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Frankenstein Rehearsal Diary – 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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Watership Down Rehearsal Diary – Week Three

June 9th, 2016 No comments

Back to the beginning…

Now that we’ve finished working through the play we go back and start again.  This time we go through it with a slightly finer tooth comb; making changes to blocking we loosely set in week one, fixing on-stage ‘traffic’ issues, allowing time for costume changes, seeing how those costumes will affect movement we’d choreographed, allowing time to pick up/drop off instruments etc… so there’s a huge amount to do.

We’ve been given our costumes by our lovely wardrobe department and this week we’ve started to wear them in rehearsals. Your movement can be restricted by what you’re wearing so we need to get used to how it feels.  Due to the ensemble nature of this play, many of the parts are ‘double cast’ meaning one actor plays multiple characters.  This week we started to run sections of the play in real time so we can get an idea of how long we have to change our costume… Amanda in the wardrobe department has to be very crafty with elastic and velcro to allow an actor to change costume in less than 20 seconds!

We’ve spent lots of time working the music into the movement sections we finished last week.  There will be live violin, accordion, percussion and singing on stage to accompany these moments and Dom has been engineering when and how this happens.  Some of the music that Dom’s written sounds quite folk like, which works perfectly in complimenting the storytelling nature of the play.  It’s written in a very natural place for our voices, which stops it from sounding like ‘singing’ and more like a band of brothers on a journey…  I like to think that these moments represent Richard Adams’ allusions to the camaraderie of a group of World War II soldiers.  Dom has also written all the underscoring (background music) and sound effects that accompany the play’s scene changes, moments of action or tension, fight scenes and Naomi’s movement sequences.  Adding sound to these sections will allow the drama to have the filmic quality that this script lends itself to.

Nothing else to report really… Oh except we all had a lovely time at The Watermill Summer Fair on Sunday!

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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Watership Down Rehearsal Diary – Week Two

May 31st, 2016 No comments

As we come to the end of week two, we’ve almost blocked the whole script!  By ‘blocked’ I mean worked out each character’s physical journey on stage.  We’ve been using a rehearsal room with the rough dimensions of our set marked out on the floor with tape.  This is so we get an idea of the space we’ll be working in when we get into the theatre.  It feels like you’re playing on a giant road map rug for adults, but it prevents us having to adjust all the blocking to fit the size of the stage.  In week five we get into the theatre and can start using the real set.

We’ve focused a lot on movement this week.  Although we’re telling the story of a group of rabbits, Naomi Said, our Movement Director, doesn’t want us to physically mimic a group of rabbits.  Instead, she’s created seamless moments in the play where we see glimpses of a rabbit’s physical behaviour without having to act the entire play as rabbits.  This means that the story can still be told with truth and poignancy, which was one of our director’s main priorities. We were also given a very important part of our costume… our ears!!  They will act as a visual in communicating that we’re playing rabbits without needing to literally hop around or thump the ground with our feet.
We do a ‘bootcamp’ warm up every morning with Naomi to make sure we’re fit and strong for when we start performances.  Due to the nature of a small animals’ movement, we’ve been working on a very contained and controlled type of movement to make sure we can dart, twitch and jump just like rabbits but in our human form.  This requires a lot of strength and agility, especially when we’re all sharing a small stage, so all those squats and sit-ups definitely won’t be in vain!

Most of the movement has been devised through improvising and work-shopping ideas as a group.  It’s a very creative way of working which has produced lots of exciting and stylistic movement sections.  Now we just need to add music and we’ll be well on our way to creating the cinematic atmosphere that will complete these moments of action…

See you next week!

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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OUR UNTOLD STORIES – Letters to Tomorrow Me

May 26th, 2016 No comments

Kiki wrote to herself in her mother tongue

Swanswell clients recovering from alcohol and substance misuse wrote letters to their future selves as part of Our Untold Stories

Summer 2035

Dearest Tara,

I’m writing this letter to remind you of your goals all those years ago and to congratulate you on achieving them! You were in a very hard place and have overcome some very hard obstacles! Well done you!

