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And so all planning falls down… yes, this was meant to be a daily column for the beginning of the Fringe, apologies for the ‘epic fail’ on my behalf… When All the Crowds Have Gone opened on Monday, and it all built up rather quickly. Still, a longer article today about the entire rehearsal process (from a direction point-of view), followed by a production process Friday and a retrospective of the whole run on Sunday should tie this all up rather well. So, without further ado:
The rehearsal process is an extremely complicated process. There are a billion and one books out there describing how it could work, trying to find some commonality between the direction of the different projects the author has directed or sat in on, but they all end up being necessarily vague and useless. There are a million ways to achieve it, none of which necessarily the right way, but in the end you have to mold a number of disparate actors and a script into a watchable, enjoyable piece of theatre throughout. I’ll run through what I did with When All the Crowds Have Gone, and also try and find a vague through-line… but be warned, the above still stands: there is no commonality in direction – you must find your own path.
In this project, the first steps towards making the cast more cohesive were mercifully simple. Everyone dived into the first read-through with gusto, and it was clear from the off-set that interactions between characters would naturally develop well: everyone was joking around and having a good time from the first time that they met. A good first read-through will do that, and the only way you can control it is to keep everyone relaxed: relax your own body, let your speech burble around slightly, tell jokes… get everyone in a relaxed and pleasant state of mind. Some directors like to start with games: I think basic human interaction is much more real, and will feel more real to the performers: they will feel themselves becoming more cohesive without you having to jam it down their throats.
Either way, the actors in this project reacted very well to this, and a pleasant, relaxed rehearsal atmosphere formed. Unfortunately, this did slide a little too far into ‘relaxed’, partially due to the limited availability of the cast (not unsurprising, as most are semi-professionals and have to earn outside of the process), and a lack of realisation on my part until it was too late to change it. Still, this relaxed process did have the benefit of keeping cast enjoyment and morale high: what better way to ask people for plenty of their time than helping them enjoy it?
Beyond all of that psychological claptrap, there is, of course, the more nitty-gritty work: running scenes and lines as much as possible. Part of this is to aid in memorising: this is not a professional gig, you cannot expect lines to be learned before the process even begins, especially in a play as wordy as When All the Crowds Have Gone! Part of the process is encouraging slow runs with scripts in hands, stumble-throughs (run-throughs where the lines are not 100% learned yet), and repeating scenes until the lines become more solid: a bit grinding, but must be done! Hence why some of the above psychological work is important: anything you do to instill a relaxed, yet focused rehearsal environment only helps this process.
I also like to start on character work early, and only work on it for a couple of rehearsals before jumping into the nitty-gritty above. My character work is mostly quite psychological: analysing the character from the actor’s perspective, to better understand and thus embody him/her. I also like to use a bit of hypnotism and mentalism to work with actors sub-conscious directly, bypassing a lot of the inherent difficulty of replacing one’s own character with another. I don’t want to go into all of this too much here: it sounds a bit peculiar unless explained in detail, but I don’t want to describe it too much here: it would take too long. Ask me about it sometime, if you’re interested!
And that, in a nutshell, was my rehearsal process for When All the Crowds Have Gone: focusing on the detail to get this wordy play on its feet as soon as possible, a bit of heavy character work, and generally working to keep attitudes relaxed and happy! I think it’s all worked so far: it certainly seems to have led to two very good nights! Yep, we’re two nights in already: why haven’t you come yet? Tickets are £8, we’re on at the Brighthelm Centre in Brighton tonight, not tomorrow, and then again Saturday and Sunday at 7.30pm (doors open at 7pm). Please come!
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