Welcome to the Michael Grandage Company’s production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh
Who knocked Mad Padraic’s cat over on a lonely road on the island of Inishmore and was it an accident? He’ll want to know when he gets back from a stint of torture and chip-shop bombing in Northern Ireland: he loves that cat more than life itself.
Director - Michael Grandage
Set & Costume Designer - Christopher Oram
Lighting Designer - Neil Austin
Sound Designer - Adam Cork
Wig and Hair Designer - Richard Mawbey
Casting Director - Anne McNulty
Associate Director - Lynette Linton
Associate Designer - Simon Wells
Associate Casting Director - Ruth O'Dowd
Production Manager - Patrick Molony
Costume Supervisor - Mary Charlton
Props Supervisor - Celia Strainge
Fight Director - Kate Waters
Company & Stage Manager - Lorna Cobbold
Deputy Stage Manager - Helen Smith
Assistant Stage Manager - Christopher Carr
Assistant Stage Manager - Ashley Mochan
Head of Wardrobe - Tim Gradwell
Deputy Head of Wardrobe - Ben Enathally
Head of Wigs, Hair and Makeup - Emily Leonard
Sound Operator - Laura Gingell
Martin McDonagh is an award-winning writer and director. His plays include: The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull in Connemara, The Lonesome West, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Pillowman, A Behanding in Spokane, Hangmen and the upcoming A Very Very Very Dark Matter. As a Writer and Director for film his credits include: Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges, Six Shooter and most recently Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Handsome. From Inishmore
Padraic's father. From Inishmore
Cropped hair, pretty. Davey's sister. From Inishmore
Slightly overweight, long hair. From Inishmore
Associate Director Lynette Linton provides a week-by-week summary of rehearsals for The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Our first week begins with a ‘Meet and Greet’ where the full company get together to meet and connect before we dive into the play. There is a lovely nervous excitement bubbling throughout the room as we munch on pastries and drink our tea. We are also joined by author Martin McDonagh on the first day.
After we go around the room and introduce ourselves, a smaller group sit around the table and do a readthrough, so we can hear the script out loud together for the first time. It’s great to hear the words spoken by our incredible actors and I can’t wait to see how the scenes will play out over the coming weeks.
That same afternoon Stage Management mark out the room with our stage dimensions. We then begin our first pass through the nine scenes of the play, mapping it out on the floor and deciding on some loose blocking. We ask questions and begin to dissect each scene. It’s a very collaborative room and so exciting to see these characters come alive from the page.
We also spend time thinking about what furniture and fittings we will need in our space to make the play as effective as possible. There are many technical elements to think about in this show, including cats, blood and guns – and that's only a few of them.
By the end of the week we have made it all the way through the play and spend our last morning with Fight Director Kate Waters (‘Kombat Kate’) as she takes us through the necessary safety precautions of some of the fight sequences, as well as making them look realistic. It's a great way to finish an exciting week.
I can't wait to start from Scene One again on Monday and see what discoveries we make as we delve deeper into Padraic's world.
Time is flying! How have we reached the end of week two already? We start on Monday at the top of the play and slowly work our way through it, adding more detail as we go. Michael asks the actors questions as we discover the different layers of these characters and really work out who they are.
We’re also joined this week by our understudies and I begin separate understudy rehearsals with a readthrough of the play so we can hear our actors’ voices in their various roles. In our company, members of the original cast are also understudies, so some have at least two roles to learn. Our understudy company members have up to four roles to learn.
In the main rehearsals with Michael we go through the whole play a second time with new discoveries made each time, the characters becoming more rounded and three-dimensional. There is still much more to find but I love this part of the process because the detail begins to emerge.
Towards the end of the week we have a morning focused on, what we call in our schedule, a ‘Gun Workshop’. This is where we’re visited by the show's Armourer, Mark Shelley, who tells us some interesting facts about guns and then speaks to each actor in turn about how their character would hold a gun, or what type of gun they might use, in 1993. Mark is also in charge of the show’s special-effects so we take him through some of the blocking we’ve already devised and he makes suggestions as to how we can get the best results with what is available. Our Fight Director, Kate Waters, also joins us so it’s a wonderful morning of collaboration and discovery.
This week we also spend time getting to know each other. The whole cast is from Ireland so Michael asks them to tell us a little bit about where they’re from, letting us see it by placing a pin on a map. We soon realise that our company comes from all over Ireland. We discuss the difference in accents and Michael asks for a fact from each of them. It’s a really lovely moment and feels like it cements the already strong bond the company is forming with each other.
We end the week with a day of understudy rehearsals where we mark-out the blocking for the whole show so that when we come back together we can layer detail on top. I can’t wait to add this in the coming weeks.
Week three is already upon us – I can hardly believe it. After spending time making our way through the script technically, as well as working out the blocking, this is the week we begin to uncover more detail in the scenes, with a particular focus on character and objectives.
