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Sweet Charity: Rehearsal Diaries

July 17th, 2018 No comments

As the cast enter the penultimate week of rehearsals for Sweet Charity, Assistant Director Georgie Staight gives us an insight into the rehearsal process so far…

We kicked off day one of rehearsals with a full company meet and greet between all the people making this show happen.  Designer Diego Pitarch and director Paul Hart presented the model box and talked through their vision for the show.

As our show is performed by a cast of actor musicians, week 1 primarily consisted of the cast learning music, co-orchestrated by Sarah Travis and Charlie Ingles. Choreographer Tom Jackson Greaves started by working one on one with Gemma Sutton playing Charity to choreograph the opening of the show. Week 1 ended with a read & play through with the whole company.

We began week 2 by starting to stage the show. Choreographer Tom Jackson Greaves staged the iconic ‘Big Spender’. It’s a demanding number with cast members, playing, singing and dancing and the first run of the number proved electric. It’s incredible to watch Tom work with the cast and see the way he weaves the musicianship into the storytelling so seamlessly. Paul (director), Sarah (musical supervisor) and Tom (choreographer) have a brilliant way of working together and are constantly finding new ways to add musical beats and movement to the storytelling. It makes for a playful and collaborative atmosphere in the room. We continued dancing, singing, playing and acting our way through act 1 and the week ended with a stumble through of everything covered so far in our very warm rehearsal room.

With 6 air conditioning units added to the room, week 3 began with staging two big numbers ‘Rhythm of Life’ and ‘Rich Man’s Frug.’ Musical Supervisor Sarah Travis has integrated a drum pad to ‘Rich Man’s Frug’ giving it a much more modern, electronic feel. It’s a beautifully stylish and full number. We continued to work our way through the play discovering ways to move quickly between locations and characters. We explored Charity’s journey and Gemma Sutton (playing Charity) talked about the enduring optimism and faith her character maintains and it’s become apparent how ultimately heart-breaking that is to watch. We explored the world of the Fandango Ballroom and the attitude of the girls who work within it.  This springs to life in the number ‘There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This’ where we see the characters Nickie and Helene dream of a better life with a hilarious and poignant self-awareness.

By the end of week 3 the stamina of the cast has truly been tested, having made our way through all the big dance numbers and some of the larger scenes. I’ve been bowled over by the positivity and talent of this company and can’t wait to see the pieces of the puzzle come together in week 4.

Sweet Charity opens on Thursday 26 July to Saturday 15 September. To find out more and book tickets click here.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream rehearsal diary: Week Two

May 4th, 2018 No comments

‘The Watermill Ensemble encourages everyone in the company to be daringly experimental and think outside the box’

Assistant Director Robert Kirby updates us on what has been happening during the second week of rehearsals for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

After a rehearsal free weekend, the company met back in Bagnor armed with a truckload of factor 50 to fend off the glorious sun that decided to hang out with us for week two. Movement director Tom Jackson Greaves gave the company the rare opportunity to dash out of the rehearsal room and do a session outside. When there wasn’t interference from ducks and dogs or actors making quick dashes through the grounds to make their next entrance for the matinee, Tom focused primarily on exploring the dynamic between Puck and the fairies. Whilst difficult to sum up in words the delicacy of Tom’s exercises and the way in which they led on seamlessly from one another, essentially we began to look at a grandeur vs animalistic nature of the chorus of fairies in relationship to Puck. There is arguably a push and pull type energy between them, and the space outside enabled the company to fully play around with and explore this idea in more depth, placing any discoveries they’d found back in to the rehearsal room in the context of the scene.

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of The Watermill Ensemble and was really interested to see what the room and process would be like. With half of the cast having worked together on Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet last year, there seemed to be a playful, gently anarchic and crisp energy which makes the process a very special and exciting one. It encourages everyone in the company (which has a 50:50 gender split) to be daringly experimental and think outside the box. I’ve no doubt that, as a result of this process, the show will be fresh, dynamic and bold.

Week Two also involved a visit from Susan Elkin, a freelance journalist and author who often writes for The Stage. She popped down to observe a rehearsal in order to learn more about the pioneering integrated signing, spearheaded by The Watermill’s Community Associate, Lixi Chivas. For two performances (13th & 16th June), Lixi along with interpreter Ana Becker, will be fully integrated into the show, making it dynamic and accessible. By being in costume alongside the company and through taking on the mannerisms and essence of the characters they are embodying, sign language is brought to the heart of the action, unlike traditional interpreting that takes place to the side of the stage, creating a split focus for audience members.

