Reasons To Be Pretty rehearsal diary – week one

BY Almeida Theatre   October 13, 2011

Last week Kieran Bew, Siân Brooke, Tom Burke and Billie Piper joined us at the Almeida Theatre rehearsal rooms to begin work on Reasons To Be Pretty. Each week Michael Attenborough’s Assistant Director, Natasha Nixon, will be updating us on the rehearsal process and giving us an insight into the world of the play. Here’s her first diary piece…

The first week of rehearsals for Reasons To Be Pretty have flown by! That old saying, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ certainly rings true as I recall being in gales of laughter for most of the week – the heady mixture of Michael and the cast sharing hilarious anecdotes in rehearsals and seeing Neil’s darkly comic writing come to life. Without any effort, I have found myself settling into my new home for the next few months, taking great pleasure in getting to know all the Almeida team and most certainly indulging in far too many croissants and flapjacks.

Our ‘meet and greet’ was delightful and I found it humbling to see just how many people work at the Almeida and who make it such a welcoming and creative place. There was a crackling energy and sense of community in the room as Michael gave a brief introduction to the play and introduced everyone. He then handed over to Soutra Gilmour (the designer), who told us about the concept behind her design. I don’t want to give too much away so, you’ll have to wait and see… but, there were gasps and wide-eyes in the room as Soutra explained how the design unfolds as the play proceeds… there’s a clue in there somewhere!

Without further ado, once the extended Almeida family had gone back up to their offices, we sat around the table and had our first read through. When you hear the script out loud for the first time the effect is electrifying. Immediately, the different textures and musicality of the lines flood out as you tune into the actor’s own interpretation of their character. I felt incredibly lucky and exhilarated to be amongst such a talented bunch and I can’t wait to get stuck into rehearsals.

After the read through, we had a good chat about the script. Michael went into more detail about his working relationship with Neil, the history of the play and what really captured his imagination when he first read it. It resonated with me that although this is such a contemporary play, the issues it addresses are timeless. Namely, the difference between the image we project and the internal perception of ourselves. It is this tension and conflict between the two that we constantly find ourselves battling with; today more than ever as we are exposed to a plethora of external pressures that affect this relationship. The question is, how can we reconcile the two? 

Once we had all spent three days talking through the nuts and bolts of the play and felt clear about the characters’ journey and relationships and what a lot of these American references in the play really mean… we were ready to get it up on its feet and start from the top. Michael’s aim was to let the actors’ play and to plot through the structure of the scenes; it felt very liberating and organic. Already, I can see how these scenes are starting to take shape and I eagerly await revisiting them and making new discoveries.

I have to confess, there is something incredibly seductive about this play, almost addictive… In the words of Mr LaBute: “We are creatures of desire – we want all the time.” Bring on week two!

For more information on the production and to Book click here