‘You mean actors actually rehearse? I thought they just got drunk, stuck on silly hats and trusted to luck.’ – Blackadder
It’s tricky to know where to start when talking about Monster Raving Loony. With the huge range of comedic programmes, characters and performers that the show references? Or with Screaming Lord Sutch, whose story is at the centre of the play? Or the various songs being sung and played live by the cast? Or the video footage incorporated into the performance? Even though we’re only a few days into rehearsals, it’s already clear that Monster Raving Loony doesn’t just refer to Sutch’s political party, but also the endeavour of staging this show!
Our first week of rehearsal has, in some ways, been a lot like most first weeks: we started with a read-through of the play, followed by the director, writer and cast discussing the script as we’ve started to feel our way through it all. Whilst this would normally be called ‘table work’, the slightly unusual nature of this show – our research isn’t the typical stacks of books and internet printouts of most rehearsal rooms, but a selection of DVDs and video clips – means, we’ve been back and forth between tables covered in scripts and huge monitors playing classic comedies, from Allo Allo to Morecambe and Wise.
The kind of discussions we’ve been having about the play have been distinctive too. Often, initial work in a rehearsal room is focused on gathering information and developing ideas about the characters’ history, their relationships, the setting of the play in terms of time and place – all things that combine to create a sense of the ‘world’ that the play creates (precisely what I wrote about in my first-week blog for The Whipping Man). However, with Monster Raving Loony, we’ve talked more about what the real-life audience will make of something than the thoughts of a fictional character. The questions you might expect – what do these people think of each other? Where has this person just come from? When did this event happen? – have been replaced by a whole host of other interests – when and how exactly does the show start? What ‘character’ is an actor playing at any precise moment? How can we know the audience won’t walk off with half the props?
Even though it’s still early days in quite a complex show, I think the little differences showing up in rehearsals are down to one essential thing about Monster Raving Loony. We’re not creating some other, separate ‘world’ to draw the audience into. The ‘world’ that this play is trying to create isn’t something that can be contained on a stage and then observed. The ‘world’ that Monster Raving Loony is interested in creating is an atmosphere of raucous rock’n’roll entertainment, of a great night out for everyone in the theatre – our own Monster Raving Loony Party!
Monster Raving Loony will be performed in The Drum Saturday 6th to Saturday 27th February. You can book your tickets online or by calling our Box Office on 01752 267222.