| Rehearsal Diary

Week One

Associate Director Lisa Blair provides a week-by-week summary of rehearsals for Henry V

Today is the big day! It’s the first day of rehearsals for Henry V and for the next five weeks we’ll be rehearsing at the Jerwood Space in Southwark.

Our day begins at 11am with a ‘Meet and Greet’. The purpose of this is for everyone involved in the production to meet one another and begin to establish the relationships that will continue over the rehearsal period and into the twelve-week performance schedule. Those invited range from the Creative Team – director, designer, Lighting Designer, Composer & Sound Designer, etc. – to the twenty-strong acting company, to the marketing consultants. We all get the chance to mingle and introduce ourselves informally over a cup of tea.

After this we all form a circle and, going once round, say who we are and what our title/role/character is. This done, rehearsals begin with a showing of the model-box. This is a small, to-scale version of the set and is a very important aspect of the first day of rehearsals – it’s very useful for the actors to see the shape and get a feel of the stage on which they will ultimately be performing. During the next four weeks we will have a to-scale mark-up on the floor of the rehearsal room, so we will need this picture in our heads. It’s also helpful to establish entrances and exits and to ultimately understand the design concept that both Michael Grandage, the director, and Christopher Oram, the designer, have worked on.

Christopher also shows us the costume designs for each character. There are a lot of people in this play so it was brilliant to see the difference in colours and status and, ultimately, the spirit of each character through their costume design. We made copies of these, as well as photographing the model-box, and blue-tacked them to the walls so we could refer to them anytime we needed in rehearsals.

After the design talk, we got stuck into rehearsals straightaway. Michael’s process is exceptionally clear and engages the actors immediately. We read one scene at a time and then he asks the actors to translate each line into modern language for clarity of thought. This isn’t a purist exercise – interpretation is absolutely allowed, but if a translation is factually incorrect then Russell Jackson, our Text Consultant, or Michael will make sure it’s corrected. We also discuss the use of language, interpretation of character and their various journeys. This exercise shines light on the unknown and throws up questions that can be explored in rehearsals.

theatre rehearsals in a rehearsal room
Henry V rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

Following this, we got the scene up on its feet. Michael let the actors work their way through each scene several times, allowing them to create their own natural ‘blocking’ – the precise movement and positioning of actors on a stage in order to facilitate the performance. This process was applied for the whole play and took us until the end of the fourth day to complete.

On day five we focused on movement with Michael Ashcroft, the Movement Director, and Adam Cork, Composer & Sound Designer. Adam and Michael sat in on the first week of rehearsals to fully understand the direction of the play and the essence of each and every scene as it was explored. This meant that by the fifth day they could look at the fluidity of the characters’ journeys between and during scenes. It was absolutely brilliant to experiment with a physical and vocal language among the company and see where this might fit within the play’s narrative.

Overall this week has been absolutely fascinating. We’ve unpicked the meaning of every word, put each scene on its feet and started to explore the relationships between characters – and also relationships as colleagues! I’m looking forward to next week.