The Rehearsal Process: Undetectable Rehearsal Diary
I’ve always been jealous of assistant directors. They get to be a sponge in the rehearsal room – soaking up all the knowledge of the director. I’ve been assisting Rikki Beadle-Blair on Undetectable and here are 5 things he does in the room that I’m going to steal for my own process:
1. Sitting in the audience from the start
The first week was spent on table work – sat around reading through the play and asking questions. From my experience, directors will usually follow along with the script at this stagemaking notes. Instead, Rikki closes his eyes and listens to the play. I can count on my hands the amount of times he has looked at his script in rehearsals. Right from the start of the process, he places himself firmly in the shoes of the audience – experiencing each line as it will be spoken.
2. A family that eats together, stays together
This one is simple but really effective. Rikki brings in food to share every day of rehearsal. Each day the table is strewn with hummus crisps, fruit and biscuits for us all to eat at our pleasure. I can’t quite describe why, but there is something just so nice and communal about sharing food that brings everyone together.
3. Talking around the play is as important as talking about the play
Conversations in the room will move seamlessly from the play, to the world the play is speaking to. We reflect and question how the themes of the play permeate our own lives and the people around us. We talk about gay culture, we tell stories and give anecdotes – as we return to the text itself, these conversations instill in everyone a feeling of responsibility to deliver on the questions and messages in the play.
4. Talking about nothing is as important as talking around and about the play
I mentioned in my last blog that each rehearsal begins with a run up to Primrose Hill followed by an intense physical warm up of press ups, lunges and squats. Each warm up lasts for roughly 30 minutes each morning. I realised recently that during this time we never talk about the play or the process. It’s a chance to catch up, to talk about ourselves, just to chat really. The warm ups prepare us for the work we are going to do and the conversation allows us to catch our breath before we begin.
5. Asking questions later
At the start of the process, Rikki hands out eight A4 pages of questions to the actors to answer in character. These questions range from ‘Where do you live?’ to ‘What’s something you would like to give a second try to?’ and ‘What’s a question you can’t answer?’. I’ve seen questionnaires being used in rehearsals rooms before, but interestingly, Rikki doesn’t ask to see the actors’ answers until much later in the process after the play has been blocked. He’s interested in process, of how the actors came to those answers and how their answers have changed as the work on the play has progressed.
Published in Collaboration with King’s Head Theatre
Also By Kings Head Theatre: