Now that we’re already halfway into rehearsals for the war has not yet started, the rehearsal room is looking very different to how it did just a week ago. The floor’s covered with tape marking out details of the set and the space is filled with items standing in for furniture and props: stools being TVs, benches being pianos, rolls of tape being pork pies. After our initial rehearsal week filled with discussions wrestling with the play’s ideas and themes, we’ve been spending the last week performing the scenes for the first time.
Unlike many plays, the war has not yet started has very few stage directions; it never outlines where or when scenes are happening, props or costume items that are required, and rarely specifies things that actors do during scenes. So we’re usually only given the characters’ dialogue, which is (of course) only a fraction of what is experienced during a performance. What’s been clear this week is the surprising number of different possible meanings you can mine out of the same set of words, depending on how they’re delivered, the position of actors in a space, and any activities happening during a scene.
Characters whose lines might have initially seemed brutish and aggressive have become oddly funny and plain-speaking; scenes that might have read as absurd have actually become surprisingly tender. Since the dialogue often won’t give away exactly where the scene’s happening, this is also something we’ve had to explore in rehearsals – a scene imagined in a public space can feel very different to one imagined in a private space. With one set being used for twelve distinct scenes that all happen in different environments, it often comes down to the cast’s actions to transport the audience to different places – even the smallest shift in how they move can make you imagine a different space.
Part of this exploration of different ways of staging scenes (should this scene feel epic or domestic? Should this argument feel unstable or controlled?) has been to avoid cliches or assumptions whilst focusing in on what’s really there in the script, to clearly communicate what the script’s saying. It’s also been important to find the right pitch for each scene since they’re all linked by their themes, ideas and tone – make a scene too absurd, too dark, too lighthearted, and it might no longer feel like it fits in the play.
We’ve begun to get to grips with other elements of the production this past week – we’ve heard snippets of the sound design for the first time, and the cast have even been learning some dance moves! As different decisions are made and information trickles in (about where a scene’s set, how a line’s said, what sounds are heard in a scene) we can feel the show beginning to take shape – I can’t wait to see it all develop even further next week!
the war has not yet started opens in The Drum on Thursday 12th May and runs until Saturday 28th May. Tickets are available online or through our Box Office on 01752 267222.