Having been in the room for rehearsals to interpret for Sophie Stone (playing Hermia), they have a deep understanding of the play and its story and during some rehearsals, have started the translation and integration process. Having Sophie in the company offers the production and the actors further choices to play with. For example, Sophie is able to sign without voice which empowers her, equally, the other three lovers can cut her out of the conversation during the quarrel by turning away from her, meaning she is unable to lip read what is going on, all of which creates a different dynamic between them. Another choice available to us and being explored throughout the process is the extent to which the lovers communicate with each other using sign. There are moments between Hermia and Lysander when they talk in BSL/theatre sign, deepening the intimacy between them and cutting out those characters who are unable to understand what is being said between them. This is in stark contrast to Demetrius, attempting to marry Hermia, who knows no sign language and doesn’t even bother to try, perhaps giving us some further insight into him. It also means that Helena, having been childhood friends with Hermia, uses it at times to offend and to spite her. Throughout the process, Sophie has translated lyrics to our songs into BSL, and this is being fused into the choreography of the show by Tom and the company to support the physicality of the piece. It creates something quite special that I’ll leave to you as an audience member to experience when you book to come and see it!
We had a Saturday call, filled up with roast dinners on Sunday and were raring to go for week three.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs from Thursday 10 May to Saturday 16 June. To find out more and book tickets click here.

Principal Sponsor Sheepdrove Organic Farm and Eco-Conference Centre.


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A Midsummer Night’s Dream rehearsal diary: WEEK ONE

April 23rd, 2018 No comments

‘Laughter filled our joyous rehearsal room’

As the Ensemble convened at The Watermill to begin rehearsals for a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we caught up with Assistant Director Robert Kirby to find out what’s been happening behind the scenes.

The first week of rehearsals for A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a well and truly jam packed one. The week was filled with our ensemble of ten company members throwing themselves into the read through. This was quickly followed by improvisations, music calls, movement, exploring character relationships and time spent getting our heads around the language, before starting to put the play up on its feet.

After being welcomed to The Watermill by Artistic Director and Director of our production, Paul Hart, we kicked Monday off with Designer Katie Lias and Paul sharing the model box and costume designs with the cast, creative team and Watermill staff. Set in an abandoned Victorian theatre, the play begins initially ‘backstage’ until the full set design is revealed later on.

After a read through of the play, the company then explored the ‘play within the play’ and in small groups came up with their versions of Pyramus and Thisbe. As laughter filled our joyous rehearsal room, this was a terrific way to playfully discover key ideas that we can revisit in the next few weeks when we begin to shape this part of the story in greater detail. This also enabled the company to quickly engage with the energy and improvisational nature of the ‘mechanical’ characters in the production.

With a talented company of singers and actor-musicians, music calls took place with our Musical Director Joey Hickman (who is also playing Demetrius and Flute… the character, not the instrument). Joey led us through his initial harmonies and arrangements for some of the songs that would be fused into our production. From the get go, the soulful sounds inspired by Simone, Lennox & Holiday sounded just beautiful as our ensemble got to grips with Joey’s magic. It’s pretty tricky to stop humming after rehearsals!

We blinked and ‘twas the weekend.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs from Thursday 10 May to Saturday 16 June. To find out more and book tickets click here.

Principal Sponsor Sheepdrove Organic Farm and Eco-Conference Centre.

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Work Experience Journal – Winter 2017

January 17th, 2018 No comments

One of our regular participants who attends Duologue, our weekly drama group that mixes deaf and hearing young people and adults, recently joined us for a short work experience placement. This is how her week went…


This morning, I was feeling a little excited but not nervous at all (which is quite unusual) I arrived at the office at 10am and I started work on threading baubles ready to decorate the theatre for Christmas. Then I got the exciting job of assisting Emma at Waterminis with two groups of little kids who are at least 4 year olds. It was quite fun although I don’t generally engage with small children very much. They gave me a smile on their face!

Afterwards, I went to the office to have lunch and then as time flew by it was suddenly time for an afternoon drama session with the adults. We played a fun game named ‘Invisible Obstacle course’ with the theme observation. That was the most fun I thought and the adults were friendly and we had a chat although it was a bit weird being in a class with those much older than me! Finally, I returned to the office and restarted threading baubles and here I am writing this journal.



Today I joined in with the sharing of Fourth Wall (a drama group for adults with learning disabilities) with Lixi as well as other staff. Their theme of the month was ‘reviews’ and they watched a performance of Under Milk Wood in the theatre and wrote a review and acted it out on stage. They were also joined with a group from the Castle School – post 16 year olds with learning disabilities. I thought that was really interesting to see the way they interact and understand things.

