A word from the producer: Seeing Regeneration take full form

A word from the producer: Seeing Regeneration take full form

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Touring Consortium’s Matthew Gale is the lead producer on Regeneration. In this blog, he gives a snapshot of what it feels like as a producer in the final week of rehearsals, seeing the project that you conceived come to life after two long years. These are Regeneration's last hours in a London rehearsal room before it moved to Northampton, Royal & Derngate, where it receives its world premiere tonight.



Stephen Boxer and the cast of Regeneration

Driving into the London rehearsal room early morning for the first and final run through of the play, the sense of excitement is growing as I get nearer. Two years after we first decided to attempt to make Regeneration into a play, I will hear and see our cast perform the whole play from start to finish for the first time.

As I arrive, the stage management are sitting in the sun outside the rehearsal room. As we discuss the weather, heavy clouds start to roll over as if to tell us it is time to start.

In the room the floor is marked up with tape to show the actors where the set will be, the furniture and props are in position ready for the start. There are two rows of chairs set out. I decide to sit in the second row just behind Simon Godwin, our director. The actors, while not in full costume, have some rehearsal costumes such as jackets and coats.

Though confident we had chosen the right actors, you never really know until you start to see them inhabit the parts

Simon decides that, despite everyone knowing each other, we should introduce ourselves again so, starting with the actors, we all say who we are and what we do. At the end of the round, one of the actors points out that our ASM has not introduced himself. Joe comes sheepishly out from behind a screen says, “I am the assistant stage manager” and we all laugh, which breaks the tension.

Simon calls out for the actors to start. The play begins and those watching, me included, lean forward as the story unfolds. There are thrilling moments in the first half and the acting is superb, which is always a relief. As producer, I was in the auditions and, though confident we had chosen the right actors, you never really know until you start to see them inhabit the parts.

There’s something very intense watching a show in a rehearsal room, only a few feet away from the cast. When we reach the interval, there’s a sharp intake of breath. I go over to talk to Nicholas Wright, the adaptor, and we conclude that this is a good beginning to the week ahead. Only a week until first performance and so much to put together… 

There’s something very intense watching a show in a rehearsal room

As the second half starts, I reflect on my first meeting with Nick (pictured left), when I asked him to adapt Pat Barker’s book. What an amazing and rewarding process it has been so far. The first scene of the second half is harrowing, and in the rehearsal room, it leaves me feeling slightly queasy. The next scene is rather gentle and beautiful. The jump makes me wonder whether we should move where the interval is. Time seems to pass quickly, which is always a good sign as it means I am gripped by the story.

At the start of the last scene, a delicate and sensitive exchange, we hear some noise outside the rehearsal room doors. John Manning, Royal & Derngate producer, goes to investigate. As the scene continues, the voices outside the room get louder; the actors are very aware of this distraction as are those of us watching. As the last line of the play is being spoken, the doors burst open and the run comes to an abrupt end. Apparently, the people using the room in the afternoon think we have over run our time and are impatient to set up.

Despite this final mishap, I’m elated to see that Regeneration is in good shape. I have many thoughts and as we all move downstairs to discuss the run-through. I try to formulate and distill these thoughts into coherent notes I can share with the director.

When Simon approaches, I congratulate him. He asks if it would be possible to rehearse the actors on Bank Holiday Monday, which they were scheduled to have off. The actors say they’re free and, as we no longer have access to a rehearsal room in London, where most of them live, we decide to rehearse in Northampton. There’s a slight hiccough when we learn there’s only a limited train service on Monday. I offer to drive the actors back to Northampton so we can continue the momentum.

As one process ends, another process is about to begin

Simon talks through the run-through with the actors, giving them suggestions for changes and listening to find out what they feel they need to work on with him. And I talk to James Dacre, Royal & Derngate artistic director, to compare our notes. It’s a short conversation as James and I have had similar reactions.

While we’ve been talking, the stage management have cleared the room of all of the production’s furniture and props. As I go outside for some air, I see them closing the doors. The van pulls away on its journey to Northampton, reminding me that, as one process ends, another process is about to begin.

I go back inside and talk with Simon and his assistant Alice for about an hour. The discussion, which is rigorous, clarifies the changes that need to be made. As we say goodbye, there’s a genuine feeling of togetherness of purpose and friendship.

I wonder fleetingly if this reflects the feeling of troops as they embarked for France in 1914 - and then I dismiss this as a trivial comparison. The only danger we face is that we might fail to bring Pat Barker's wonderful book and the lives of its protagonists to believable life on stage.

 

Regeneration premiered on 2 September 2014 (previews from 29 August) at Royal & Derngate, Northampton, where it continues until 20 September 2014. It then tours to York, Edinburgh, Bradford, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Richmond, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Blackpool where it concludes on 29 November.