Right, I’m now two thirds of my way through my contract but I’m about to go through the hardest week I’ll have here. Out of Order has completed it’s two week run in Southwold and we’re off to Aldeburgh with it next week. Then, a week tomorrow (Monday 24th), we open September Tide there. First things first, though.
How The Other Half Loves ended it’s run in great style a fortnight ago. As a cast of six and a company of nine we bonded so closely I think we were all upset that it had to finish! Finish it did, though, and we got to open OOO two days later. I really wasn’t sure how we’d get on on opening night as we hadn’t done nearly as many runs of it as we’d have liked but we managed to pull it off and the audience lapped it up. We had a few minor problems on the night but nothing that the audience would necessarily have noticed (fortunately the cast and stage management team are all able to cover things up with a touch of panache!). Over the last two weeks we’ve managed to hone the production and take advantage of some great feedback from the audience; both in terms of laughs on the night and comments in the local press or even in the local pub! The show is now fettling fine and should go down a storm in Aldeburgh next week! Some notable quotes from The Stage review include ‘Deftly performed, the cast keep energy levels high‘ plus ‘the characters always remain believable no matter how farcical the situation becomes‘ and on a personal note ‘Chris Clarkson is almost unrecognisable from earlier in the season.’ In fact, the writer of the play, Ray Cooney, came to see us a week last Thursday and thoroughly enjoyed it. He even invited us all to the pub afterwards and put a tab behind the bar! Always nice to know when you’ve impressed the writer himself! Especially as he originally played the role I was playing…!
During the daytimes of OOO we’ve been rehearsing September Tide. Now ST is very much a straight drama, nothing like HTOHL and a million miles away from OOO. The cast is made up of myself, Eliza McClelland, Rosanna Miles, Michael Shaw, Harry Emerson and Jill Freud. It’s been fab getting to know Jill (or Lady Freud as we know her!) and I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to work with her. She’s in excellent form, particularly as she’s 88 years young! We’ve also got a new director for it, Phil Clark, and I can honestly say his rehearsals are probably the best I’ve been in for any show in my career. The rehearsal room is calm, enjoyable, open and just filled with an air of relaxation. Phil has been very clear that the process for rehearsing this play (I don’t know if this is how he does it for other plays, too) should be led by us as actors playing to our natural instincts. He doesn’t use the stage directions printed in the scripts (and rightly so in my opinion), he makes sure that we are playing the scenes in a truthful way that suit our characters, not just because we are being told to stand somewhere or walk somewhere. It’s incredibly refreshing! At first I thought working like this would hold us up and delay the process but it has actually done the opposite. Yesterday we were able to do a first full run through of the play off book (ie. without using scripts) and it was wonderful. To be in this position when we’ve still got a week to go is fantastic! He can now look at sections of the play that need some finesse adding to them and fine tune our performances well in advance of us getting onto the set. His positivity has been rubbing off onto all of us and that has helped us all to relax into our characters, cement our on stage relationships with each other more easily and learn our lines more quickly. Like I said, I’ve never been in a rehearsal process like it! I don’t think I’ve ever said this before but opening night can’t come soon enough!
I mentioned earlier that this week will be the hardest of my whole season in Suffolk and here’s why but first of all I want to clarify this isn’t a complaint, it’s merely me letting you see the other side of the theatre that you may not be aware of! We will be rehearsing ST (a very emotionally charged play) from 10-5 everyday before jumping in the van at 6 to head 45 minutes down the road to Aldeburgh where we then perform OOO at 8pm (a play in which I drink 1½ litres of water to replace the fluids I lose through sweat!). After that we get back in the van to come home again, getting in at around 11pm. That’s a minimum 13 hour day (matinee days will be a touch longer). All of this is after 8 previous weeks of similar scheduling so we’re all pretty shattered to begin with! Like I say, I’m not moaning at all and in fact, I’m actually looking forward to the challenge of it. I’ve always wanted to do Rep and this coming week sums up very nicely how hard actors, stage management and creatives have to work to make sure that what the public see are tight, quality and seamless productions. The only thing I will say is that I may end up starting to drink caffeine again before the end of the week!
Finally, I want to add that I’ll be getting to see The Titfield Thunderbolt tomorrow night in Southwold being performed by the ‘other half’ of the company. They opened last Monday in Aldeburgh and tomorrow is the only night of their run that we can watch. As much as I love being on stage it’ll be so nice to be sat in an auditorium being entertained again!
Right, I’m off now to have a look over my script for rehearsals in the morning. Preparation is the key. Laters!