In the afternoon, I ran some errands for Kerrie (The Watermill’s Company Stage Manager) and her colleague who was busily making a boot for the upcoming show The Borrowers and I helped a little bit with that.

Then I went to the office and created a spreadsheet for the application forms for Fourth Wall. That was all I did today other than eating lunch which consisted of looking at the view from the office and letting others do their work.



Today I had the exciting task of watching a full run through rehearsal of The Borrowers. I thought they were very good and I could follow most things although I had forgotten the storyline. I was impressed that the actor playing the Dad used sign language as part of the song. I enjoyed learning about the different people involved in the rehearsal room and what job they do as part of the company.

I would definitely like to watch The Borrowers again with family and friends or I would recommend it!

The Horizons Programme is an ongoing opportunity that is available all year round. Please click here to find out more.






du Pre, Principal Sponsor of the Horizons Programme


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Rehearsal diary: How to direct two shows in two different locations with one cast… at the same time.

June 5th, 2017 No comments

House and Garden Director Elizabeth Freestone talks us through the benefits and challenges of rehearsing two simultaneous plays in two separate locations with the same cast.

It’s the day of the annual garden fete. A lunch and various entertainments are planned. Guests are arriving and the village is coming together to mark the day. So far, so simple. But not with Alan Ayckbourn. In House and Garden, he turns what should be a familiar English country scene into a whirlwind of drama and chaos.

Working out how to rehearse the plays is as much as a puzzle as rehearsing the plays themselves. The story takes place simultaneously in two places – inside in House and outside in Garden. The characters constantly move between the two locations. So when a character leaves House, they invariably arrive shortly afterwards in Garden and vice versa. So we need two rehearsal rooms with the actors moving between the two spaces. And I can’t be in two places at once – so sometimes I’m in one room and at other times in another, with my assistant director keeping an eye on things wherever I’m not! Then we need to make sure the scenes in each location run roughly at the same length, so that when a character turns up we can be sure they are entering at the right moment so our stage management team are armed with stopwatches. Then we need to time the journeys the actors make from the theatre (where we are performing House) to the grounds (where we are performing Garden) so make sure they can all get to where they need to be on time. As you can imagine, I’ve been waking up in the night sweating about the wrong actor arriving in the wrong scene at the wrong moment!

Brilliantly though, House and Garden is more than a technical challenge. It’s a complex story for the characters, all of whom go through life-changing events during the course of the day. Marriages break down, relationships are formed, families are re-built. We watch the characters go through personal crises, wrestle with political issues and work out what their futures will hold. So in rehearsals we’re getting to know the characters inside out, making decisions about who they are. We’re looking at how they hope the fete day will unfold – and then enjoying working on how they feel when the day doesn’t quite go as planned. I’ve always felt that comedy and truth go hand in hand – things are funnier when you really believe what the characters are thinking. So we’re working on finding that balance and treading that fine line.

Rehearsing at the Watermill means we can work outside and discover how to make the best of the theatre’s natural environment to bring the world of the plays to life. We just have to be careful the ducks don’t trip the actors up as they run to their next scene.

Elizabeth Freestone will discuss her approach to directing House and Garden in a Lunchtime Talk on Wednesday 7 June. Click here to find out more about this fascinating insight into the production.

Buy tickets for House and Garden


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Patronage through the ages: philanthropy and the arts

April 26th, 2017 No comments

Eleanor Teasdale, Development Officer, delves into the fascinating history of patronage and the arts. To find out more about supporting The Watermill Theatre click here.

Patronus is a magical word. Not just in the world of Harry Potter. It’s a borrowed term used by JK Rowling which dates back to Ancient Rome and the Latin translation for our modern philanthropic term ‘Patron’. It’s nothing new. Just as Harry Potter and pals summoned mystical guardians to offer help in difficult times, artists throughout time have called upon the support of wealthier benefactors to provide financial aid and help bring artist vision to life.

As a thank you to their patrons for their generosity, writers and painters have flattered them with a likeness. Either in paintings, or in a character portrayal or with a dedication in the foreward. The powerful banking family, the Medicis, are all over Florentine art; their faces popping up in scenes – sometimes discretely in the background or to the side, and in others jostling for prime position in the foreground. Even the golden balls of the Medici family crest are evident in many artworks of the time, and have been picked up more subtly in Botticelli’s The Three Graces as orange globes of fruit.