Leonie is now 21 years old, very beautiful and well adjusted, a bright and loving young woman. You knew you would have that nice silver, Audi sports car, money to maintain that youthful glow, and above all stayed abstinent from alcohol and kept all your close friends and family dear to your heart.

You were, back then, an amazing person to have been through what you did and came through to be an inspiration to others that has made me the amazing woman I am today: a model mother and 1000% there for Leonie.

Yours sincerely, x


For support with addiction, you may like to visit swanswell.org or call 0300 003 7025

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Watership Down Rehearsal Diary – Week One

May 26th, 2016 No comments

Week one of Watership Down rehearsals has flown by! We’re having so much fun putting this great play together, so I thought I’d update you on how we’re getting on…

Lots of people have been asking me how on earth it’s going to be done… Rabbit onesies?  Avenue Q style puppets? Animatronics? (actually, no one suggested that) but I can assure you that this version of Watership Down will probably defy all of your expectations.  Our director Adam Penford and Movement Director Naomi Said, are working together to create a language for our rabbits that is both genuine and stylised in order to tell this magical and nostalgic story.

Day one of rehearsals always begins with meeting everyone over tea and coffee and then we all sit in a circle to read through the script. This is usually followed by one of my favourite parts of the rehearsal process, the model box viewing.  A toy-size version of what will soon be our life-size playground, equipped with miniature props, staircases, platforms, and backdrops.  Richard Kent has designed a fantastic set which represents the stunning countryside of Watership Down.  It won’t be long before The Watermill is transformed into a labyrinth of rabbit warrens and patchwork fields… We even had a cast field trip to Watership Down itself so we could take in the view!

Later in the week we sang through composer Dom Coyote’s folky and filmic music, with some of us singing, and some playing instruments.  But to answer another one of your FAQ’s, it’s not a musical.  There are musical moments in the play but there aren’t any tap-dancing bunnies…yet.  We also spent a day playing with some brilliantly designed puppets by Matt Hutchinson which will add yet another creative element of story-telling to this incredibly unique production.

As we move into week two we’ll start to see some of the magic happening…
Until next time!

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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Bees, Badges and Bunny Ears

May 26th, 2016 No comments

The Watermill Summer Fair looms and Jan, my wife, now a Bee Keeper, will be there – on the Bee Keepers stall with lots for children to do including making their own badges.

I’ve been asked to write a few words about the Andrew Lloyd Webber Trainee which is a one year (paid) appointment at The Watermill Theatre, starting in September. However, my concentration is broken by the background grumblings of “how stupid” and other what I can only assume are Bee Keeper’s sayings.

The Watermill is once again, looking for a Trainee Production/Stage Management Assistant and I’m trying to think how to describe the sort of person we are looking for – the description is not going very well.

Eventually the request of “Lawrence come and sort this out will you” stops my writing – Jan is trying to assemble a button badge maker she has just bought from the Internet with Chinese instructions.

My wife is far more intellectual than I and much better qualified but has not spent her life with the daily and random challenges I meet as a Production Manager.

So I stop and go help her with her challenge at the same time she helps with mine.

This is a bit like describing the sort of person we are looking for. You don’t have to be academic or want to go to university. You just need an enquiring mind and to have that random collection of skills that means you don’t want to be tied down doing just one thing – but also willing to try anything and I mean that….

This week Lee, our current Trainee has set up rehearsal rooms, made props and has spent a day shopping in London with Amanda our costume supervisor. He was also a rabbit for a morning – yes, our next show is Watership Down!  Lee was asked to stand in by our movement coach as a routine had to be worked out with the right number of people.

So if you fancy not only gaining great technical skills – and the possibility of playing the odd furry animal – then why not apply to become our next Trainee Production/Stage Management Assistant?

If you love all sorts of technical stuff, love breaking things and putting them back together again, love art and drawing or are keen on design and technology then this could be for you. This is not a gap year fill in -  but aimed at those who want to just do stuff – practical or physical or technical and creative -  hey you might even become a badge maker at the Summer Fair

For further information please email: csm@watermill.org.uk or call Kerrie on 01635 570925 or you can download an application form by going to our website: https://www.watermill.org.uk/work_for_us

Lawrence T Doyle
Production Manager

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