a personal rehearsal diary

by Scott Graham

from the making of pool (no water) by Mark Ravenhill

Day 12 (yoga instructor leads the warm-up)

The set is big. VERY BIG. It is also strong and very useful. It is also not like any other set of ours. It is exactly what we asked for. A hybrid of swimming pool and hospital room.


The morning is filled recapping the moves, lifts and jumps found using the set, and creating new ones, putting strings of material together and then filming it. Progress is good but one of the performers is nursing an injury which means they are a little timid at the moment. Hopefully this will pass soon.

The moves explored are research into what type of vocabulary we can use near the end where the four characters go completely off the rails and burn the art. We are looking for a reckless abandon as opposed to the slightly mannered, nervous physicality of the opening sections. Working on this type of material must feel liberating for the performers even if they are picking up the odd scrapes and bruises from it.

There are times when it is painfully clear that we are not working with dancers. They are lacking the instinct, maybe. Certainly the technique is not there and this slows things down. It must have been exactly like this when we were setting out as a company and were frustrating choreographers like Steve Kirkham or T. C. Howard.

Our task here is to get to a place where an audience does not make the same observation about the training background of the performers as I have just made.


I ran a suggestion for a line at the end past Steven. It is a line that, I feel, accommodates the new text (the artist’s vitriol) but also makes clear that this information is a projection from one of (maybe all of) the characters. It is their understanding of the artist’s look and of their new relationship. He liked it and we are going to work with it. We might go to visit Mark tomorrow so we could always run it past him. Either way, knowing that we have some sort of bridging line there now makes me feel more comfortable and confident.


The afternoon involves a run-through of where we are up to so far. It is occasionally languid, especially at the start, but is exciting nonetheless. We give a note to find the excited affectation of the beginning and to fight this casual approach. It is a note we have said after every run. These are very intelligent and talented performers. The lure to play this text this way must be very strong but I still believe in our instincts.

We also instruct them to make some material that pulls their clothes around, grips at their own flesh, etc. They are to find eight moves. They do not have to fit them to music but they do have to teach them to a partner when they have found their string of moves. They are split into two pairs and teach each other their moves so that we have two groups doing a string of unison. We then ask them to think about the excitement of something naughty, the butterflies in the stomach, the desire to pee, the childish need to hold onto yourself. Let these inform the moves rather than some erotic notion. Then they had to focus their eyes on a fixed point and adjust their work if they had to. Once we had this we told them which section we were thinking about for these moves. (A section about taking your clothes off. Not the most inspired or abstract association but we wanted to avoid the moves being completely literal. If we had started with the words then there was a risk the moves may have been simple mimes of getting stripped. What we ended up with were two strings of material much more beautiful and intriguing.)

It has been great to use the set today. Also to move forward into the text. I have no idea of whether we are on schedule or not though. Steven and I are meeting tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to go through our ideas and how we see things progressing. I guess I will get a better idea from that.

The intention is that we have our meeting first. Then a production meeting. Then the performers come in at 2 p.m. but we work through to 10 p.m.

There is a calculated ploy here. We have found that there is a strange, dedicated excitement about working late, outside the norm. You get a different energy from people. It also creates a conducive environment to take things a little further, to explore some of the darker, riskier elements of the production. Hopefully we can exploit that again here. The rehearsal rooms are great on a day-to-day basis. They are clean and beautiful, with the most amazing light spilling in and changing the room constantly. It will be fascinating to find out how it feels with all that natural light taken away, with all the church workers and volunteers off home. It would be great to unearth the kind of stuff we might hold back from during the day!


(Having recently moved house, I have no idea where that Complicité rehearsal diary is. There are numerous boxes, all labelled, but none of them says ‘Complicité rehearsal diary’. While I am happy to continue doing this in my own way, part of me desperately wants to avoid getting to the end of this process and then wishing I had done it in a different way. That I have missed out something fundamental to your understanding and insight into our rehearsal process. But then maybe this is more of a genuine diary. I certainly do not want to compromise this aspect by writing revisions after the fact just because I liked what Complicité have done. But still, I am intrigued. I still want to know what the form is just to know whether that is what I am doing, whether that is what I want to embrace, or whether I would recoil from the style.)