Tag Archive | "rehearsal"

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RSC Diaries: Rosie talks us through tech week

Posted on 15 March 2013 by Rosie Hilal

RSC Diaries 2

In the second of our new blog series following two young actors performing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s summer season, AYT’s Becky Brewis asks Rosie Hilal, currently in production week for Hamlet, what she’s most excited about…

Being in a theatre with 1,500 people or whatever it is. I think that’s pretty exciting. On the first day of rehearsals I was so nervous I couldn’t eat, which for me means a lot. I was hyper for two days, I couldn’t believe where I was.

Quite a lot of people knew each other from before but they are all really nice and it feels very inclusive. How many times they’ve been the RSC and how much acting they’ve done makes a difference, but everyone here is more experienced than me so to me they all seem like old hands. They are used to knowing that everything can be sorted out, so if there’s a problem or something is dangerous, or a bit of costume doesn’t work they just ask to have it changed and it is. That’s how it’s supposed to be in an ideal world but of course most plays I’ve been in haven’t had that luxury and I’m used to just making do.

I have small parts in each play – which are obviously important – but then I also have two big understudies: Rosalind in As you Like It and Helena in All’s Well that Ends Well. I haven’t started Helena yet, but Rosalind I’ve got to know by the preview which is 12 April. I know sort of two thirds of it. I think I’ll be fine but it’s quite scary because you don’t get a lot of understudy rehearsal until the show is up and running, so if you do have to go on in previews, you’ve only had, say, a week’s rehearsal in total, and all spread out. But being able to watch the actors in rehearsals means you do pick up stuff, and it gets less scary. You feel like you know the show. At the beginning it was terrifying because I thought, I’m not going to get any rehearsal, I’m not going to know what to do. But you pick it up. You just have to know the lines and then, if you have to go on, just act your heart out!

We went into tech on Monday. Everyone is working together, and sound and lighting are coming together. There are loads of people helping on costume, it’s amazing. I still haven’t  completely understood who does what – it’s like a huge machine. It’s such a privilege to be here. Four of us share a dressing room and it’s got a little balcony and you can see the river and everyone is always asking if you’ve got everything.

Wardrobe mistresses and stuff – because they hear all that – say it gets claustrophobic and in six months time you’ll want to get out, so just make sure you go on day trips and stuff like that. But being just out of drama school, it’s been really hectic, so at the moment it’s lovely to be out of London, even if the next few months are going to be manic.

The RSC runs a £5 ticket scheme for 16 – 25 year olds. Find out more here.

Image: Keith Pattison

Rosie Hilal

Rosie Hilal

In her RSC debut season, Rosie Hilal plays Audrey in As You Like It, Mariana in All's Well that Ends Well and second Gravedigger/ Player/Gentlewoman in Hamlet. Rosie graduated from RADA in 2012 and other theatre includes Carmen (Moving Theatre Co.); Occupied (Theatre503); L’Ecume Des Jours (Maison Francais, Oxford) and Salome (Canal Cafe). Image: Rosie in rehearsals for As You Like It (credit: Keith Pattison)

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Trojan Women take the Gate by storm

Posted on 27 November 2012 by Eleanor Turney

Poet Caroline Bird has had an illustrious career to date, winning the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award twice and twice being shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. She won an Eric Gregory Award in 2002, and was a winner of the Poetry London Competition in 2007, and the Peterloo Poetry Competition in 2004, 2003 and 2002. Not content with taking the poetry world by storm, Bird is also a playwright. Her new version of Euripides’s Trojan Women is currently on at The Gate, where it has earned her rave reviews.

I ask if it was daunting, being asked to adapt a classic Greek tragedy. “Definitely,” Bird says, “but in the best possible way. It’s strangely liberating to be given a project that you can’t possibly do justice to – it’s such an audacious idea. Knowing that I couldn’t do justice to it in a way that would make everyone happy kind of set me free to do my own personal response.” And what about the practicalities of writing it – how does one begin to tackle such a task? “I’m a classics enthusiast but not a scholar – I read every translation I could get my hands on, went back and read the Greek myths. Then I put that aside and started writing – I wanted to absorb ideas to start working from. It was similar to creating a new play, except I stuck to the rough structure of the Euripides version. I wanted it to feel as organic as possible, but to be true to the original story.”

As a poet, Bird regularly performs her work. I ask how it felt to not only have other people saying her words, but also to hand over control to the actors and director. She describes the process as “amazing… if I was to think about an audience while I was writing [poetry] I think it would change how I wrote, not necessarily for the better – I need to write the truth not what I think people want to hear. Writing a scene, I’m imagining the charcaters living, not actors on a stage. But then in rehearsal, when you hear the lines out loud, there are lines that work on paper that don’t work in the air.”

Trojan Women went through about eight drafts, and “the process is a lot about listening and constantly revising… you can’t get too precious about any particular line. In rehearsals, in some run-throughs a line will sound terrible and then the actor will find new thoughts and it’ll sound great – and sometimes the other way round – and that’s exciting. That’s the wonderful thing – a writer can write a really dull line and actor can find something wonderful in it that I didn’t put in!”

