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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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Watership Down Rehearsal Diary – Week Four

June 16th, 2016 No comments

Production week…

When one show finishes and another begins, the theatre is miraculously transformed from one world to another as if by magic…

Within minutes of the Untold Stories cast taking their final bow on Saturday night, the Watermill tech team began the ‘get out’.  This is when the theatre is completely gutted of all set, lights, costumes and props to make way for a new show.  It’s wildly exciting for the new company and somewhat heartbreaking for the old company but we get over it during what we call the ‘post-show blues’… This turnaround all happens in just a few days, including all the building, painting, rigging, wiring, sound checking, costume setting; (the list goes on).  Unlike the actors who get four weeks to rehearse the play, the tech team only have a couple of days to perform months of blind planning.  It could be likened to imagining the configuration of a huge jigsaw puzzle without the pieces and then suddenly having to put it together in record time.

Once everything is finally in place, the cast arrives and tech begins.  We start from the very beginning of the play and every time there’s a lighting change, costume change, sound effect, scene change, prop negotiation, entrance or exit, we stop to insert cues or sort out staging issues…so roughly every four or five seconds.  With the ensemble nature of this piece we are all nearly always on stage.  This means that any costume changes usually have to happen within seconds and entrances/exits have to cross smoothly through very tight gaps in the set.  Assistant stage managers and any available actors (usually none) help out those who need to change or get to their next entrance on time. Sometimes we need to actually leave the building and run around the garden in order to get from one side of the stage to the other! (Fingers crossed it doesn’t rain too much…).

Once we’ve spent two days adding the technical elements to the show, we have one dress rehearsal and then previews start! So here’s to all the unsung heroes behind the scenes who make The Watermill’s shows notoriously fantastic.  It’s over to you until our first preview on Thursday.

Who’s coming?!

Scarlet Wilderink

Scarlet is playing Hyzenthlay in Watership Down at The Watermill from Thursday 16 June to Saturday 23 July.
Find out more and buy tickets.

 

 

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