Reasons To Be Pretty rehearsal diary – week two

BY Almeida Theatre   October 19, 2011

The Reasons To Be Pretty rehearsal room has had a few visitors in the last week; Penny Dyer the Dialect Coach and Terry King the Fight Director have both been helping the cast perfect their performances. Read Natasha’s rehearsal diary to find out more…

Whilst doing the crossword on my lunch break it made me think that it’s actually a good analogy to describe the rehearsal process! If we viewed the script as a crossword puzzle, in week two, with the help of the clues we answered from week one, we are enabled and informed to put in some more answers. I must confess; there have been a few ‘cheats’ with a couple of emails back and forth to Neil (the writer) for some hints with the more cryptic clues! Nevertheless, as we dig deeper into the play more clues are answered and the puzzle is slowly but surely unravelling before our eyes.

This week, we have been working our way back through the play revisiting the scenes that we touched on last week, developing the basic shape and starting to hone in on the finer details. Michael encourages the actors to play with sections of the scene and search for their own answers whilst at the same time feeding in notes for them to try. He is very approachable and versatile in his direction and the notes range from the abstract, for example what the temperature of the scene is, to the bigger questions such as, what the character’s agenda is and what tactics they are using, to the more technical notes, such as if there should be a pause or if the line needs to be ‘on cue’. Whichever type of note Michael gives, he never loses the wood from the trees and has a tight grasp of the story and the characters. We all feel very much in safe hands!

All the guidance and support from Michael in the rehearsal room is wholeheartedly received and embraced by the talented and brave cast who are working incredibly hard each day. This brings me onto the two special guests this week who have also given their support: Penny Dyer and Terry King, the voice coach and fight director, respectively. Each of the actors had a one-on-one session with Penny who gave invaluable techniques and exercises to help with the Mid West American accent in the play. Exercises such as hanging your tongue out or biting down on a pencil to the side of your mouth were the bizarrely wonderful tips to help relax the back of your throat and move the voice away from where us Brits like it, right at the front on our lips! It was fascinating to see how the accent affects the character and their body language. Terry, the fight director, came towards the end of the week to show us the tricks of the trade from giving someone a simple slap across the face to a good old pummelling! He started the session by asking what the fight or slap would look like if compromises for sightlines had to be made and from there, as if like magic, choreographed a painfully realistic stage fight and slap.

We ended the week with a production meeting over lunch. This was a chance for the Almeida technical and design team to touch base with news from the rehearsal room and make sure we are all up to date. It is vital that we are all on the same page as whilst we are working in the rehearsal room the rest of the team are busy sourcing props and building the set; all to ensure that once we get into the technical rehearsals everything is in place. It is a huge operation, not to mention the marketing, press and administration teams at the Almeida who are also working their socks off upstairs in the office.

It has been another fantastic week and we are all really in to the swing of things now. It’s thrilling to be making further discoveries and to find more of the answers to the clues each day.

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