Bird is enthusiastic about seeing something she “wrote alone in my bedroom” come to life on stage, and more than once, she refers to her script as a “recipe”, a starting point from which something emerges which is greater than the sum of its parts: “a play is constantly in flux, it’s collaborative, a recipe, a set of instructions. It’s not finished without the actors, director, designer, lighting, costumes, set, sound etc to bring it to life. It’s lovely to share with so many people – it makes it bigger than it was in my head.”  She draws parallels with poetry, though: “a good poem does that, too: my favourite poems give me something new every time I read them. A good poem does feel alive – depending on what day it is, what mood you’re in, you’ll see something different. They don’t spell themselves out. They always contain mysteries.”

The script is a jumping-off point for cast and director rather than something sacrosanct, and Bird muses on the differences between working with a text editor for poetry and working with a group of people in a rehearsal room: “A play is much more fluid – it’s not just mine, everyone’s working on it. An editor is trying to make the poet sound the most like themselves. A play belongs to so many different minds and all opinions have to be taken into account.” Again, there are similarities, too. For Bird, both mediums are “about the things that aren’t being said. In Trojan Women it’s not necessary to spell out that a particular scene is really about gender inequality. Similarly, in a poem, it’s a different style but it’s about the space between the lines and the silence.” So there you have it: writing is writing is writing, “the big difference is that a play gets me out of the house a lot more – poetry is a more solitary act.”

The Trojan Women plays at the Gate Theatre until Saturday 15 December. For tickets and more information, visit

Image 1: Sam Cox and Louise Brealey in The Trojan Women by Iona Firouzabadi

Image 2: Caroline Bird by Iona Firouzabadi

Eleanor Turney

Eleanor Turney

Eleanor Turney is the Managing Editor of A Younger Theatre, as well as a freelance journalist, writer and editor. She has written for The Guardian, The Stage, The FT and Ideas Tap, and worked for the Poetry Society and the British Council.

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Never Properly Born: Why do we create theatre?

Posted on 21 June 2012 by Never Properly Born

Three Kingdoms at Lyric Hammersmith

At the very end of King Lear (by that Shakespeare bloke) there is a spectacular snippet of verse that includes the line “speak what we feel, not what we ought to say”. If ever you could encapsulate a mantra for creating theatre then the Bard did it with that very simple piece of advice, but how readily can it be put into practice? Why SHOULD we be creating theatre?

A few weeks ago the question of “why are we doing what we’re doing?” came up in our current rehearsal process. Many of us had been to see Three Kingdoms and observed the reaction it caused in the theatrical community, with some even suggesting it could be the shape of British theatre to come. It was during this time that Vicky Featherstone was appointed as new Artistic Director of the Royal Court. With Featherstone’s reputation for stylised work, all signs seem to be indicating that the Court might be heading in a very particular direction.

This raised an interesting question for us as a company because of the work we’ve decided to create. From the beginning it was clear that we would be dedicated to staging works of realism. We knew we wanted to be a company grounded in the idea that “everything should be as in real life” (Anton Chekhov). As the company’s Artistic Director, this is what I have always believed in. I remember witnessing the works of Chekhov, Ibsen and O’Neil for the first time, and being mesmerised by the idea that someone would actually dare put such things on stage, work so bitterly real and uncompromising in its reality of human existence. However, with parts of the industry seemingly going in one direction (or yearning to do so), the question was raised as to whether we should follow our convictions or follow the crowd?

Of course, because we’re such an impudent bunch, we quickly said “fuck that” to the latter and carried on jauntily treading our selected path, but I do believe it’s easy to find yourself following the trends. It is tempting to make theatre just to please an audience or to make the right moves in an attempt to be ‘successful’.

Dennis Kelly recently questioned if such ambition was a bad thing or was in any way wrong. I’m here to suggest that it is. It is wrong because it deprives the audience of any risk; it deprives people of the heart and guts that make theatre. Without risk, without people doing what they truly want to do, we would never have had some of the arts’ greatest creations. We would never have had Waiting For Godot. Imagine that.

I believe there is also another damaging direction that theatre makers can be forced to follow: the pointless pursuit of originality.

Every submissions list that I can think of includes some variation of that ensnaring word: original. Each institution insists on “innovation” or “re-examination”, but what do they mean? Do our theatrical institutions expect us to create something unusual or provocative just to be original? What if we believe in something that, to their subjective eye, isn’t different? Should we give up now because we don’t want to “piss on the grave of the theatrical rule book”?

I say, forget that word, bury it, ignore it. Don’t try to be original or do something different. Do whatever you want to do because it excites you, because it grabs you in the gut and keeps you awake at night, because when you think about it you can’t stand still, you have to get up and move because it’s driving you forward, because the blood in your veins is moving that much more swiftly. Who cares if someone is already doing what you’re doing? Why not do to it better?

