Week 6 is the tech week and the whole company are called for long days and well into the evening. There is so much activity in the Module and an excitement in the air. A massive tree is hanging from the top of the Modul, but the stage is plain with minimum props. When I ask about the old fridge that used to be there, I am told that they have decided not to use it. [editor’s note: for artistic reasons and in consideration of sightlines, the fridge was removed]
The actors look a bit different in their old fashioned, costume and make up. Technicians are working on light and sound and sometimes a scene would be repeated a few times before a final decision is made about the arrangement of movements and where the actors should stand/exit. Light technicians climb up the ladders to adjust the lanterns. I can’t count the lanterns as there are too many of them in different sizes attached to the bars above and all around the stage.
Experimentation is still part of the process and Sarah is the one who moves more than anyone else to see a scene from different places. She keeps calm even in these final minutes when lines slip out of one’s mind or cues get mixed up – having the right mix of being both caring yet focused and strong. It makes me think of the situation of women in many places in the world, where they are seen as the second sex and are not allowed to have opinions never mind directing a show.
The cast has come a long way since day one when they sat at the table and talked about the play. That process has impacted the way they speak and perform. They are utterly believable, and I can tell they will engage the audience.
Lighting and Sound play a major role constructing the past and particularly in transitions between reality and the flashbacks to Willy's memory. I learn new vocabulary as I listen to the stage manager who is trying to establish the cues. For example, ‘thank you’ is a cue for the actors to start an action/dialogue. (I once worked with a director who used to shout: GO)
I am in admiration of each person’s craftsmanship and skills. I have witnessed a team work at its highest quality, with synced energies and harmony and caring attitude towards one another. Every week, as the play developed, I meet new people and learned new skills, but the most valuable thing I have learned is the value of teamwork. Every scene has been rehearsed numerous times and every expert brought a different knowledge and expertise to the play. They worked hard together and for some, longer hours if it was needed.
I am going to see the preview tomorrow and I am excited about it. To watch the formation of this play from when it was on paper to the staging of a poignant show has been a great opportunity for me. I have taken away many things with me from this residency, at the top of them professionalism and team work. And I hope I come back to Royal Exchange Theatre at some point to put my learning into practice.
Death of a Salesman runs 11 October - 17 November 2018, Theatre