a personal rehearsal diary

by Scott Graham

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

Day 8 (soft physical day)

I take it easy with a stretching, massaging warm-up. We then work on some rolling work, interacting with chairs in our path. All this is building up to something we wanted to try out. Namely, an effect where the performers appear to roll uphill and into their chairs. As if the film had been reversed. It should look impossible.

Progress is slow and the results are only OK. It was worth trying and we may return to it. At least the performers have experienced the process and are aware of the effect desired now, even if this session did not provide completely inspiring results.

This afternoon started with an exercise focusing on the hospital bed. The performers were asked to approach with good intentions, with care and concern, and then recoil with fear, hatred, revulsion, etc. These were the inspirations. The performers were instructed to contain these bursts of contempt within eight counts of music and to set a few versions each. During the exercise one of the performers completely froze and could not think of anything. Feeling lost and unsure of the improvisation he just stood there and watched the other three wrestling with their feelings towards the imaginary being in the bed. This accident looked fantastic and offered an unconsidered depth to the situation. Here we had one of the four characters who did not respond to the situation in the same way, who observed the alternating emotions of his friends with a similar fascination and revulsion. This allows the possibility for the audience to wonder whether there was a judgement made in his mind. It makes the audience question the unity of the Group in that moment even though their text suggests they all felt the same. It also seemed right that it was this person’s character who witnessed this.

These kinds of accidents are a crucial part of the creative process. We have found that you must remain open to them. I think we may even partly rely on them and actively create situations and improvisations that will allow them to happen.

The rest of the afternoon is taken up with the performers all learning each other’s ten moves in the chair from yesterday. They are very fast at this, despite being tired and sore. Their speed and clarity allows us to workshop the moves a little. It becomes clear to us that this is the vocabulary that will see us through the first few pages but that not all of it belongs there. There are some moves that are screaming out to be placed elsewhere. And this is what happens when you instruct your cast on a simple brief and do not ask them to make up moves for a certain part of the show. Often when you do this you stifle their creativity and they only try to second-guess what you might want from them. This way round they can surprise you and offer more.

The exercise also points out to us that the choreography works better in separate chairs rather than the bench seat of the set. This means that we may be going into the production meeting tomorrow asking for some more chairs. This will obviously be a pain but I guess this is what these meetings are for.


No Mark Ravenhill in rehearsal today. I know he is very busy but I think we need to make contact with him. It is slightly awkward him not being around while there is some discomfort with the latest draft.

It makes me feel insecure about the text and my ability to guide anyone through it. But then today was a strange day. Progress was slow at times and I felt tired, uninspired and uninspiring. My lack of confidence led to inarticulacy. I want to enthuse the cast with ideas but I feel that I need to return to the text, have a session with Steven where we plot out the rehearsals and where we think our ideas could sit in the text.