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 fourth blog from the Little Shop of Horrors observing director Joshua Val Martin

It’s the week before tech rehearsals begin, and so I think this is a good opportunity to mention someone paramount to this observing experience, and yet I’ve noted very little about; Charlotte Lewis is the Assistant Director for this production.

The next natural step for me as an aspiring director would be to assist, and so in many ways throughout this process I’ve been absorbing the work of Charlotte as much as that of Derek.

There’s a common misconception that Assistant Directors are professional tea makers. This is probably because much of their hard work, when done well, is very subtle. Whilst I’ve no doubt Charlotte has spent her fair share of time familiarising herself with the building’s kettles, she has been responsible for a lot of nuanced work that has been fascinating to observe.

Each morning upon arriving, without exception she takes a moment to speak and smile to each and every person in the room, which immediately establishes herself as an approachable and caring presence. I suspect this is important, as it allows the performers to have discussions with Charlotte and ask questions they feel are not critical or immediate enough to approach Derek with, but would like to happen nonetheless.

As the leading creative forces work making the production, Charlotte can be found quietly noting every exit and entrance, cut and addition, she maps movement and summarises discussions. I’ve no doubt that her script has found biblical status at the production meetings each Wednesday.

She ensures she’s physically and emotionally available at all times in the rehearsal room. Each time an actor looks over to her, maybe fishing for a little reassurance, she’s there to offer a smile and a wink.

Actually, I’ve never seen her wink. And then, each day I’ve been in to observe, Charlotte’s made sure I’m fully up to date with the intermittent happenings, and she always ends the discussion with: ‘if you ever have any questions, just write them down and we’ll go through them.’ I’m just the bloke watching from the shadows, and Charlotte particularly has brought me into the light and made me feel truly a part of the rehearsal experience, for which I’m very grateful.

I’m sure these rehearsal notes I’ve been making each week would be much more interesting should I be able to offer an Apprentice-style account of a tense, nervous room falling apart the week before tech. The truth of the matter is, on Thursday lunch, two of the performers were quite literally on the green room floor uncontrollably laughing together. Ultimately, laughter has been Derek’s rehearsal glue that I’ve no doubt will translate onto stage and find itself into each and every audience members heart and mind.