a personal rehearsal diary

by Scott Graham

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

Day 20

Today was educational. It was another long three-session day starting at 10 a.m. and finishing at 10 p.m. The first session was a tetchy affair with questions being raised that betrayed an insecurity and rising concern in the performers. They quite legitimately ask why they are being asked to do something but it is often done in quite a negative, untrusting way. It can feel very disrespectful to think that if there is a scene that is merely sketched in that that would be enough for us, that we would not return to it.

It is hard not to get angry but the questions are legitimate and must be addressed even though this session was clearly set up to get the missing performer up to speed. And this is another thing than wound me up. I felt the session was being hijacked by other people’s insecurities. But like I said, these had to be addressed.

Some of the concerns quite rightly highlighted the fact that we were working at such a pace last week that we probably never really explained things satisfactorily to the performers. A performer can always raise this in such a way so as not to completely dismiss the idea that they are being asked to carry out. Or they can jump all over it with steel toe caps. The latter approach showed a group of tired performers who probably had more of a negative experience with the run on Friday than I gave them credit for.

This tense experience actually offered us the opportunity to talk to them director to actor. It was actually very beneficial. Not only did it show some slightly unfortunate readings of the play but it also showed some wildly off-centre interpretations of our theatrical intention with this production. It was a startling, incredible moment when two actors asked whether they could look at the audience. Of course they could! How many times had we talked about direct address?

Well that is exactly what I had to think about. How many times have I actually made that explicit to the cast? Have I just been using the phrase in my own head, in this diary? Is it actually possible that there has been this misunderstanding all along? I still don’t know what to think. I am glad that it has been sorted and all the other questions raised were answered in an illuminating and inspiring way. It meant that the scenes that followed were of a standard that we have not seen yet. It was an exciting and vindicating end to the session.

It would be stupid not to take what you have just learnt with you into the next session so we were much more explicit and inclusive in the next and final sessions of the day. Both were very good sessions. The evening especially. We concentrated on the big physical scene and they produced two runs of a working version that were truly exciting. They were also asked to create within a very strict remit but they got it straightaway and delivered some great stuff.

Today has meant that we have had to reassess our schedule. This week will be much slower but much more thorough progress. The ‘missing performer’ is nearly back up to speed (apart from a head-melting sequence that he will have to take little chunks out of each day) and all are crying out for this approach. The knock-on effect is that the technical team will not be able to see the runs that we promised them but if we can progress like we did today then I am more than happy with that and we can hopefully produce a much more thorough run on Friday (if not before).

I had to work to be generous today. To bite my tongue and be generous to someone else’s process even though the day was set differently. This required a generosity that I have not possessed until now. It really was a revelation moment. My instinct was to go in aggressively and not pander to this ‘nonsense’ but I was wrong. There was another way. Suddenly the clouds lifted and I could see that. If I can remember that tomorrow then I will already be a better director.


Starting to make some progress with the education pack. I am at least beginning to tick things off. I still can’t find enough hours in the day though. The photographs of the cast are working well but I just need to get stuff to the designer as soon as possible so that he can start working on it. All demands are going to converge over the next couple of weeks and I must keep my head above water and stay equally committed to each project. I have to see this diary through.