Gearing up for takeoff

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Heading into week 3, we hit the halfway point of rehearsals (already, eek!) and everything steps up a gear. This week, we have had costume fittings with Lorna and Bob, who joined us on Skype (intermittently) from Germany where he is designing another show. Stepping into a costume is often a key moment for actors in the rehearsal process and costume from this era has a particular effect on their bodies. Skirts and dresses are more structured and suits are made of heavier material so they automatically have a bearing on movement and physicality. Ingrid, who plays Renee, is having her costume specially made based on a (top secret) famous design of the time, as only befits a star of Renee’s calibre.

As we go into more detail, every element of the production is given due weight and we have had several guests in rehearsals to help us create authenticity in some of the scenes. Alison, our fight director, has been in a few times to choreograph falls and pot smashes (tip: always fall away from smashing china); Mary, the dialect coach has been in to help with the various accents the actors will use during the play (going from Russian to American in one line is no easy task) and finally we have had a doctor, Anika, in to help Amanda with some authentic doctor ‘moves’ for her scenes as Larissa the Russian doctor. Simon is always seeking authenticity and believability. If the audience don’t believe you for a moment then the whole illusion and world of the play collapses so using such rigour in exploring the scenes is key.

On Thursday, we have our first run, only of the first act, but it gives everyone a chance to start to pin things together in their heads, particularly Ingrid who, as Renee, is on stage for the entire show. The actors are a little shell-shocked after a first runthrough – inevitably there is a lot of ‘what the hell happened there?’ or ‘I completely forgot about this’ – but, in many ways, this is part of the point of doing runs, and it also draws your attention to the tricky transitions which can often get forgotten about when rehearsing scenes on their own. We have our lighting designer Chahine in to watch too so that he gets a more specific idea of the style in which the play is being directed. Style, Simon maintains, is key and the style of this play is a very delicate thing indeed. We are constantly switching between characters, timeframes and locations and need the audience to be with us always. The signs from the first run through are that the style holds, which is quite a relief to everyone involved!

As we near the end of the week, we pack up our rehearsal room at Circus Space, bid goodbye to Pitfield, the lovely little cafe across the road that has kept us topped up with coffee and brownies for the past 3 weeks, and head on to Plymouth for the next part of the adventure.

That is, as soon as we check that no one is napping in the corner…

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