Junction 8 Theatre is a company limited by guarantee registered in England, Company Number: 10493651

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Week 1 Rehearsal Blog

September 23, 2017


It’s hard to feel nervous about first days when you’re working with your mates; I’ve known director Liz since we went to college, met producer (and brother) Nick shortly after that and writer Becky when helping with auditions for another show that she wrote a couple of years back. Oh and did I mention I’ve worked with designer Katie on a festival show two years ago, sound designer Rick on an outdoor show this summer and fellow actor Russell (or Grandpoppa as I shall hereafter refer to him) on the R&D of ‘Under The Market Roof’ in August of last year (R&D is basically lazy shorthand for ‘rehearsal and development’). In case you hadn’t gathered, the theatre world is a terrifically ‘in-bred’ environment… Nonetheless, when I stepped off the train at Chorley train station on Monday morning, the Autumn sun bleating down on the tracks, I felt my heart skip up towards my mouth to say hello. Although in fairness, that could’ve been the Coco Pops I’d had for breakfast… it’s probably not wise to indulge in that much sugar so early in a morning. I say early, it was actually a leisurely 10.30am start to proceedings on that first day, but don’t let that fool you - we’ve been doing some grafting this week. I say we, I actually mean the rest of the company - I spent most of the week inhaling treacle toffee and cream doughnuts. 

 

 

 

Arriving at our rehearsal space, it gave me warm feelings to see so many welcoming faces - old and new (no I’m not just referring to our more ‘seasoned’ cast members… ahem, Grandpoppa, ahem…)! We quickly fell into a familiar rhythm, talking loudly whilst necking brews at a supersonic speed - something we call ‘the meet and greet’ (not to be confused with ‘meat and greet’ - that’s an entirely different process); whereby we informally and sometimes incoherently introduced ourselves whilst gently grazing on assorted biscuits. Once fed and watered, it was time to get to know each other through a variety of games and exercises - which after that much hot tea, was no mean feat! Following this director Liz, alongside brother Nick, introduced their company, the project and the process of developing this new piece of work with writer Becky. Then practicalities of the show were discussed (otherwise known as ‘parish notices’), before Katie launched into the all exciting design presentation - showing the company a model of the set, alongside a rundown of aesthetics of the show. Finally it was time for the ‘table read’! Don’t let the name fool you, we didn’t simply allow tables to read the script for us - rather, we all sat around a singular table and read the script aloud. After ruminating on the project all morning, it was hugely satisfying to finally hear these characters brought to life - to discover the dynamics of what each actor brought to their role and how that changed the delivery of your own character. As the first day drew to a close, we all departed with significantly fuller heads, hearts - and of course, stomachs… 

 

Tuesday was market day! No more talk - let’s see this baby in action! After some preliminary work in the rehearsal room, our company headed out to the market on one of its busiest days of the week (the other being Saturday) to get an impression of the space in which we’ll be performing. It was great to get a sense of the scale of the action and meet many of the market traders - the real bonus being that we got to have lunch on the market! Although in truth, some of our number (ahem, Grandpoppa, ahem…) managed to have three separate lunches by the time we reconvened in the afternoon. We spent the rest of the day and much of Wednesday ‘mining’ through the script - but rest assured, no head torch was needed; together we decided on a title for each scene (something to describe the facts of what actually happens), alongside a list of main events. These events we later plotted on the floor later in the week, to create a rough timeline. Although a lengthy process, as the narrative of our story leaps back and forth in time - it was an invaluable exercise in correlating events of the play in a chronological order, meaning that when it comes to playing the scene, we all know exactly what page we’re on… so to speak! 

 

During the week, with the help of stage manager supreme Steph, Liz marked out a representation of our playing space - alongside a rough replication of how our audience would be seated. With that out of the way, we could get on with performing the whole play in its entirety in a to-scale mock up with some suggested sound elements from Rick! So soon you ask?! Well no, I asked (in a choked whisper) - but as Liz pointed out, it was actually both terrifying and helpful in equal measure (I may have added the terrifying bit). It was a great opportunity for us to get a sense of both the physical and emotional journeys of the characters and indeed the shape of the whole play - how things could work. It also flagged up any potential issues in terms of logic and practicalities - alongside discovering the rules of our playing environment - what works and what doesn’t? 

 

 

The rest of the week was spent working through the script; initially exploring each scene on its feet and discovering what each character wants from the other. Homework has also been set - to create a biography for our characters. This preliminary groundwork raises as many questions as it may answer, but that’s half the joy in playing - trying out ideas and tactics until you find the shoe that fits! On Wednesday evening our community ensemble joined the company - they’re no slackers like us actors, they’ve been working on ‘pop-up’ moments for the past few weeks with some of the creative team. And they are simply incredible, energetic and dynamic people. They showed the rest of us how it was done and what they had been working on - I simply wept (in my defence it had been a 12-hour working day at this point). We spent some time that evening blending the moments the ensemble had been working on, with the scripted scenes of the play, to get a flavour of what the final version of our story would potentially look like. It’s really wet my appetite! Somebody pass the biscuits…

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