Now… at some point I’m pretty sure that I was going to put on a play… I could almost have sworn to it… perhaps I imagined it… or it was all a dream? It’s funny, ever since I decided to direct this play I appear to have done almost everything except direct it.

I admit I may not have entirely aided my cause in deciding to do a musical down in the Old Vic Tunnels mid-way through May, having not foreseen our casting stress nor the amount of phone-calls, forms and meetings required to get the ball rolling. But who says “no” to the Old Vic? Or to such an opportunity to steal, I mean learn, from them? And I have Kevin Spacey’s autograph.

The greatest challenge with this production is not making the physical edge to the piece look rubbish, or like something out of a GSCE drama exam. There’s something soul destroying about seeing your favourite play ruined by actors throwing and flapping themselves around a stage with all the grace and purpose of a drunk ostrich. Couple this with having to ensure the delivery of a script that, when done correctly, is the theatrical equivalent of a sledgehammer to the soul, and we have what is known in the industry as a ‘shitpile’ of stuff to do.

It is also very difficult to know what to tackle first and in what order to do it all. I’ve tried several times to create some sort of plan but until I’ve tried out my initial ideas on the cast, I’m not entirely sure as to how everything will apply to the script itself. Thereby all of my blocking plans look like they were created by a small child hopped up on E numbers…

So, it is with a feeling that is somewhere between relief, excitement and the overwhelming desire to vomit, that I have completed my first few days of rehearsals. It has been not so much a learning curve as a sheer cliff face.

The first task was to get everybody moving. Confined to my home thanks to the Jubilee weekend we took advantage of the dry-ish weather and got stretching out in my back garden. The key thing to establish from the off was an awareness of their own bodies and a real awareness of the movements of their fellow cast members. This so basic and yet so important, and something so deeply overlooked. I once witnessed an actor in the midst of a dance audition for a musical accidentally knock the girl next to him out due to a complete lack of awareness of those around him.

This was then followed by providing everyone with a set of choreographic tasks to complete. These worked to create choreography that was realistic and sat naturally with the actors. There is little point attempting to instil years of dance training in six weeks of rehearsal. By completing these tasks, we’ve been able to build up a body of work out of which we can pick material, and that can then be applied to the text later on. This works very quickly when you’re working with people you like. Though this can also be a hindrance as I quickly discovered when Francesca and Jacques constantly descended into giggling or bickering and I was forced to play party pooper. Though we may also have to rethink the large box of Krispy Kremes at rehearsal too…

Overall I was dead pleased though. Getting through these first few days has provided me with some much needed clarity and direction. Though, if the bemused look on my neighbour’s face is anything to go by, there’s still a little way to go before we entirely shake off the drunken ostrich look…

Written by Chi-San Howard
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