Michael and the actors begin to find layers that we hadn’t seen before and we push all the decisions that we’ve previously made even further as we’re still in a place where we can make suggestions in the room. We spend the week unpicking the text, and because the actors are off book and even more confident with their lines we’re able to zoom in on individual words and sections of scenes to get an extra level of detail. This is particularly useful when thinking about the wit, intelligence and speed that links the thoughts of these characters. Michael watches what’s been put together and then asks the cast key questions about the characters and text to cement the work.
He also requests that the actors commit to and play everything as big as possible, in order for us to fully explore the scenes, because we can always pull it back if necessary. This method of working means we uncover subtleties we may never have found otherwise. We end up getting through the whole play in two days and make many new discoveries.
We spend the remaining two days of the week passing through the play again. It’s so interesting to see how much it has developed over a night or two – it’s as if the notes become embodied once they are able to filter for a few days. It’s a great process to witness, almost a subconscious reaction, in which the hard work truly pays off. We leave for the weekend feeling happy and confident about the place we’re in.
We start the fourth week’s rehearsals in a similar way to how we ended week three - working through each scene in detail and layering on top. This week, though, we have our wonderful writer, Martin McDonagh, back in the room with us. He’s here to look at what we’ve done so far and also to answer any questions that have arisen during rehearsals.
It’s great to have Martin’s insight and he raises his own questions too. He joins us at the beginning of the week and we look at a few things differently as he offers a new perspective on some of our character choices. We end Monday with more things to uncover over the course of the week, Martin reminding us all of the stakes in the play - each life can find itself in danger within seconds and he encourages us to play that further in our version of the play. It’s helpful to be reminded of that at this stage.
Later on in the week we have a ‘sound day’ where our Sound Designer, Adam Cork, spends the day with us going through all the sound cues in the play, including the cat sounds and gunshots. We go through each one individually to make sure it is in the right place for the actors. It’s such a fun rehearsal as people must learn the rhythm for their bullets to make each one work. This is crucial, particularly in Scene Eight where there is so much gunfire. It’s great to introduce this element into the rehearsal room now as everything feels like it’s really starting to come alive.
We end the week with what we call a ‘put together’ – the first time we run all the scenes back-to-back. We don’t call it a ‘run’ as we’re not at that stage yet. It is wonderful to see it all in one go, and watching this Michael decides we should put in an interval. It’s also clear from the put together how much joy is important in this play, due to its satirical nature, and also how easy it is to get this off-balance. We end the week discussing this, looking forward to making sure we find this balance next week.
This was our last week in the rehearsal room - it always surprises me how quickly this comes about. You think you have all the time in the world and then, suddenly, rehearsals are over. But we’re ready. Ready to share this show with an audience, ready to see what their reaction does to it, particularly as it’s a comedy. In a way we’re waiting to be informed by them.
Before that we have runthroughs left in the rehearsal room. There are three planned for this week and after spending Monday working through each scene in fine detail it’s time to have our first proper runthrough on Tuesday morning. It goes well and Michael is happy. I find myself laughing at moments I have seen many times before as we keep finding something new in them, always a good sign.
We welcome new people into the room with each runthrough, each one something to do with the show - from costume to lighting to press and marketing. It’s so interesting to hear where they laugh, where they don’t, and how each audience differs. It’s going to be an incredible experience once we get this show in front of 900 people.
Alongside the runthroughs, we also devote an afternoon to a ‘blood rehearsal’. We get to experience some of the squibs first hand, as well as literally covering some of the characters in blood. It’s an extraordinary sight and makes us even more excited about what this show is going to look like once we put it all together at the Noël Coward Theatre.
We end the week in a great place, and after some encouraging words from Michael we’re all buzzing to get into the theatre and add real audiences to our show… Bring on Tech Week!
We are now in ‘Tech Week’. How quickly that has come about, and what a journey it has been. It feels great to be in the theatre as a company because we feel we are ready for this - ready for lights, sound and, most importantly, an audience.
For our first technical rehearsal we begin to work slowly through the play, stopping and starting to adjust sound levels and lighting states. It’s fascinating to watch our Sound Designer, Adam Cork, and Lighting Designer, Neil Austin, at work. They’re wonderful and offer Michael many ideas to think about. It’s always a special moment when you see the scenes lit on stage for the first time.
Tech is a process that lasts over three days. It’s been known from the start what a technically heavy show this is, but you really see it during this process. Along with the lights and sound, we have a front cloth, a huge amount of props, live cats and lots of blood. It’s fair to say it’s an interesting, exciting and highly technical few days. It’s also wonderful to see the actors adjust to their new home. The Noel Coward Theatre is beautiful and we will be performing to about 900 people every night. It will be a big change from a handful of people in the rehearsal room.
After three days of purely technical rehearsals, we perform a dress rehearsal to an invited audience of about 140 students to get a taste of what the next few nights will be like. It’s a real eye-opener for the company and we spend the following days discussing what we’ve learnt while preparing for our first preview in front of a full paying audience.
Our first preview is terrific, so much so that we even get a standing ovation! The cast are happy and Michael and the Creative Team are very pleased. It’s great to know that we have a really thrilling and funny show.