a personal rehearsal diary

by Scott Graham

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

Day 6 (week 2)

We start Monday morning with a read-through of the whole script again as Mark has some more rewrites. Again the read-through starts fairly poorly, with a turgid pace but I am sure this will be addressed by the performers and is not a script issue. Once the performers are a few pages in they are really flying and the pace is terrific. Mark’s edits and rewrites have offered a more economical and leaner script and shaves almost ten minutes off the running time. There is a shock though.

The ending has changed. Now the artist shouts back at the group and accuses them of being bitter non-entities etc. This has a liberating effect on the group.

While I agree with the words she says I just don’t feel comfortable at the moment with her saying them. It seems just too ... I don’t know. I am not sure I believe that she can summon the strength and control to give such a measured response. Mark says that this is what the group have been waiting for ... her to say these words. I respond that I do not believe that they are waiting for this information from her voice. I believe that they are wanting to see it from her face, from a look. The face that only offers an absent smile. She speaks elsewhere in the text but nowhere else does she stop being ‘absent’. I suggested that it is still presented like she has said all of the above to the group but it transpires that this is what they gleaned from her look at the end, when she finds them burning the photos.

Two things strike me as I write this. One, it is a very strange thing to disagree with a writer about what his characters would do or would want! It does make you ask yourself ’with what authority do I say this?’

Secondly, it is equally strange writing this to ‘you’ (I mean, who are you?) while giving away endings and referring to things that may not make it into a final performed script. I am basically talking about things that, by the time you read this or watch pool (no water), may no longer exist.


The meeting with the programmer from Sydney goes well. We do not present anything but she sits and watches us working with the cast. I think this is a much more honest and satisfying outcome.

We recap the physical work started on Friday and start to crank up the pace. The performers respond well but are starting to pick up battle scars. We will be getting them knee pads for the rehearsal but it is crucial that they do not begin to rely on them for two reasons – one, because they will not be able to wear them in performance, and two, knee pads can give a false sense of confidence and performers can become slightly reckless, slamming down on the pads, trusting them to absorb the impact. It can mean that safe techniques can become sloppy. An extreme example of this can be found in a comparison between injuries sustained playing rugby and American football. In rugby, where players are relatively unprotected but are aware of self-preservation techniques, injuries are common but often small. American football, where players are covered in protective clothing, often has the more serious injuries. It is about being aware and ready for the possibilities that will help keep you safe and not relying on something else.

In the afternoon we start work on some weight transference techniques. Quite simple stuff but useful as a starting point because we want the performers to take these techniques onto the set (the bed, the seats). The task is fairly open and may not lead directly to a scene in the show but it does allow the performers to get ‘hands on’ with each other and create a string of fluid material. And the results are very interesting. They probably belong in another show but the exercise has served its purpose and the performers are clearly more confident and thrilled to have achieved this quality of contact work.

Steven then takes them off and sets them a devising task involving clicking your fingers on counts in bars of eight. He teaches the first eight as an example and then asks them to create their own. Again the results are brilliant. I hope the performers are getting a constructive thrill out of this and not having pangs of frustration that we are not getting the script ‘up on its feet’. It has crossed my mind that we must launch into the text tomorrow but I am not entirely convinced that we are ready. I am not sure what the sign of being ready is but I think it is important to have a cast who are ready to fly when the time is right rather than find that we are slowly stumbling through the text with Steven and myself having to ‘spoon-feed’ the physicality. We will see how we get on tomorrow.

And I will see how Mark responds to my comments about the ending.