Inside Regeneration Rehearsals: Week Three

Inside Regeneration Rehearsals: Week Three

Friday, 15 August 2014

This week the Regeneration cast move on to act two, play an impromptu game of footie and get to take a peek at some costumes.

Monday and Tuesday

The very detailed work of bringing the play to life and staging the scenes has continued this week. Some recapping of scenes from act one, but with more of a focus on act two. The beginning of the second act involves a scene in which a patient undergoes a harrowing from of treatment, and we explored the different ways that pain can be expressed on stage. A very physical demonstration of pain is required and the scene needs to have an impact on the audience for it to achieve its goal. Fine attention to physical expression is required by David Morley Hayes in playing Cullan, a shell-shocked soldier at a hospital in London.


On Wednesday the lads in the company had a kick around. Struan Leslie was in again to work on a scene in which the patients at Craiglockhart engage in an impromptu game involving throwing an officer's hat around the grounds and chasing it, passing it to each other as they go. We don't lose the improvisational feel of this scene and Simon is keen for it to have a freedom and an energy that could well be lost if the piece is too choreographed. Struan began with the actors by creating a game, to which rules were gradually added, which then developed into the scene. In each performance the actors will be playing the game again for real. Their actions will be 'to win', 'to play', 'to catch the hat'. The actors are free to play, while understanding the parameters in which the scene must be presented. They will play the scene naturalistically, but the audience, through the lighting and sound design, will hopefully appreciate a stylised sequence that incorporates naturalism and a degree of lyricism. 

We were all reminded during this rehearsal of the 1914 Christmas Day game of football that was played in no man’s land between German and Allied soldiers. A moment of reflection following a morning of high energy and fun.


Vanessa Marshall

Regeneration is set in a very specific period and location. This can help designers, because there is less imagination required when it comes to clothing the characters and one can often find plenty of evidence of what was worn. However, it can also make the costuming of the production difficult, because finding the right costumes available to use and not too expensive for the production budget can be a mighty task.

Vanessa Marshall, the newly appointed Head Of Wardrobe at The Royal and Derngate Theatre, Northampton, and her very able deputy, Charlotte Tofields brought with them rails and boxes of costumes for the company to be fitted into. Because of the specialist nature of these very particular costumes, most of them will be hired from Khaki Devil, a specialist military costumiers.

One by one, the actors came into the fitting room and tried on the costumes that had been chosen for them, 40 minutes per actor. Then Vanessa and Charlotte, working under the direction of the Production Designer, Alex Eales, debated the appropriateness of the costume for the character and the time and place of the scenes they would be worn in, and the fit of each element for the actor. Some of the actors are playing more than one character and there are changes of costume for some of the characters, which means a long day of fittings for the wardrobe department.

At the same time, Darren Ware, from The Wig Room, tried on the wigs and facial hair pieces that he had prepared. These again were checked by Alex before being approved for the production. Darren makes all the wigs and moustaches that he uses in TV, Film and theatre productions, but for Regeneration he will adapt pieces that he already has. Following the fitting, Darren will take the wigs away to be washed, trimmed where necessary and dressed, prepared we hope in time for the beginning of the technical rehearsals on Tuesday 26 August.

In this production, many of the actors will be in and out of wigs and costumes during each performance, necessitating a member of the wardrobe department working backstage during the performance to assist them with their changes. This is typical for many shows, though less common on plays than musicals. It looks as though the 'dresser' will have be as busy as the actors.

Following the first costume fitting, one can see always difference in movement and physical expression. The actors having a better sense of the costume they will be wearing results in a more detailed appreciation of how their characters move. You only have to ask yourself how differently you feel in a posh pair of shoes compared to slippers, or a dress jacket compared to a T shirt. 'Clothes maketh the man' and the costume can often have a significant bearing on character.

The founders of Khaki Devil, Taff Gillingham and Kev Smith, are both collectors of Uniforms and Equipment and, in keeping with many others of the 'anorak' variety, would often bemoan the lack of accurate military detail in film, television or theatre productions. Rather than keep complaining they decided to use their knowledge to offer a service to those Directors, Producers, Costume Designers, Art Directors and other interested parties who want to get the details right.

It is so important to make a piece historically accurate. We want to be exact in all the historical elements of the production in order to be truthful to the period and to create the greatest sense of reality that we can. We also know that there are people that will be drawn to the theatre to see this production that will have an expert knowledge and it will be a shame to upset their evenings with sloppy research or laziness. Khaki Devil offers a full service of Historical Advice, Uniforms, Equipment and Specialist Extras, plus probably the finest purpose-built Great War Trench System in the UK.

With a plethora of TV, film and theatre productions being mounted about, or set during, World War One, their knowledge and expertise is very much in demand.

We are also very glad that The Royal and Derngate Theatre, Northampton, has a well-stocked store room of costumes that have been made or bought for other productions that we can make good use of in Regeneration. Several of the costumes, particularly the civilian clothing, have been provided by Northampton, meaning that our costume budget can be directed more towards the specialist uniforms that we need.


Which hats are going to be used in Regeneration? You might be surprised...

 Regeneration opens at Royal & Derngate, Northampton, where it runs from 29 August to 20 September 2014. It then tours to York, Edinburgh, Bradford, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Richmond, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Blackpool where it concludes on 29 November.

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.