| Inside the Rehearsal Room

Week Three, Day Three

There are many more actors in the rehearsal room today as the cast return to working on Scene Eight, a large ensemble scene. At this mid-point of rehearsals Michael makes some general observations, particularly with regard to the attitude towards the performance and how it will be received: ‘Don’t even consider the prospect of being liked by an audience. I invite us all to not try and get their sympathy.’ He warns the cast against being ‘too helpful’ towards them by softening the play, encouraging the actors to embrace its harshness: ‘Be quite brutal with your own character – be tough, ruthless, violent – that’s when the play comes alive.’ 

actors during theatre rehearsals
The Cripple of Inishmaan rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

The cast get into position for the start of the scene and with Michael’s call to order – ‘Here we go…’ – they run it once through. Afterwards, he comments: ‘It’s absolutely thrilling when you’re all bang on cue and don’t let anything up. Don’t stretch lines out, drive them through.’ He asks the actors to consider the shifting focus within the scene: ‘You can really help us, the audience, understand. In this scene, when we’re watching backs and heads, you need to be fixated on whatever it is you’re looking at to help us see what we need to.’

Michael then gives individual notes. Focusing on Bartley’s question to Bobby – ‘Babbybobby, you weren’t in long with the polis at all when you was took down for Johnnypat’s head-stoning, how comes?’ – he asks Conor to, ‘Help us a little bit – find your way through the line, get under the skin of it’. Of Kate’s line referring to Billy – ‘Not a word from him’ – Michael says, ‘Ingrid, try and do that absolutely reflectively, to yourself’. He turns to Pat Shortt, playing Johnny: ‘One thing you could help us with, Pat – stand up on “What’s this that Johnnypateen hears?” to show us the significance of that moment.’

actor during theatre rehearsals
The Cripple of Inishmaan rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

The scene is run one more time to consolidate the session’s work. ‘There’s been lots of fantastic choices made today,’ reflects Michael afterwards. ‘Try and hold onto that.’ Looking towards the week ahead he makes a request: ‘I’d love you to use this coming weekend to go through the script one more time, to do final line learning and get the detail of the words. You need detailed work to be able to riff and to surf laughs with an audience.’ Michael ends the day’s rehearsal by observing, ‘It’s the middle of week three and you’re all in a really good place’.