And so it begins... Isla Carter (Estella) tells us about first rehearsals for Great Expectations
The first morning:
The first day of a new rehearsal process is akin to the first day of school. Smartly dressed, hair washed, finger nails scrubbed you wonder what your new classmates will be like. Will you all play nicely together, and come out with a straight A production or will you be left on the bench, go blank in the exams and be responsible for your school’s Ofsted failure?! Ok so it’s never that bad; But it is a bit nervy and it must be 10 times worse for the producers who actually have their hard earned cash riding on it.
Thankfully Matt and Katherine (the duo that make up the newly formed production company Tilted Wig) are smiling. I had the pleasure of working with them last year under their old name Creative Cow with a 4 hand production of Our Man in Havana and they do NOT subscribe to the terrifying producer archetype. Having both acted themselves and grown their company over 10 years from grass roots, they will bend over backwards to create the most comfortable and creative playing space they can.
Also present were various press and marketing people from some of the touring venues we will be visiting over the course of the next 5 months so there was quite a crowd when we sat down to read the play for the first time.
Firstly though James (Designer) presented his model box of the set - a painstakingly precise miniature version of the space our action will take place on. He described it as an abstract and versatile arena with ladders and levels and hidden stools for us to transport the action to the many locations described in Dickens story. Sophie our director expanded on the different ways we might tell the story in this world and how the use of props like lanterns might be used. Also discussed was the idea of using foley -sound which is created live on stage instead of pre-recorded. This would add an exciting aural dynamic to the performance.
On to the first read - Most actors will have read the play a few times before this initial read through in front of each other and the production team. I can’t think of anything worse than cold reading under these circumstances - especially Dickens, whose trade mark long sentences and Descriptive dialogue are fiendish to get your tongue around and can render an unprepared actor breathless. However, no matter how well you know the play it’s always thrilling to hear it spoken aloud by the cast for the first time. Hearing all the different voices and character interpretations helps me understand the arch of the story and brings a fresh understanding to the text. It’s very exciting to imagine how 4 weeks from now we will be in front of an audience - and a little daunting. There’s a lot of story to be told and discovered between now and then!