Rehearsal journal: Brave New World Week 1

Rehearsal journal: Brave New World Week 1

12 August 2015

by Neale Birch

'There is already a strong sense of openness and trust developing' Associate producer and staff director Neale Birch rounds up the first week of rehearsals. 

Beginning in Northampton

Everyone arrives on the first day of rehearsals with a mixture of nerves and excitement and, in the rehearsal room at Northampton on Monday, both were apparent. The Brave New World cast and creative team, people from Royal & Derngate, and Touring Consortium Theatre Company introduced themselves in a large circle. I hadn’t previously met any of the actors, and so was particularly looking forward to the read-through. I was fascinated to hear someone else speak the text at last.

James Dacre, the director of the play, explained why he was interested in staging this novel, emphasising its relevance in today’s society. The play’s adapter, Dawn King, spoke about her first reading of the novel and how she initially felt remote from the Brave New Worlders, until she reached for her iPhone and Facebook and suddenly felt perhaps our world and Huxley’s were not so far apart.   Jenny King, the show’s producer, spoke about the importance of touring drama of contemporary relevance to theatres and audiences across the country.

Naomi Dawson, the show's designer, and James explained their ideas for the production design and presented the model of how the set will look on stage.  I’m always hugely impressed by the skills of the model makers.

Naomi Dawson presents a model of the Brave New World set

The rehearsal room was also littered with different visual inspirations for the design. These varied from references to artists such as Andy Warhol and Gilbert and George, to science, technology and architecture. These will remain on the walls of the rehearsal room for easy and constant reference, helping the cast immerse themselves in a world set in 2540.

Some of the influences behind the design of Brave New World

Then, the play. I was delighted that, in the read-through, the story came across very clearly, but the surprise for me was in how distinct the characters were and how funny the play was. The cast read the piece really well and there was a warm response from those gathered to hear it.


Continuing in London

For the second day, and for every day of the next four weeks, we were in London. A light, warm and conducive room to explore, play and construct. James was keen to follow a particular process involving breaking down the text into units and for each of the events in the play to be marked. As part of the process, each unit is described and given a succinct title. This period of rehearsal involves close analysis of the script whilst sitting around a large table. The luxury of having the writer in the rehearsal room is recognised by everyone and Dawn’s contributions will be invaluable. James is very keen for the whole company to be involved in researching the world of the book and the play and research topics were shared out among the cast. During the week, each actor brought in their studies, ranging from sex to external wombs, and presented them to the cast.

Eddie Kay, our movement director, is able to spend a good deal of time in the rehearsal room with us too, developing a physical language and expression for the characters. In his first sessions with the company, it was encouraging to see how well our actors committed to the work and proved themselves not only to be physically co-ordinated, but also in quite good shape.

Our text analysis work has continued throughout the week, and there is already a strong sense of openness and trust developing. It is great to have everyone contributing and being involved in our understanding of the world. By the end of week one, we have a much clearer understanding of what is happening in the play, the milieu, and the particular relevance to today’s world.  We also have, and importantly, a fuller picture of the different characters in the story and what drives them. This will be the starting point from which we can develop over the next four weeks.

Brave New World premieres at Royal and Derngate, Northampton, where it runs from 4 to 26 September 2015. It then tours to Edinburgh, Blackpool, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Bradford where it concludes on 5 December.