As part of our ongoing commitment to nurture, support and inspire local theatre-makers, the Royal Exchange Theatre are able to offer directors based in Greater Manchester the opportunity to observe the journey of a production through rehearsals with our Observer Mondays Scheme.

Here is the second blog from the Little Shop of Horrors observing director Joshua Val Martin

I suppose one of the ‘challenges’ of making a piece of theatre that contains vast amounts of music and movement is that there’s no getting around the need to sit down and learn/teach it.

There was a musicality to the rehearsal room as simultaneously some sat with the Musical Director and went through the dots, Derek took a couple of performers aside and offered quiet notes, the plant was choreographed for the scene in hand, and other actors practised what they could, where they could. Typing this now, it reads as chaos, but in reality, these conversations organically and simultaneously took place and together drew to a close. Without Derek having to say anything, the scene in hand was played out. I wonder now whether that is to do with the training and experience of each individual, or if it was a convention established early on.

As an observer it’s sometimes difficult to know what has been devised in the room and what was formulated in the hours of thought and preparation made by the creative team. This is because there’s an ever-present feeling of joviality, through which the performers feel free to experiment and make mistakes. Tangents become a big part of consolidating textual context and a sense of community as discussions are opened up about the length of a Diana Ross song or about the questionable quality of a cult film I’ve never heard of. It’s clear everyone is having a lot of fun. Some of these conversations led to inspired theatrical ideas (but I shan’t tell you what they are until you’ve seen it). In this way, to the observers’ eye, Derek becomes a curator as well as a director.

Derek talked me through the model box in the tea break, and explained by the end of the week, he hoped to have a sketch of Act 1, which he’d later refine.