| Rehearsal Diary

Week Two

That’s another week done and we’re half-way through our rehearsal period. It’s amazing how quickly time flies and we’re now right in the thick of staging the piece.

The play moves between many different decades, so this has been something we’ve been playing with in rehearsals, asking: ‘How can we show this?’ Helpfully there are lots of specifics written into the text itself, but Jeremy has also been reacting to ideas in the room with Stage Management doing their usual magic. For example, someone might have the idea of eating a sausage sandwich and, before you can blink, there they are for us! In a tight schedule and big piece this is brilliant and means we can keep moving forward with fluidity and banking those spontaneous ideas found on our feet.

woman with hands up
Labour of Love rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

Between Design, Props and Stage Management teams, we’ve been given an entire room full of ‘stuff’ that fits within the world of the play. This ranges from every prop – and there’s lots! – mentioned in the text, but also anything that felt like it could belong and be useful within a constituency office setting. This means the process is really playful and we’re always hunting out opportunities for detail and fun business to include in the scenes. I’m regularly finding myself walking to the props table and going straight down nostalgia lane with Walkmans, old PCs, floppy disks and such like.

Jeremy lets the actors sketch through a scene first from instinct, experimenting with different positions and tones, and then he’ll shape it, suggesting and nudging a direction a bit, before repeating this cycle. Each time we get more specificity, but as the actors are encouraged to keep experimenting rather than fixing anything down, we make discoveries each time that edge us closer.

actor looking surprised
Labour of Love rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

This is in contrast to other scenes that play with farce and have set pieces of comedy. The end result should look spontaneous and chaotic, but as ever with farce it has to be tightly choreographed with real detail. We spent a lot of time getting the beats clear in a joyful moment of panic for the characters, involving an important diplomatic visit and a series of increasingly unlucky events! In these moments, drilling and repetition is the name of the game and the detail is as fine as: ‘Look down, say your line, pause, look over your shoulder, walk towards the desk, double back on yourself,’ etc.

We’ve also been continuing to wade through the vast political landscape we’re dealing with, discovering important details all the time. For example, it’s only the candidate and agent that can wear rosettes on polling days, and there we were merrily attaching them to every blazer! It’s great to have an open line to some of our experts on this and be able to check with them as we go that what we’re doing is accurate. We’ve done our research, but there are so many tiny details and unofficial rules that it’s important we’re checking the authenticity along the way.

Psychologically, getting over the two week mark you can feel the entire company stepping up into the next gear and generally start to work a bit faster as decisions become firmer too.