Routledge

Extras

a personal rehearsal diary

by Scott Graham

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

Day 14

I have had a shoulder problem for the last three months and for most of that time it was getting worse. It got to the point a week ago that I thought it was a ‘frozen shoulder’. Then it miraculously cleared up. Then a couple of days ago I started to get pain again. Today it is back with a vengeance. I cannot take part in the warm-up, or even offer advice on moves and physicality for the exercise Steven has them working on. I can’t even think about moving never mind get up and do some. I feel like I have been run over.

Luckily, Steven is on form and he leads them through some great work. Genuinely exciting and, in terms of the quality the performers achieve, light years away from where they started the rehearsals. If ever there was any question as to the benefits of working in this kind of partnership, then today emphatically answers that.

***

Our stage manager thinks she may have found a hospital bed for the production. We have been using a temporary bed so far while the design team have been researching and costing various hospital beds from specialist suppliers. Of course I have no idea when it actually occurred to anyone (it certainly did not to me) that we are rehearsing next to a hospital!

We popped in there to meet a woman who showed us the perfect bed and then suggested we could borrow it for the tour in return for a donation to the hospital. This is fantastic news and means we could start next week with the bed in place. (Saying that, we may need to negotiate some minor adjustments to it.)

We have a history of things like this happening to us. The answers to a lot of our problems have often existed right under our nose. I do not believe in fate but I am getting close to relying and budgeting on these little events coming along to save us, such is their consistency.

***

Talking to the designer today we are all of the opinion that the set needs something more. It is not quite working yet but I am loathe to stress too strong an opinion before it has been properly dressed, we are able to throw light on it, and we have a good idea of all the ways we are going to use it. The problem there is that by the time we have done all that it could be too late to do anything to the set. We talk through some ideas and decide to think about it over the weekend. The weekend came along at the perfect time. I do not expect to come in with many answers on Monday but it is possible that the designer could. Who knows, even I might have a blinding flash of inspiration! My point is the weekend took the pressure away because coming back in tomorrow and not being able to help each other with any enlightenment may have taken us a step or two towards panic or towards quick and uninspired solutions.

***

We had a run-through of where we are in the text so far. It came in at 25 minutes but should probably have been around 20. It is a heartening run despite this lack of pace. It is clear what areas work and where we need to rethink and spend more time. None of it is catastrophically wrong though.

I point out to the cast that there is a lot of work that we have done that has not appeared in the script yet. This is good news because it means that as we plough on through the script we are going to meet chunks we have already done, sections we are already familiar with. It will make us feel like things are slotting together and progress is speeding up.

For example there is a prolonged drunken, debauched party scene near the end that we have been working on a lot. The cast do not know this yet as we have only been working on the physical structure of the scene. To even call it a scene is misleading at this stage. Once we map out the physicality we can start to add the other ingredients the performers will have to accommodate – the text, the drunken swagger, the sexual abandon, the anger and exhilaration.

But there is no need to overload the cast with all this. If we told them they were drunk then there is the risk that they will only play drunk. If they are brilliant physical performers first and then told they are drunk, and then told they are angry, and then told they are horny, and then told they are frightened then you see how this complex performance is layered. All of this information at once could swamp the performer and limit their creativity.

***

The cast have been asking questions about where their performance is aimed. The earlier work we have been doing has been about sending the focus out to a camera/gentle inquisitor but they have identified correctly that this does not sit entirely well with the section we are going through at the moment. This section takes the audience right into the events being relayed and the performers have to be more in that moment. Earlier we had encouraged them to find ways of holding back from immersing themselves in the moments they are relaying. This is still right, though, as it sets the scene that we start in and return to. We need reminding that everything we see is the past being communicated from the present.

This is all part of finding the rhythm of the piece. It moves in and out like this a few times. There is no need to identify these moments to the performers as they will feel where they exist, where the text is making specific demands on them. And where they cannot feel this or miss it then we will help for it is actually a lot easier to see it from the outside. The performers have struggled at times to find this rhythm but I have tried to reassure them that it will come.

Identifying this change of rhythm and performance focus has helped us solve another dilemma today. During the run, when we reached the ‘Good Bed’ section, the sudden introduction of music seemed to grate. Indeed we had not quite worked out where we could use incidental music. Realising there is this in-out rhythm to the playing of the piece pointed us towards the way the music could operate. It could match and complement that dynamic, drawing us into the events the characters recreate.