a personal rehearsal diary

by Scott Graham

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

Day 18

After a night spend trying to work out why my daughter won’t sleep and just wants to jump around our bed and then a morning where the alarm inexplicably goes off 45 minutes late despite being correctly set, I am now heading into work very late. This would be a disaster if I was directing on my own. But the truth must be that this would not happen. It just does not happen if you cannot let it happen. And because of that I feel like I am taking advantage of Steven somewhat. But then he is not writing a rehearsal diary, a resource pack and lives 15 minutes away from rehearsals.

Wow, that feeling of guilt didn’t last long!


I have not read through anything I have written. I promised myself this as I wanted a ‘voice’ to develop. I am aware that the voice is a little more whiny and depressed than I thought it would be but I cannot help that. Maybe this diary is more personal than expected but I have to stand by that. If this is an insight into the thoughts of one of the directors of pool (no water) then this kind of stuff is just as valid and I suppose useful in highlighting the highs and lows. I have always maintained that I did not want a rehearsal diary written by a detached observer. This, I am absolutely sure, has its advantages but I wanted to do something different. And because of that I cannot read this back before it is finished. I must let it become what it is going to be.


It was a good day today. We set our targets and we hit them. There was a point in the day, when, naturally, I was leading, that one of the performers appeared to lose the will to live. It did upset me but tonight I feel a bit more ambivalent about it. I am not throwing away all the things I have said – I still stand by them and want to do something about it – but I just thought there might be a number of other reasons why this performer is doing this at the moment. They are actually carrying a painful and worrying injury at the moment, they have hundreds of new instructions going through their head, etc. The point is I am not going to dwell on it at the moment. We had a good day and that is fine for now.

I was talking to Rufus last night and I said that the speed we were working at meant that we were doing Ed Wood directing, cracking off scenes and moving on with no real sense of whether they work or not. We will only get a sense tomorrow when we try to stagger through the whole show. We call it a stagger-through as opposed to a run-through as we are well aware that it is not anywhere near its ‘running’ speed and the phrase helps the performers relax knowing they are not under pressure to perform.

But what we then do is have the rest of the creative team and those who have a need to be there watch the stagger-through. And they are informed and understand exactly what a stagger-through is. What this will do, despite the negating of any pressure, is give the performers that crucial dynamic missing until now – the audience. Even though they are probably saying that they do not want an audience, this informal gathering will teach them so much in any moment where they can do any more than remember their lines and not bump into the set.

This should set them up well for the final week where their job will mostly be settling into what we have set. This was what we planned from a few weeks ago. It was not what we planned at the start. This is because we did not have the wherewithal to think up such a plan. It is an example of how important it is to try to acknowledge and consolidate what you learn and take this forward with you. All projects are different but I feel that if I went into the next project aspiring to this model then I would be in a much stronger position than from where I started this project.


All around us departments on this project are buzzing about, having meetings, organising and liaising with venues. It is such a far cry from the early shows where we would literally do everything. We were talking about this in our lunch break yesterday. I mentioned a time on tour years ago where myself and the producer/company stage manager had to raid the driver’s seat of our Transit van, putting our hands down the back and underneath it for any change that had fallen so that we could by some food. (We found enough for a loaf of bread and some processed cheese.) It seems absurd now that there is a small industry flitting around us.

Steven said he had always hated the phrase ‘suffering for your art’ but admits we must have really loved what we were doing, really believed in it, to have put ourselves through that for years. And this is good timing considering the way I have been feeling lately. I do love my job. I guess I just want to feel secure and be better at it.