Observer Monday Director for A TASTE OF HONEY gives us an insight into rehearsals

As the Observer Mondays Director on A Taste of Honey, I had the opportunity to spend a day a week inside the rehearsal room, from the first day of rehearsals through to tech week and the start of the run. I loved meeting and learning from all of the people involved in the production, gaining insight into what it is like inside a professional producing theatre.

  • L-R -Andrew Sheridan, David Moorst, Rowan Robinson, Jill Halfpenny, Obadiah- A Taste of Honey - DIrected by Emma Baggott - Image by Joel FIldes

I’ve been inspired by many of the productions I’ve seen at the Royal Exchange. As there are few producing theatres of its size in the north, coming to see unique and diverse shows at the Theatre has been a big influence for me wanting to pursue a career as a director and writer. I was therefore super excited to have the opportunity to gain such a deep insight into the processes of directing a production at the Theatre. I haven’t really had any formal theatre-related training so I found it really helped me to better understand the role of a director and their intentions. As well I often feel like I don’t have a clue where to start trying to transition from student and fringe theatre to professional theatre but Sam, the assistant director, was super helpful being on hand to talk me through rehearsals, answer my questions, and offer plenty of advice.

  • L-R -Jill Halfpenny, Obadiah, Andrew Sheridan-A Taste of Honey - Directed by Emma Baggott - Image by Joel FIldes

I loved learning how Emma, with the rest of the creative team, brought her vision of the world of 1950s working-class Salford to life. On the first day of rehearsals, the walls of the rehearsal room were plastered in photos and vision boards. Around the room there were sketches of costume ideas for each character, vision boards for the set as well as a scale model of the Module. My favourite part was the wall covered in black and white photos taken by the photographer Shirley Baker, revealing intimate and ordinary moments of the life and people of 1950s Salford. In the centre of the room, the floor was taped up with circles representing the stage. As an audience member watching the final play, it’s hard to imagine that the rounded world you see on stage started here so I thought it was really cool to see how these initial threads would be nurtured and woven into the tapestry of the final play.

  • Emma Baggott - A Taste of Honey - Directed by Emma Baggott - Image by Joel FIldes

I also enjoyed how different the rehearsals were each week as the focus changed from character to movement to staging. There was always such a mix of things going on each rehearsal from exploring the characters and staging the scenes,  watching a documentary about life in Salford from the 1950s, to listening to the music that would be used in the play for the first time. The days when Sarita, the movement director came in were really cool. I don’t have any experience of movement direction and it was fascinating to see how she worked with the actors to explore the characters. It involved a lot of dancing on and off the stage with suitcases and mops!

  • Jill Halfpenny - A Taste of Honey - Directed by Emma Baggott - Image by Joel FIldes

I looked forward to seeing how the production had developed week to week as so much would have changed since the last time I was in. It was really interesting to see all of the different methods that were used to explore A Taste of Honey and its characters. When directing student and fringe theatre, there is much less rehearsal time and it sounds silly but I was surprised by how much extra work you can get done when you can do it full time!

  • David Moorst- A Taste of Honey - Directed by Emma Baggott - Image by Joel FIldes

I actually think one of the most useful parts of the process was learning that I deserved to be there. This was the first time I had been in a professional rehearsal room which I found really daunting at first. Before going in, the room and what went on inside had felt completely elusive. Meeting what felt like the entire staff at the Theatre on the first day, I had no idea how many people it took to produce a production at the Royal Exchange – getting to grips with who everyone was and what they did was a feat in itself! Being surrounded by a group of people with such diverse knowledge and experience was intimidating at first, but watching everyone at work was exciting and I was constantly learning.

  • L-R -David Moorst, Obadiah, Rowan Robinson - A Taste of Honey - Directed by Emma Baggott - Image by Joel FIldes

As well as picking up loads of tools to try out in my own work, being immersed in the creative environment has made me excited and more confident about my own ideas – now I really just want to crack on with directing my own projects!