Rehearsal journal: Brave New World Week 3

Rehearsal journal: Brave New World Week 3

26 August 2015

by Neale Birch

'The scenes really come to life and the play has an energy to it that gives us all a lift' Associate producer and staff director Neale Birch writes from week three of the rehearsal room.

Missed what happened in week two of rehearsals? Read it here

Week three of rehearsals begins with a visit from Vanessa Marshall, Head of Wardrobe at Royal and Derngate. Costume fittings were fitted into the schedules during the early part of the week and, even though we still have decisions to make on what characters will wear, we recognise straight away what a difference it can make to an actor to have a clear idea of their character’s dress. It also means that Vanessa can get a better picture of the work she needs to do on the costumes that still need hiring, buying or adapting. On this production she will have something like one-hundred costumes, which for a drama is a huge number.

Since the second day of rehearsals, we have had the markup of the set available to understand the dimensions that we are working in. By the third week, this picture on the floor makes much more sense and, in our minds, has a three-dimensional aspect to it as we move into week three and understand our world so very much more clearly. We have been helped by having been supplied with steel decking to give us levels to work on, and rehearsal furniture and props to give a greater sense of what we will actually be working with in performance.

Brave New World in rehearsals

As we continue to sketch out the shape of the play, James and the actors can find the detail and specificity that naturalism demands.  The play is coming into focus more sharply every day and the characters more round and fully perceived. One can see the effect of the first-week analysis of the scenes and the detailed work on understanding the circumstances and character objectives. The scenes really come to life and the play has an energy to it that gives us all a lift. Eddie Kay, our movement director, has developed his work with the actors, and the sections of the play that require a greater physicality and physical expression are looking great. The acting company has committed to this work magnificently. I’m sure they are getting fitter too.

Keith Skretch, our video designer, has joined us from New York. Once he has overcome his jet-lag, he will be creating images that will be projected onto screens and displayed on TV monitors in performance. George Dennis, sound designer, is also in rehearsals, offering sound effects and music that will be used in the scenes, and help us understand transitions better. The music is being sent to us by our composers, These New Puritans. We are thrilled to hear it and can feel it adding to our production already.

We press on chronologically through the play. The emotional trajectory of the characters is such that it’s hard to play the end if you don’t understand the beginning. As well as that, the ensemble nature of this production means that we have to be sure that actor 'X' is free to make the Epsilon entrance, and be changed ready to appear as an Alpha two units later. The scheduling of rehearsals in two different spaces, with costume fittings and video and sound recordings to add in, is the job of our Assistant Director, Jesse Jones. Thank goodness it isn’t my job. He is keeping a close check on the scenes that James wants to work on again and ensuring that the actors are called to the right room at the right time.

As we bring the third week of rehearsals to an end, we are all aware that next week we are in our last week of rehearsals in London before going to Northampton for our technical period.  Time is short, but we are heading in the right direction. An important week ahead.

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.