Shakespeare was well-known for his reliance on his Royal Patrons to stage his work, notably Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. With its complimentary eulogy to the (fairy) Queen, it’s said that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was most likely created for a special performance at Court. In the Tudor court, money and power went hand in hand and art was a powerful political tool among philanthropic courtiers and being seen to give to the arts often earnt them influence in the Court. Contrary to later Victorian paintings (as below), Elizabeth I never would have attended a public performance in an arena like The Globe. Instead she would have had the entertainment brought to her.

Thankfully King Charles II reopened the theatres in 1660 after the Puritans were booted out and monarchy was fully restored. The playhouses were once again invested in and returned to their former glory. As a result, the theatre became bawdier than ever. A frequent attender of the theatre, King Charles’ patronage of, and dalliances with, actress and prostitute Nell Gwyn (below) are infamous. Nell certainly knew how to work her position as one of Charles’ mistresses to her advantage. Indeed even on his death bed his parting bequest was for Nell to remain looked after – “Let not poor Nelly starve”.

Today patronage continues to flourish. Sainsburys have their own wing in the National Gallery, Saatchi has his own gallery, and the Sacklers have their own bridge at Kew Gardens. In the last financial year, individual charitable donations in the UK totalled an incredible £9.6bn proving that philanthropy is still popular amongst us Brits.

The Watermill is also fortunate to receive donations from generous patrons whose philanthropic support ensures we are able to continue to produce great theatre for all. We rely on individuals, trusts and foundations and corporate supporters to stage our work, keep the theatre open and expand our participatory work in the community. 13% of our annual income last year was earned through fundraising activities. You can read more about our finances in our Annual Review.

We are currently staging Twelfth Night, which will later tour the UK in rep with Romeo + Juliet. This is made possible by the support of Principal Sponsor Sheepdrove Organic Farm & Eco-Conference Centre and of UK Tour Sponsor Neal’s Yard Remedies. Co-Founders of both companies, Peter and Juliet Kindersley have been longstanding supporters of the arts in Berkshire and have previously supported The Watermill Theatre’s Shakespeare productions as well as the development process of our rural touring programme.

With a keen interest in Shakespeare, they thought it only fitting that with their combined love of food and the arts that they support The Watermill’s bold restaging of Twelfth Night. We are incredibly grateful to Sheepdrove Organic Farm and Neal’s Yard Remedies for their support and as part of their sponsorships, The Watermill will deliver a range of benefits to promote each brand.

Principal Sponsor

UK Tour Sponsor


Eleanor Teasdale, Development Officer

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Week Three: Faust x2 Rehearsal Diary

March 2nd, 2017 No comments

‘Our video, sound and lighting designs are instrumental: they could be thought of as a fourth actor’

The final week of rehearsals and our move into the theatre has been tremendously exciting. Our video, sound and lighting designs are instrumental: they could be thought of as a fourth actor. Luckily we have had a flavour of sound and video design in the rehearsal room; but realising the show as a whole only happens when the lights dim, the creative team hunker down with their laptops and the technical rehearsal commences.

In order to prepare for our move into the theatre, the third week of rehearsals has ended with us welcoming designer Georgia Lowe, sound designer Richard Hammarton, lighting designer Elliot Griggs and video designer Zsolt Balogh into the rehearsal room. We moved from close text work and the rehearsing of small sections of script at the start of the week into runs by Friday – piecing together all of our work thus far. Watching Jacques, Daisy and Ian’s performances take flight is one of the most joyful parts of the rehearsal process. And as I write this, watching Faust shaping up on the Watermill stage, I am hugely excited for our audiences to come and share this story.

Chloe France, Assistant Director

To find out more and book tickets for Faust x2 click here.


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Week Two: Faust x2 Rehearsal Diary

February 27th, 2017 No comments

As opening night approaches, Jacques Miche looks back on the rehearsal process so far.

When reflecting on our second week of rehearsals, I realise how quickly the time has gone! Nevertheless, it feels as though we have used our short span of time effectively. This week we’ve been delving further into the text and really exploring our space.  A trip off-site to a nearby studio has also been an interesting addition to our schedule (you’ll have to come to see the show to see the final results).

The more time I spend here at The Watermill, the more I enjoy it. There is definitely a sense of community here which is lovely to come and be a part of. As I look forward to the rest of our rehearsal process I am excited to see this piece come together and then finally give it an audience… bring on week three!

Jacques Miche is playing Mephisto in Faust x2. Previously, Jacques played Jason in Saving Jason at the Park Theatre, Knuckles in Bugsy Malone at the Lyric Hammersmith and The Artful Dodger in Oliver! (West End).

Faust x2 is a gripping story of lust, sacrifice and regret. Featuring innovative projection and a sparky original musical score, this contemporary retelling of the legend of Faust opens at The Watermill on Thursday 2 March and runs until Saturday 25 March. To find out more and buy tickets click here.

