| Rehearsal Diary

Week Four

Time and Memory

This is our final week in the rehearsal room and, with that, the return of Anna, fresh from the New York opening of her play, A Delicate Ship, and Adam Cork, our Composer and Sound Designer. Michael starts the week with an observation for the company: ‘If you’re playing Hamlet and you mess up Act One, you’ve at least got four acts left to convince the audience you’re any good. We don’t have that luxury here. Therefore, you have to be totally alive in every single scene of this ninety-minute drama.

That’s what we need to hold onto as we move into this week and beyond.’ This, in turn, leads to questions about the nature of time and memory, which the play condenses and intensifies (respectively) via its helical interweaving of the people and places that it depicts. Many of these characters experience their own private revelation about the finite nature of their life and work and, as such, often retreat into memory, which is timeless. Until that is, the present finally catches up with them (and us). It’s a hint of melancholy, a colour without which the play would lose some of its intrigue. 

group looking at archival materials
Behind the scenes on Photograph 51. Photo: Marc Brenner

Adam plays us some of the sound cues he has been working on and – in the space of a few days – Anna’s play seems to lift off the page and into the bodies of the six actors. Adam explains that he was inspired to write music that represented the intricacies of quantum mechanics (the study of particles on an atomic and sub-atomic level). As such, the score is delicate and precise in equal measure, adding an intangible, but highly expressionistic, touch to scenes firmly rooted in the labs of King’s and Cambridge. In many cases, dramatic action is seemingly born out of the music preceding it, acting as audible punctuation. Michael encourages the six actors to ‘surf’ the end of a refrain in order to propel themselves into the scene, ensuring a relentless energy and forward momentum throughout.

archival materials
Behind the scenes on Photograph 51. Photo: Marc Brenner

Midway through the week, we start to run the play as a whole, just for ourselves at first and then in front of members of the Creative and Production teams (who will be with us from the move into the theatre). At this point, costumes and, in the case of two characters, wigs are introduced to be able to conjure the onstage experience as accurately as possible. We run the play four times in total before the cast break for a well-deserved bank holiday weekend. After one more round of understudy rehearsals, our Stage Management Team start packing up the rehearsal room in preparation for the move to the Noël Coward. With that, our first four weeks of work draw to a close. Next up, we’re into technical rehearsals – where we will meet our set and lighting design for the first time – and dress rehearsals, before presenting Photograph 51 to its first audiences.