Assistant Director, Natasha Nixon, fills us in on the last week of Reasons To Be Pretty rehearsals. There’s a visit from the writer, Neil LaBute, who shares his gems on the play, baseball and American swear words…
The morning routine of nipping upstairs to get a coffee before settling down to a line run is securely set in place as we approach our mid way point in rehearsals. Discoveries continue to be made in rehearsal and feel just as fresh and vibrant as they did in week one. Scripts are being put to one side as the actors’ take the plunge in remembering their lines and Michael is starting to cement the blocking and run the scenes. In spite of everyone being a little fatigued, everyone’s commitment (along with a few caffeine fixes) is breeding a second wave of energy to push the play through to the next stage.
A highlight this week has been Neil LaBute (the writer) visiting us in rehearsals from the states. He not only provided us with pearls of wisdom and thought-provoking suggestions about the script but lots of delicious treats from across the road to nibble on too – thank you Neil! It was fantastic to have him in the room and to see Michael and the cast light up with excitement and pride of what we have achieved so far. Of course, there’s a part of us all thinking – “what does he think?” but, equally, I imagine, Neil has also been thinking: “how are they all getting on over there?” since our rehearsals started. Neil was incredibly supportive and collaborative by giving little edits and tweaks in light of what he saw in rehearsals along with educating us about baseball and certain pronunciations of profanities, which I’m not at liberty to write here!
It’s rewarding to see how the scenes are gaining more texture as smaller details are sewn in and the actors are released by letting go of their scripts. The history between all the characters, their relationships to each other and the world in which the play is set is really illuminated now. In particular, something that intrigued me about Reasons To Be Pretty when I first read it was what it means to listen and be heard. It’s fascinating to track what the characters listen to, what they choose to ignore, what they say out loud and indeed, what they decide to cover up. Humour, being a powerful device which all the characters use in order to cover up or disguise the truth. Never a truer word is said in jest as Geoffrey Chaucer reminds us in The Cook’s Tale: “But yet I pray thee be not wroth for game; A man may say full sooth in game and play.”
We were lucky enough to be able to pop into the Almeida Theatre and have an afternoon rehearsal in the space. This gave us a chance to imagine how it will feel and sound in performance and, I have to add, a massive buzz in thinking that this is where we’ll be in a few weeks! From a technical point of view, it was a great opportunity to be removed from our rehearsal room bubble and think about the articulation, sightlines and the relationship with the audience in the space. All of which were rich findings to bring back and use in the rehearsal room.
As week four approaches and we near technical rehearsals and previews there is a healthy amount of work still to do but, a readiness to start running the scenes through and seeing the play as a whole. The safety nets and harnesses are all in place and now it’s time to jump!
By Natasha Nixon
To read more and book tickets visit the Reasons To Be Pretty webpage.