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Faust x2 Rehearsal Diary: Week One

February 21st, 2017 No comments

In her first week at The Watermill Theatre, Daisy Fairclough talks us through what the cast have been up to as they prepare for the world premiere of Faust x2.

The first week of rehearsals for Faust x2 has been extremely productive. For the first step of our journey, we began by going through the text, meticulously deciphering it and understanding its meanings and metaphors. Then we began working through the piece scene by scene to get an idea and feel of things, loose blocking and starting to build our world. We were able to get through the whole play by the end of the week, which is quite incredible.

Daisy Fairclough is playing Gretchen in Faust x2. Daisy was previously a member of the National Youth Theatre Rep Company. Her previous theatre credits include DNA, Pigeon and English (National Youth Theatre Rep Company). She can also be seen in the television production of The Strike Series and the film Just Charlie.

Faust x2 is a gripping story of lust, sacrifice and regret. Featuring innovative projection and a sparky original musical score, this contemporary retelling of the legend of Faust opens at The Watermill on Thursday 2 March and runs until Saturday 25 March. To find out more and buy tickets click here.

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Murder For Two Rehearsal Diary: Week Three

February 9th, 2017 No comments

Assistant Director Chloe France takes us through the last week of rehearsals for the British premiere of Murder For Two.

In any rehearsal process the heat is on in the closing stages. To safeguard against Ed and Jeremy combusting we have been engaging in weekly rounds of ‘forced fun’. The fun this week took the form of an early Burns Night celebration. When actual Burns Night rolls around next week we will be deep into the heart of tech. And so we gathered prematurely at the Actors Cottage where our resident Scot, Ailsa Bonner, had whipped up a feast of sausages, haggis (including an alternative version for those brave souls undertaking ‘Veganuary’), wine and whisky. Meat was consumed, toasts were made and the following morning we rounded it all off with a mini Ceilidh to warm up before rehearsal.

The final week in the rehearsal room looks ahead to the next phase: the stage. Amongst other deadlines the third week is crunch time on the prop and costume front. Designer Gabriella and our stage management team, along with wardrobe wonders Amanda and Eloise, have delivered us a stream of carefully designed paper props (book covers/ police paperwork/ mugshots), retro cafetieres and carefully distressed three piece suits. Trying out props and costumes in the rehearsal room is vital because once the set is installed in the theatre on Sunday and Monday the tech rehearsal, aka the race to the finish line that is the first preview, will begin.

The final week also heralds the  opening of the rehearsal room doors to our fellow creatives who will bring the show to the stage during tech week: designer Gabriella, lighting designer Chris Withers and co-sound designer Michael Livermore came to watch us piece the full show together. We have also welcomed the wider Watermill staff in: because it’s always useful to have a friendly face, an audible cackle and a bunch of new recruits to practice some audience participation with. As we move through tech and dress rehearsals towards previews the show we have nurtured in the rehearsal room will really take flight. Murder For Two is an uplifting dollop of American murder mystery and an ideal counterpoint to new year despair. So come and join us for a good old whodunnit.

Chloe France


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The Wipers Times Rehearsal Diary – Week One

September 13th, 2016 No comments

‘The war is not funny Sir’, insists sourpuss Colonel Howfield in the face of his benevolent superior General Mitford.
‘I think the authors are aware of that. I’ve a feeling that may be the point.’

Both Wipers the paper and Wipers the play puncture the reverie surrounding the ‘big questions of the war’ – death, destruction and futility – with humour. As such there’s been plenty of laughs in the rehearsal room this week as we begin to navigate our way through the combination of scenes, sketches and songs comprising The Wipers Times.

We began the week with director Caroline Leslie and designer Dora Schweitzer presenting the model box. Inside was a veritable playground for the actors. One key question we’ve returned to this week is ‘how do we transition from one location and reality to another, in a matter of seconds?’. The options offered by Dora’s design have been one of many leads we have followed in the past few days.

Once we had completed the read-through and blown the summer cobwebs away with a sing through of some of composer Nick Green’s score, led by musical director Paul Herbert, we got stuck into the research. Much like slipping into a post work-out ice bath, immersing oneself in the world of a historical script is best done head first, brusquely and .. erm .. communally. Caroline shared her findings about the Sherwood Foresters’ experiences and battle engagements in WW1, and the experience of trench warfare for soldiers on the Western Front. We also mapped the timeline of the play, in relation to the battles the Foresters fought and the publication dates of the Wipers Times: assigning each scene a date, location and time.

