Red | Rehearsal Diary
Red– Technical Rehearsals and Previews
Technical rehearsals are where all the elements of the show finally come together to form a cohesive whole: light, sound, set, costumes and the theatre space itself now need to be integrated with what we have created in the rehearsal room over the past month.
‘Tech’ can be a stressful period, especially in the creation of a brand new show, which throws up all kinds of challenges while the Creative Team try to make the production come together in a short space of time. Fortunately the Red tech is relaxed and productive as the majority of the team have worked on the show before. Instead of the usual aim of tech – trying to work out how the various elements of a production fit together – we’re able to usefully spend our time rediscovering and refining a structure for the show, which the Creative Team already knows works. This enables us to work in detail from early on and move through the tech with real efficiency.
We spend time making sure the space enables the actors to do all they need to in the action of the play. For example, we move the tarpaulin used in priming the canvas to the other side of the stage in order to give more space in the place where it was originally located, as that area is where we keep the paint buckets and the actors were beginning to find it a little crowded now that we’re in the theatre. We also focus on the scene changes, ensuring that the timings of the movements are adapted for the new space. Composer Adam Cork and Lighting Designer Neil Austin work closely together to ensure they are helping tell the story of the scene changes in synchronicity with each other – for example, ensuring that the moment when the actors lower a painting coincides with a particular musical note and the dimming of the lights, as if the painting has been ‘deactivated’.
Tech moves speedily and so we are able to have two dress rehearsals before our first preview. These are highly beneficial for the Creative Team – a chance to identify and iron-out remaining issues before our first audience joins us. They’re also extremely useful for the actors, who use the ‘dresses’ to get a sense of the vocal energy required to fill the space and also as opportunities to practice their quick changes with the help of our excellent Wardrobe Team.
The first preview is both a relieving and exhilarating experience. After weeks of telling the story to the same small group of people, the actors have a full, responsive audience to laugh at the jokes and discover the story for the first time. Over the course of the next week of previews we continue to hone our work, analysing the audience response, rehearsing in the afternoon while performing the show at night. The presence of the audience helps us pick out, for example, several moments where a pause is being held just a little longer than is necessary and where picking up the pace would be more helpful dramatically. We identify a few moments where blocking needs to be adjusted due to sightline issues – for example, we realise that when Ken first enters and awaits instructions from Rothko, he cannot be seen by some members of the audience on the far left of the auditorium. Michael gives Alfie a new position to move to so that the entire audience is able to access the story of Ken’s arrival in his new workplace.
After a week and a half of previews, during which the production grows in confidence each day, the team celebrate with a joyful Press Night – the final time that everyone is together before the creatives move on to new projects and the actors and show staff look forward to the run ahead.