The preoccupation we have with originality is unnecessary and ultimately damaging. We shouldn’t be creating work to be original. We should just create work from our soul, the very core of our being and I can guarantee you that it will be original. It will be different without you even trying.

One of my drama school teachers – the effervescent Katya Benjamin – once said that “your gift is your own individuality”. What I took from that is that if you’re true to yourself, what you bring to the table is always going to be different, so how about we don’t worry about that word? Let’s discard it. Instead we should encourage theatre makers to do what they want, not what we think they should do.

I believe it is time to speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.

It is time to act first to desire your own good opinion.

It is time to stand up and be brave.

Written by artistic director Ash Rowbin.

Tickets for Shelter, the company’s first production, are now on sale at the Tristan Bates Theatre website or by phone on 020 7240 6283. Performances from 6 – 11 August.

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On the Chalet Line with playwright Lee Mattinson

Posted on 22 April 2012 by Nadia Newstead

Lee Mattinson cannot believe his luck. His play Chalet Lines is on at the Bush Theatre and his excitement is palpable. The Coronation Street writer has to find time around his full-time job to write his plays and yet still manages to find power in theatre. For him, it is about the immediacy of being in that world with those characters.

Chalet Lines is “about lots of women who go to Butlins… This family go there every single year and it jumps through time and charts three years and three big events that happened in their life, from the sixties up to modern day. It’s kind of about inheritance, emotional inheritance and how dysfunctional parenting can be passed down through generations, and whether you can not turn into your parents, or whether you’re destined to be… as they are.”

Before getting a job running an auditorium bar when he had finished his Fine Art degree, Mattinson had never set foot in a theatre before. “I went to see a play called The Filleting Machine by Tom Hadaway, which is a little North East play. The bar was in the corner of the theatre so when the show went up you just put the shutters down and watched the show. I thought, ‘this is brilliant! I get to watch a show at work.’ It was just a little 45-minute play about North East people around the kitchen table talking about unemployment and I’d not been in a theatre before - I didn’t know you could do that. I was stupid. It was a kind of Educating Rita thing. I just assumed it was for posh people or they’d talk about things that I didn’t understand or that I had no right to go; that kind of naive stupid thing. I was blown away by it because I could relate to every single word they said and I was totally moved. I was like, ‘God, this theatre thing is quite exciting’. Then, I had just started writing. I took a writing course a month before, I was writing prose and then I thought I quite want to write theatre. So I did a free playwriting course at Live Theatre and it taught me everything I needed to know, really, and then I started writing.”

Mattinson’s accent reveals his North Eastern heritage, and this has influenced both what he writes about and the way he works. “I always write about people from the North East because it’s a world that I know, that working class world and what people in that world care about. I’ve done a lot of work with Live Theatre in Newcastle, they have a really brilliant artistic statement. Their audience is predominantly working class people and they started off as a touring theatre and they would make shows about those people. They would go out in the van and just tour round and kept hold of that ethos, they commission really exciting work and it’s lush.”

The process of getting Chalet Lines ready for performance in London has been very different to what Lee is usually used to. “Well normally I love being involved in the whole process, like picking out costumes and all that kind of jazz and I love getting my face in everything because I love that whole process, but because this one is happening in London and I was in Manchester, and I work full time, it’s not been easy to be down there. I’ve only been down to rehearsals for two half-days so I’ve only seen a little bit of one of the scenes. It’s weird, but I’m just going to see it like everyone else does on Friday night but that’s kind of secretly massively exciting. It means there’s not much to worry about really, I’ll like it or I won’t like it. It’s been nice to have that distance from it as well. Normally you’re so in it that you lose that experience that everyone else is getting, so it’s, for the first time, been nice to have that.”

So what exactly is “that”? What is the power of theatre, in our digital age of immediate information and gratification? Mattinson was an art student who came to theatre via prose writing and has now chosen to make it his passion, even though his full-time job is in television. “What a question!” he exclaims. “It’s just a really intense form of storytelling because they [the characters] are right in front of your face. There’s a million magical things that you can do with that. It’s raw, it’s a raw and honest form of storytelling.”

And to make the most of this unique form of storytelling, you have to be yourself and just “write, write, write basically. It takes a long time to find your voice, find your themes, find your characters that you’re interested in, and you only get to that by trying everything out and then realising what you’re good at and what your strengths are. Writing what you know, I suppose, as well because it’s your individual take on something so it’s going to be special. Just make sure it’s your little heart on the page and then it’ll be unique because it’s yours. Just be honest, I suppose.”

For Mattinson, being a playwright in 2012 means pure excitement. “I feel like I’m being allowed into a world that when you think you’re about to get caught out at something, you’re like, ‘Oh, no they haven’t realised that I’m a bit of a fraudster yet, how have I managed to pull that off?’ I didn’t imagine that this would ever happen. The Bush is such an amazing theatre but I just can’t believe that they’d even read my work, so to be producing it is just fantastic.”

Chalet Lines plays at The Bush Theatre, Shepherd’s Bush, until 5 May. For more information and to book tickets, visit The Bush Theatre’s website.

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