Our immersion, however, was necessarily speedy. Much work had to be done to get the scenes on their feet. As well as blocking the action on stage we have been joined by Movement Director Emily Holt who has helped us crack open the fantastical sketch moments and occasional dance routines the script calls for.

Having rested and refuelled in our billets over the weekend, we are all looking forward to getting stuck into some front line action again in week two.

Chloe France
Assistant Director

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The Wipers Times Rehearsal Diary – Week Two

September 20th, 2016 No comments

As Autumn falls and the play starts to take shape, George Kemp energetically details the rehearsal process and discusses the emotional journey that accompanies tackling such a poignant, true story.

Autumn is here. As week two of rehearsals for The Wipers Times comes to a close I think I can officially confirm that there’s a change in the wind.  As the temperature cools outside, it continues to rise in the Rehearsal Room on site.

Having got the whole play on its feet and had a ‘stagger through’ (literally staggering around the room trying to locate desks, lamps and papers whilst singing Nick Green’s brilliant songs) on Friday afternoon, we now have a shape for the play. A sense of the thing as a whole. Up until this point in rehearsals, it often feels like a case of stumbling from one scene to the next, solving each problem as it comes along and then pushing forwards. As soon as you put it all together though, much becomes clear as various things come into focus. The brilliant timeline that Chloe France (our assistant director) and Caroline Leslie (our director) put together for us before rehearsals began gets slightly re-jigged but becomes imperative for tracking the mental and physical journey of the characters.

But what is very clear now is that we have a play. It finally feels, if a little shaky, like it has arrived. We’ve found the dog hiding upstairs, all we have to do now is wrestle it into its lead and then we can take it out for a walk (sorry, I’m spending so much time around the many dogs that come to work with their owners at The Watermill that dog metaphors are now the only ones I can think of). Much of the week was spent blocking the second half of the play but we continue to tirelessly drill Emily Holt’s brilliant choreography alongside Nick’s songs with our fantastic musical director Paul Herbert – who it must be said has a remarkable amount of patience. When told how bad I am my excuse continues to be, “But surely not all of the tommies could sing?” It seems to fall on deaf ears, which is ironic.

I love this discovery time in rehearsals. Discovering the play, the character, where the thoughts come from, how the jokes work. It’s actor and director as detective which is my favourite thing. Not least because particularly for this play the research is so fascinating. We’re all fast becoming much more informed about the conflict on the western front than we were two weeks ago, and to know that through our work some truth about that war can be revealed is very touching. Especially considering we’re dealing with a true story with two very real men at the heart of it. I was transcribing a short hand written memoir by Jack Pearson himself (the character I play) at the beginning of the week and I suddenly thought, I may be the first person to do this. The first to pick through and write up this man’s words in a long time and I suddenly felt very humbled to be giving some sort of voice once more to this incredibly brave and indelibly funny man.

Next week’s work will bring detail and nuance to what we already have, tuning the engine that we’ve spent two weeks building.

George Kemp

George is playing Jack Pearson in The Wipers Times at The Watermill from Thursday 22 September to Saturday 29 October. Find out more and buy tickets.

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The Wipers Times Rehearsal Diary – Week Three

September 22nd, 2016 No comments

In the third instalment of The Wipers Times rehearsal diary, Jake Morgan provides an insight into the actors’ experiences as the play develops and opening night approaches.

This week we pressed on with some intense finessing leading up to a run on Thursday that was attended by writers Nick Newman and Ian Hislop, and David Parfitt from Trademark Productions. Once the run was over we were able to look at what we felt needed shifting and adjusting. Since then we have been integrating notes, which are helping to up the poignancy of certain moments. It was a very friendly room to do a run in and I was really excited to find our moments of comedy invention around the written humour well received. We have a great supportive band of people behind this show and our work is coming together. As we move into our fourth week, we are continuing to build, adjust and shape. This week we pushed ourselves further and we are ready to enter our fourth week in which we will open the show. Damn it’s exciting!

Jake is playing Barnes in The Wipers Times at The Watermill from Thursday 22 September to Saturday 29 October. Find out more and buy tickets.

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Frankenstein Rehearsal Diaries – Week One

October 17th, 2016 No comments

In the first instalment of our Frankenstein rehearsal diary, Assistant Director Lixi Chivas provides an insight into the rehearsal process of the upcoming Watermill production.

This week, we welcomed the Frankenstein company to The Watermill and what an incredibly busy week we’ve had!  Working with director Eleanor Rhode, writer Tristan Bernays, movement director Tom Jackson Greaves and sound designer David Gregory, the cast of two have already nursed our new-born Creature from life’s first cry to scaling the Alps.

