel of the scene and in turn, the play. It feels important to establish rules for abstract sections so that they all link somehow.

Image of Parliament Square, Royal Exchange Theatre


One thing that strikes me as essential, is how well the director is expected to know the characters. This is obvious of course, but I didn't realise the extent of detail that goes into the smaller roles. Never mind the actors understanding of their characters but when multi-rolling, Jude seems to know the smaller characters' journeys in finite detail. I think that if you are educated in every decision you make, then you can be as bold as you like.

If something isn't working and you don't know why, think intelligently about why/what's in the text, what's coming next etc and then you can work out an alternate and keep trying until something works. Jude said from the beginning that the process was going to be experimental and to go with it, this allowed all of the actors to be onboard with how the process was going to be. You have the freedom to get it wrong and try again.


Get good actors.

Contrary to popular belief (me in last weeks blog), Jude and Jenni haven't worked together before they're just incredibly in tune with one another.

Get everyone on the same page from the start, allow yourself time to make mistakes.  

Parliament Square runs 18 - 28 October 2017, Theatre

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