Of all the unusual things to have come up during rehearsals for The Man With The Hammer – arranging waxing appointments for the cast, lubricating bike tyres with vaseline, learning about strange methods of cheating drug tests – I never thought that getting imprints of a cast member’s bottom would be part of the preparation of the show (during our saddle-shopping outing this week!). Our rehearsals can be a mix of the silly – conversations about chamois butter and lycra – and the serious – delving deeper into the characters’ lives and relationships, something we’ve been doing a lot over the past few days.
As it’s our final week of rehearsal before we get into The Drum, with less than a week to go until the show opens, we’ve been doing a lot of fine-tuning: deciding who starts cycling first at a certain moment, when two characters share a brief glance with each other, where each actor is looking during a scene (even using imagined plans of the play’s settings to work out characters’ locations and journeys through the play). It’s surprising the impact these seemingly small decisions can make, with different options communicating very different things about the characters, their relationships and the world they’re in.
Earlier this week, the company were talking about the challenge of defining precisely what the show is about. Whilst cycling is a huge element of the show – with one character a pro rider and the other two being increasingly avid amateurs – it deals in so much more: isolation, fatalism, relationships, addiction and dependence, growing up, reality versus fiction. What I can’t avoid focusing on, now that we’re rehearsing on the actual set, are the distances created (between the each member of the cast, between the whole cast and the floor, between the cast and the audience), each of which seem to point at a different form of isolation.
But I suspect that people will come away from the show with different ideas of what it’s ‘about’ – that’s one of the great things about Phil’s slippery, hard-to-pin-down script. The play doesn’t aim directly at one specific idea or message, but plays with various related ones, leaving it to the audience to identify what they think lies at the centre of it, creating their own personal version of the play. Now all we need is an audience to share the play with – only six days to go!
The Man With The Hammer will be in The Drum from Thursday 10th to Saturday 26th March. You can book your tickets online or by calling our Box Office on 01752 267222.