Working on an Outreach schools tour adaptation of a famous text inevitably starts with deciding where to focus our attention.  While the story of Frankenstein is well-known, not everyone has read the book, which uses a literary device very popular at the time of stories within stories.  An arctic explorer, Captain Walton, tells the story of Frankenstein, who tells Creature’s story, who tells the story of a farmer called De Lacey! In our production we’ve chosen to begin with the unnamed Creature rather than his creator, Frankenstein (the name that is commonly, mistakenly, given to Creature).  And rather than a terrifying monster, innately evil, we discover he is abandoned and abused, seeking love and comfort but repeatedly, cruelly denied any kindness.  It is only this that pushes him into thrashing out against the world that fears and hates him.

There are so many nuances and details within the novel, including expansive back-stories for minor characters, and intricate studies of the thinking of both Frankenstein and Creature.  Refining the story into a punchy production that will be absorbing for audiences both in schools and at The Watermill requires clarity in the storytelling and amazingly for this stage in the rehearsal process we’ve already sculpted several key sequences.

Our director, Eleanor, is particularly interested in the ideas of galvanism that inspired Mary Shelley.  At the time, experiments appeared to re-animate the dead limbs of frogs by applying an electric current to the muscles.  In the book, Frankenstein has found a way to take this phenomenon to its furthest, unnatural, conclusion of resurrecting an entire, human form.  For us in our adaptation, music rather than electricity becomes the galvanising force. Our talented actor-musician Lucy Keirl and sound designer David are finding lots of exciting ways to lead the audience through the narrative, variously provoking and responding to our actor, George Fletcher.

We’ve been travelling through the story so fast it’s hard to believe we only started on Monday!

Lixi Chivas, Assistant Director

Frankenstein opens on Monday 31 October and runs until Friday 4 November. To find out more and book tickets please click here. Frankenstein on tour is generously supported by The Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation.


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Frankenstein Rehearsal Diaries: Week Two

October 26th, 2016 No comments

In Week Two of the Frankenstein Rehearsal Diaries, Lixi Chivas discusses the creative vision of the production as the rehearsals progress.

To balance out the considerable pathos and soul-searching intrinsic to the unpacking of Frankenstein, our second week has been characterised by silly voices, cake, and to quote the hashtag our director, Eleanor Rhode, tweeted, #BloodOnMySocks.

Getting stuck into the heart of the play now, Eleanor has been leading us through some weighty discussions with great insight into the text, the context of the novel and the condition of humanity.  Creature is broken by being abandoned by the person who created him, who should have taken responsibility for him.  He is repeatedly rejected by strangers who judge him, only on his appearance, as monstrous, rightly so ultimately but not at first.  It’s heart-breaking that Creature is constantly making himself vulnerable to others in his quest for love and friendship, but when he snaps, there’s no going back for him.  And we’ve decided that we’re not great fans of Frankenstein.  He is young, too young to question his actions.  He’s no evil genius, however, just someone who has the intelligence to understand the repercussions of his actions, but not the wherewithal.  He hasn’t yet learnt to be unselfish and his world has been entirely corrupted by the succession of terrible decisions he has made.

To give both of these tortured characters life, Tom Jackson Greaves, the movement director, has been working especially closely with George Fletcher, playing both Creature and Frankenstein, to pinpoint each milestone in Creature’s formative moments and to design a clear and watchable way of performing dialogue when both characters present are played by the same actor.  Tom has brilliantly sharp instincts for physicality and is always mindful of authenticity.  In mapping out how Creature would incrementally gain control of his pain, muscles and cognition, we’ve been drawing inspiration from how a child develops awareness, movement, dexterity and then language.

The world the characters inhabit has been richly furnished by sound designer David Gregory and actor-musician Lucy Keirl who have been creating an auditory ‘language’ for the production, finding a balance between live and pre-recorded effects.  Lucy is providing ‘spot effects’, similar to ‘Foley’ in film-making, creating ambient noises live on stage.  Even Lucy’s musical instruments get drafted into the soundscape, being recommissioned to generate sounds in a whole new way.  I’m fascinated watching David and Lucy build the atmosphere, experimenting with the blend of natural and electronic sound.  Initially the galvanising storyteller, ‘Chorus’ is very active throughout the play. As well as taking on a defined role, Lucy acts both as an extension of George, reflecting what his character is thinking, saying or doing, and as an observer of Creature and Frankenstein’s decisions, alongside the audience.

