This is Matthew's sixth blog post about rehearsals, where he talks about teching the play in the theatre itself in preparation for previews.
Transcript of Podcast
I love techs though, because it’s not really to do with us actors, it’s to do with the technicians and stage managers. So there is plenty of time to sit around and drink tea and lark about with your mates!
But I think this has to be one of the longest techs I’ve ever done … strange considering there is no lighting and no sound! When I did Forgotten Voices at the Riverside Studios, our tech took 23 minutes! A friend of ours was doing a tech in the same week for Lord of the Rings: The Musical and that took five days! More similar to the length of this! So, by the time we came to do our first run-through we hadn’t rehearsed for a week, but it was all still there. I’m really, really grateful that we’ve got 10 days of previews – you never normally get that many.
This is a very tiring theatre to play, it is exhausting. And it’s not just me thinking that because I’m older than the rest of the cast – everybody feels the same. It’s a theatre that you have to learn how to play, and it is unlike any theatre I’ve ever played before. It takes a lot of energy. In the tech I thought to myself, “Oh no, don’t push too much” because then you get into the realms of overacting. You can be really quite subtle here as the audience will come to you.
Matthew [Dunster] the director had a very good point about being ‘match fit’ but not ‘show fit’. We’re all fit because we’ve been doing our circuit training, so we’re ready to go, but we’re not show fit because nobody knows quite how to use that energy onstage yet. You need to conserve energy, but a lot of energy is being dissipated, not being honed down and concentrated.
Another thing about this theatre is that there is no snobbery, there is no hierarchy, it is very inclusive. For instance, I went to the box office today to get some press night tickets for my family and I had been queuing up and I got to the front and she said “Come in! Come round!” so I was invited into the box office, and you never get that – it’s lovely!
The tour groups here were really helpful during tech week too. The way you play this theatre is very inclusive. It’s not a bunch of people all sitting in the dark who you can ignore – it is a different approach. My character has a lot of interaction with the audience, and I’m hoping to play off them a lot. So it was nice to have people watching, even before the previews!
I’m nothing to do with the Greek camp at all so watching the other scenes during tech week really helped put it all in context. You need to know where you are in the timeline. It’s really hard to know where you are in the play if you haven’t been following what’s going on in other rehearsals. I wasn’t in any rehearsals for the fighting, so there were times when I wasn’t there and times when others weren’t there for my scenes.
Learning my last speech was a nightmare, because it is slightly different from all my other lines and they are out of sequence. It also made learning the other lines hard, because I tried to learn that speech alongside the rest which was a stupid thing to do – I should have learnt my other lines and then gone back to it.
The other bit I actually found the hardest to learn was the procession of names im the first scene! Cressida and I are up on the top balcony for that scene and we’ve got the band behind us. On the first day of the tech rehearsal it was terrible, I got the fear and I couldn’t remember a single line! Everyone is relying on me getting the names in the right order. I got into a panic, and if you panic you’re lost! So Matthew put Danny with a book behind me, so if I lost a line he could prompt, but after the first show it was absolutely fine – the pressure was off after that.
Matthew our director is quite specific, but blocking is not quite his style. We do what we feel would work, and then he rearranges it. And then it has to be rearranged again when you get on to the stage because it is a completely different space. Matthew is very detailed, he was fantastically detailed in the tech. It meant that we were going very, very slowly, just one section at a time and we went over and over and over again, each section until it becomes embedded and then you have to join all the bits together.
Originally there were hangovers of syphilis in the characterisation of Pandarus in this production, so I was going to have a copper nose, like syphilis sufferers would have, because their noses drop off. Then it became too much about the nose so that went. Then right at the end for the final speech, I was going to have the most terrible open sores! We tried it in the first dress rehearsal and it looked fantastic, but because we’re doing that scene on the battlefield, the danger is it will look like it’s a battle wound from fighting. And Thersites has already got all the open sores, so we felt it was too similar.
But I have a sweeping cape as well and there is a lot of swishing going on. It’s a great cape, a fantastic sort of faded purple colour. I’ve just gone along with whatever the designers say. You get ideas but then they go away and I’ve got no idea about the overall picture. Although, my hairstyle came from seeing a bloke outside who had a double Mohica – like go-faster stripes! I really wanted that, but then I thought, “No because I’d have to have it forever!” So we adapted it and that’s how we came to the side curls. It is a great look, a little bit Quentin Crisp!
These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as s / he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his / her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.