| Rehearsal Diary

Week One

Associate Director Bryony Shanahan provides a week-by-week summary of rehearsals for Labour of Love

And before we know it, that’s week one done! It’s gone by in a flash and yet we feel right in the thick of the world now, having delved straight into the small matter of British politics from 1990 to 2017.

When I arrived for the first day, the rehearsal room seemed vast: Stage Management were setting up, designer Lee Newby was crouched by his model-box getting ready for the presentation and an impressive spread of tea, coffee, pastries and fruit was waiting for people to get stuck in. I got things ready my end – getting research books out for people to dip into and generally trying to make myself useful, whilst working through that first day of school feeling that everyone must have!

Soon after, people started arriving and before long the room was bubbling with catch-ups and introductions as people prepared for the ‘Meet and Greet’. By 10.30am the room didn’t seem quite so vast as forty or so people got into the obligatory circle where we go round and introduce ourselves and say what we’re doing on the production. It breaks the ice and, vitally, reminds you how enormous the team working on this production is: producers, actors, creatives, marketing departments and many, many more.

two men in theatre rehearsals
Labour of Love rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

After the introductions, we sat down and launched into the first read through, which a smaller group stayed for. It’s great to finally hear the script out loud after months of prep and reading it to yourself. Two things were immediately obvious: we have a great cast and the play is brilliant. The jokes and humour flew, but also I hadn’t anticipated how much it would move me. The characters are so human and we spend nearly a lifetime with them, through huge experiences to the little but significant ones.

One of the main tasks this week was to really get our heads around the timeline of events, which spans from 1990 to 2017, and includes huge global landmarks, crises, achievements, scandals, as well as working out the localised timelines of our characters. Before getting up on our feet, director Jeremy Herrin wanted us to go through the play thoroughly, scene-by-scene, extracting all of our questions and, as a whole group, having the big conversations together.

man playing brass instrument
Labour of Love rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

As it’s a new play we were really lucky to have writer James Graham with us all week, who could help us with some questions but also, excitingly, respond to how it was sounding and to the conversations we were having. He’s now spending the first weekend making small re-writes that incorporate this week’s work.

actor seated, listening
Labour of Love rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

The scene analysis is really detailed and vital but it’s quite tiring too in its intensity, so we broke the week up with visits from people working directly in the Labour Party and British politics. These included past MPs, cabinet members, lobbyists and also a current constituency agent. They were all fascinating and the passion with which they expressed themselves was incredible and made me realise how driven they are and how much they care, irrespective of whether or not I may agree with them.

It also helped us understand the complexities within the Labour Party itself and how there are very different schools of thought, from grassroots to leadership, and how this has always been the case. This is at the heart of the play and so it was brilliant to get some first-hand accounts and insight. And the conversations have already started to challenge my own thoughts and understanding, which I didn’t expect.

So a really interesting and stimulating first week – I can’t wait for us to get on our feet now. We actually don’t have lots of time, so we’ll be moving with real energy over the next three weeks to get us ready for tech.