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 third blog from the Little Shop of Horrors observing director Joshua Val Martin
It's now over halfway through the rehearsal time (excluding technical rehearsals and previews) and there seems to be an unspoken acknowledgment of this fact; whilst a sense of play and experiment is never too far away, there's a renewed impression of shared focus.
Rehearsals begin with a rigorous vocal and physical warm-up, critical for a piece such as Little Shop of Horrors. Following this, it's straight to work. Derek usually allows the scene to run without too much talk, allowing the actors to organically find themselves in the space and words.
Performers never cease to amaze me; not just their confidence to stand on a stage in front of over seven hundred, but also how they find detailed nuances and ideas in text and take me to a completely different, exciting place. Derek told me in one of our initial conversation that he liked to cast performers who were eager to bring ideas to the table. Furthermore, it becomes a very collaborative exercise.
After this initial 'play-through', Derek will take a moment to speak quietly to a performer or two. It's always a conversation; how I wish there was a sonic equivalent of binoculars! It's back to work and following on, the scene has suddenly found a new clarity or drive. I say back to work because what I love about this rehearsal room is that the focus is always on the performers, performing.
Having said that, there are questions and as a result discussion, and many of them. Sometimes they are practical. Working in the round, particularly with a rather large moving plant, the logistics of how to get things and people on and off and around just simply need to be sorted out. Sometimes it's questioning why a character does a certain action, or says a certain word. The answers sometimes come quickly, sometimes half an hour. Either way, there's always a lot of laughter; this is probably important in any rehearsal room, though I'd think more so for a Christmas production! I suppose it's simultaneously frustrating and amusing to think the audience will be none-the-wiser to the vast amount of thought that went into, for example, how CJ will throw a bag across the stage; it's an essential moment in the play, and yet in all probability, the audience will think nothing of it!
It's been another inspiring, stimulating, rousing week observing at the Royal Exchange Theatre; I feel pretty chuffing privileged!