a personal rehearsal diary

by Scott Graham

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

Day 26

We start with a meet and greet with the Theatre Royal staff. After that I take the cast through the more complicated physical scenes to recap and consolidate. As most of these scenes are highly complex and to counts we have to do them every day. We also go through the brief slapping scene. We made this with one of the actors missing so he still has a bit of catching up to do. They do not all feel comfortable slapping each other. The girls can’t bring themselves to really go for it with each other but have no such problems whacking the boys. The boys are still not confident either. I stress that this is a scene where we are going to have to be generous to each other because things will go wrong. People will get slapped hard. It will hurt occasionally but it will only happen once a night. At the moment we might be rehearsing it 20 times a day. They seem to accept that they must bite their tongue and allow people a little slack. I also suggest that they should rehearse it every day on tour.

We then continue to go through the text in detail as we did last night. This was very useful but very slow. It is also very challenging as you are presenting the opportunity for all that has been set up to be unravelled. There are a couple of scary moments but the script is robust and generally what we have found so far stands up. We do not have long, though, as we have to head back to start the technical rehearsals.

I do not think I have ever been so badly prepared for a tech session. Normally I have a very strong idea about cues and effects but not here. Maybe it is a trust in what Natasha will offer. I hope this is OK for Natasha as it can be very frustrating working with people who cannot say what they want and can only respond to what you are presenting to them.

The set is looking good and certainly imposing in the small Drum Theatre. It is now that the actors emerge on stage in costume on the finished set and we start the tech that you really start to think, ‘Oh God, is this going to work?’ And, of course, this being only a tech the performers offer fairly lifeless delivery and shoddy movement but it feels like lifeless direction and shoddy choreography. We have to keep faith and see how it works in front of an audience.

We also hear that the run is pretty much sold out, that our directors’ seats have been sold and that we will have to sneak in and stand. There is no point complaining. This is great news and adds to the sense of event. It has been a few years since we have opened a show down here and we couldn’t have asked for a better situation.