Greyscale rehearsal diary

BY Almeida Theatre   May 20, 2011

Greyscale will be taking over the Almeida Theatre as part of this year’s Almeida Festival 6 – 31 July. An ensemble Company, everyone from the designer to the actors contribute to the process of theatre-making. This past week they have been using our rehearsal rooms to concoct the ultimate theatrical experience: Theatre Brothel. Here Assistant Director Oliver Lamford gives us a sneak preview of what to expect. 


Today, I was God.

It’s not often an assistant director can justifiably say that, but this afternoon, filling in during rehearsals, I did quite literally play God. It felt good. I enjoyed the attention.

Greyscale certainly don’t like making it easy for themselves. Co-artistic directors Lorne Campbell and Selma Dimitrijevic are concurrently rehearsing three different shows from the company repertoire, while also writing and directing a further full production each. Every day, the two directors rehearse different productions in different rooms at the Almeida, rewriting at night, passing actors between shows. With a mixture of focussed work and relentless optimism, rehearsals are sailing along, but the pace of events is pretty relentless. We’re here in the Almeida’s lovely rehearsal room for a fortnight, before successive residencies presenting the Theatre Brothel at Newcastle’s Northern Stage and the Hull Truck theatre, before returning to the Almeida in July – the first week it may be, but all that to come it feels like the calm before the storm.

Much of the theatre made by Greyscale is interactive. Forget Whose Line Is It Anyway-style improv skits, there’s no calling out open suggestions here. The plays are intricately planned and written, brim-full of ideas, tragedy, humour. A brilliantly skilful company of actors play a host of roles, from Judas Iscariot to their own good selves. Stories knot, twist and unravel in every show. But, essentially, these plays are utterly unpredictable – the script tells only half the tale. Page after hyphenated page leaves space for what might happen in those fateful moments when an actor addresses the audience directly, and waits for a reply…

Sometimes, there’s a long wait. Other times, chaos reigns. And very occasionally, for a short time, magic takes over. When something happens that you know is unplanned, fiercely live, yet makes perfect sense. It’s that spontaneous moment that the company seems to be searching for.

Clearly, shows like this are nothing without a crowd. Rehearsals are a bit tricky as a result – session after session has myself, the stage manager, anyone to hand, standing in for an audience that we have yet to meet. I’ve been chatted up by a man in a fur coat. The stage manager has destroyed half his supply of biros. My origami repertoire has trebled in number. And I haven’t even asked Judas yet what he’s planning with that rope.

by Oliver Lamford

Book tickets for Greyscale at the Almeida Festival