a personal rehearsal diary
by Scott Graham
from the making of pool (no water) by Mark Ravenhill
Today is energised by the palpable success of last night. Both myself and Steven cannot make it in for the start of the morning but the cast still turn up on time to do a line run. We then go through the physical scenes, tidying them up and giving the cast much needed practice. We reset some rubbish that we had set earlier and it is now less offensive but still not cracked. It feels clunky but I do not think inspiration will come until it is cruelly exposed in front of an audience. In the afternoon we show the last section of the show to Natasha Chivers as she will not be available for the full run-through tomorrow.
It is interesting having Mark in the room for the afternoon. There are moments when he gives performing notes, which is fine but it makes me realise that I am willing for the performers to go a little bit further through rehearsals before I give such detailed notes. I just feel they are a little too early to be given but as far as I know they are received with interest and grace. Maybe the performers want these notes but I feel they have not really got to the part where they need notes on the details of what they are offering. I feel they are only just beginning to understand this piece. That is what the thrill of last night was about. That is what the eagerness of this morning was about. Mark has not been here through the bad times. Maybe this is a good thing and means that he is not walking on eggshells like, quite possibly, we are. Maybe he can tell it like it is. Either way I feel a little awkward. Maybe because while he is being so opinionated there is always the potential to disagree with him. And how do you disagree with a writer about his work?
Well a moment arises that answers that question! During a conversation between the running of a section I state that there is a confusion in the writing that contradicts slightly what Mark has just said. He looks at the text, considers the idea and the implication and simply excises the offending lines and transplants them later, making perfect sense of them and enhancing the section they are moved to.
I think I have a prejudice or ignorance about writers. Because their work is often geared, whether consciously or subconsciously, towards the ego massage of print I always think that they will not be so open to have what they have considered, crafted and, finally, typed, open to suggestions. It is a lovely and powerful moment when he just acknowledges the impact of another’s point of view and adjusts his work. And it is not power to me. It is power to him. It is an act of confidence and understanding. If I were him I would have probably resisted for the sheer paranoid hell of it.
It is a similar case when we show him the end. We talk through the cuts we have made and he frowns and says, ‘Well, let’s see.’ And when he does see he is pleased. It is a moment of great relief.
The performers show the last section of the show and, because we are following rehearsals with a production meeting, a lot of the creative team get to see it. This is the ending that we found last night. An ending of real simplicity. And it is so rewarding when Natasha buys into it immediately and says it is amazing. And at the production meeting, when we inform them that we are cutting the idea of water at the end, Natasha says she ‘could not imagine it offering anything to the ending. It said it all.’ This is exactly the kind of approval we want to hear. It means that I am sitting on a train late at night, dying for the toilet with another 45 minutes of the journey to go, but still buzzing about the idea of going in tomorrow and finishing the job.