It’s an absolute delight working with such a knowledgeable and inventive team who somehow bring writer Tristan Bernays’ stage directions to life, even those that instruct ‘Creature begins to trek across the snowy Alps’.  And afterwards you think, ‘yes, of course that’s how you do that…’

Frankenstein opens on Monday 31 October and runs until Friday 4 November. To book tickets click here.

See more of Philip Tull’s rehearsal photos here

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Murder For Two Rehearsal Diary: Week One

January 11th, 2017 No comments

Following the first week of rehearsals for our first production of our 50th Anniversary Season, Assistant Director Chloe France shines a light on Murder For Two as it takes shape in the rehearsal room.

Murder For Two rehearsals have kicked off this week with plenty of piano, a lot of singing and a smattering of razzle dazzle. Having indulged in bank holiday goodness at the start of the week we gathered on Tuesday to begin rehearsals. First up the designer, Gabriella Slade, shared her model box with us. Along with the director, Luke Sheppard, she revealed to the cast, creative team and Watermill staff that our production of Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair’s musical will take its aesthetic inspiration from the monochrome underworld of film noir. Gabriella’s designs perfectly capture a show which the writers summarise as “Agatha Christie done by the Marx Brothers”. I cannot wait to see Gabriella’s set and costume designs realised at the tech!

After a read/sing through – which our actors Ed MacArthur and Jeremy Legat very gamely threw themselves into – we got stuck into putting the show on its feet. Murder For Two is nothing if not a workout for those on stage. Between them, Ed and Jeremy play thirteen parts across the show, as well as performing twenty-four songs. An instrumental member of the team is musical director and co-sound designer, Tom Attwood, who keeps Ed and Jeremy on the straight and narrow in the sea of allegro, rubato and calando. The beauty of the Murder For Two score is that each piece draws from multiple musical references and genres. The songs feel both excitingly novel and reassuringly familiar, and are woven beautifully into the storytelling.

With only two cast members Luke is careful to keep the structure of the day flexible: mixing up staging, musical note bashing, and consolidating as much as possible – so as not to exhaust ourselves on one activity. Battling the – ever present – elements in the Watermill rehearsal room has been a challenge this week: one we have bravely combatted with some 90s hip-hop backed warm ups and morning yoga sessions. Things took a turn up yesterday, however, when the room became a hive of activity during lunchtime. Whilst the piano was expertly tuned, a sizzlingly effective new radiator was also installed. Thus our Saturday morning rehearsal was pleasingly sub-tropical. We look forward to a productive, and toasty, commencement to proceedings next week.

Murder For Two opens on Thursday 26 January and runs until Saturday 25 February. For more information and tickets click here.

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Murder For Two Rehearsal Diary: Week Two

January 18th, 2017 No comments

‘Murder For Two is a script which yields ever greater gems the longer you sit with it’

As the snow descended over Bagnor this week, we have continued to plough through the script, and have now completed a ‘first pass’ of the play. This roughly translates as having looked at all of the text and music once. Whilst working on this, we have also begun to revisit the beginning of the show and make ‘upgrades’. Upgrading takes place once the actors have some of the music and text off book (learnt) and we can begin to tentatively put the script and score to one side. Upgrading will continue into week three until we complete the ‘second pass’: going through the entire show for a second time and adding greater specificity.

Unlocking Joe and Kellen’s glorious non sequiturs and rapid-fire comedy duo antics has been a joy. Murder For Two is a script which yields ever greater gems the longer you sit with it: Ed and Jeremy are certainly working their socks off to master the various skills required to do it justice. As well as music, lyrics, lines and blocking, we have thrown some choreography into the mix this week. Luke Sheppard has dusted off his childhood tap skills in order to impart his knowledge of time steps to Ed, who gets to bust some moves whilst Jeremy accompanies him on the piano.

One particularly exciting challenge, not least for our deputy stage manager Ailsa Bonner and company stage manager Kerrie Driscoll, has been to communicate the movement of an invisible character around the stage who interacts with people, props and furniture. At The Watermill we have our lovely assistant stage manager Sara Shardlow to – quite literally – pull the strings in the wings, whereas when we transfer to The Other Palace we’ll be on our own. So we have had to devise methods of moving items using the actors on stage, but without seeing either actor touching any object directly. And thus we have arrived at String Technology. This equates to set and props having long pieces of fishing wire attached to them which are pulled over/open/closed and so on by someone at the other end, who hides the action behind their back (or the conveniently situated piano). So keep your eyes peeled for said trickery in show!

Chloe France, Assistant Director

Murder For Two opens on Thursday 26 January and runs until Saturday 25 February. For more information and tickets click here.

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