Where to start?!
We kicked the week off on Monday morning with a meet and greet (what a lovely bunch!), a look at the set and costume design (by James Turner) and a read through of the play (adaptation by Ken Bentley). So a fairly conventional start.
By the afternoon and continuing through the first week we (the cast) and Sophie (our director) begun to put the play on its feet, walking through the scenes to get an understanding of the physical language of the show. It’s very much an ensemble piece and the techniques and devices we employ to tell the story reflect this; most of us are multi-rolling, we are creating a lot of the sound effects live on stage and we are responsible for manipulating the set and props in order to create the different scenes. James’ design really helps us with this premise; rather than a literal construction of the marshes or Satis House or London, the set offers an array of playing spaces, platforms and levels with ample opportunity to create the many locations involved in the story.
What also became apparent in the first week was the scale of the challenge. Not just the usual stuff (learning lines, remembering when and where to move props/set, the specifics of the blocking etc.) but also in the story itself. The play is set over quite a number of years and so as actors, we each have the responsibility of being very clear and specific about our own characters’ journeys. What happened in my character’s life before the play started? How has this shaped my character? What has happened since my character’s last scene? (which could be several years ago!) What do they want to happen in the future? Answering these questions takes a lot of consideration, imagination and exploration both in rehearsal and out of it.
So all of this along with learning a few songs and dances, many, many laughs and a couple of obligatory post rehearsal pints was our first week on Great Expectations. Bring on week two!