Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rehearsing "Great Expectations"

I started to write: 

“I was at the GREAT EXPECTATIONS readthrough today...”

.. but then realised “readthrough” was absolutely not an adequate word.

Readthroughs, in my experience, happen the first day of rehearsal. They’re generally a kind of necessary evil everyone puts up with.

Given the habitual mad and destructive instability of our theatre structures, often not everyone knows each other. And everyone is nervous. Some people try hard; others don’t. As if they have an uneasy feeling they shouldn’t really try too hard, not in the chronic insecurity of the moment. Unwilling to risk too much or give too much away.

I’m as shy and uncertain and nervous as the rest of them; desperate to hear how the text will work out but often too defensive and self-conscious myself to perceive it.

But today is not the first day of rehearsals. The cast have been working hard together for a week, and have had time to bond and to trust each other. Which means they are not plunging blindly and uncertainly into the text for the first time but sharing the collective understandings they’ve gained after a week of committed labour. 

Which makes it wonderful to listen to.

Meanwhile I’m still buzzing from the fact I happened to sit next to someone who turns out to be Marcello Magni, co-founder of Complicite, (www.complicite.org/) a legendary figure, and I suddenly understand that it is he who is leading the company through the mysterious “physical work”   I keep reading about in the Rehearsal Notes.

Which means the Company are spending about as much time exploring the physicality of their characters as they are spending exploring their words. Which is wonderful.

And then I discover that the very beautiful and elegant young man in the rehearsal is Giovanni Bedin, the creative director of the House Of Worth (www.worthparis.com) who is creating haute couture for Estella and Miss Havisham.

And then we see the set model. Robin Peoples has re-created his stunning vision of Miss Havisham’s decayed and mysterious house with its secret entrances, its old fashioned footlights and its trap doors (http://www.GreatExpectationsThePlay.com/background.php.)

I fell in love with the house, and then with Simon Slater’s music (http://www.slatermusic.com/); I wander into Annie Gosney’s costume room which is inhabited by a rather wonderful colony of hats.

And then there are the masks. Gavin Glover (http://www.potatoroom.co.uk/) has brought them over from Brussels to transform the actors when the moment comes: transform them into frightening, mysterious and beautiful shapes.

And then its time for sandwiches. Time to catch my train; only I realise I absolutely do not want to leave. The whole process fascinates and inspires and draws me in: I want to stay with it.

Friends in Brighton tell me the posters are going up already; as they undoubtedly are in Richmond, and Southampton, and Woking, and Darlington, and Malvern and Birmingham and Aylesbury and Aberdeen (http://www.GreatExpectationsThePlay.com/tour.php )

And Iunderstand I have the strongest sense that all these places will have the chance to see a truly remarkable show. I want to urge them to buy their tickets as soon as they possibly can.

I’m amazed to find myself writing this. In fact I’m generally so uncertain about my work I don’t think I have ever written so confident a sentence before.

And never, but never, after a readthrough.

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