Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Mathew Friday's diary (6)

On 5 October Matthew Friday's first play, Che Guevara's Motorbike or How I Found My Father, which he is also directing, will open at The Rosemary Branch in London. You can read the background on the Writers' Guild website and follow his trials and tribulations here each week.

Week 6

The last week and we're not ready.

Today was not a great rehearsal day. The run-through was lack-lustre and I was worried that the actors had not yet managed to get 'off book' - the theatrical term which means they know their lines.

This is not to say they're not working hard. We all are. It's extremely hard working on a play on the Fringe, without any money and with everyone having to go their jobs to pay the bills. It's about as tough as it gets. We all want the play to be at its best for opening night next Tuesday.

I had to reassure the Artistic Director that we would be ready and fit to perform. I then had a good chat with all the actors. In talked to them about the play, their parts, any worries they might have. I needed their advice about how to put the fun and energy into play and they gave me the collective benefits of years of theatre acting.

The hardest day so far. In coming to the theatre I knew that we had to work hard to get the play into the state it needs to be on Tuesday. Undoubtedly, a tough call. We're running out of time, lines are still not learned, the Artistic Director is worried, I'm beginning to panic.

Deep breathing. Deep breathing. You can cope.

So, it was time to pull out the theatrical big guns. We did three exhausting run-throughs today. The first one we did with fun in mind. I chose a famous play, film or character to act each scene in the style of. So, Act 1, Scene 3 was performed in the style of His Girl Friday. Act 3, Scene 1 was done in the style of The Muppets. It sounds bizarre, but it’s a good way of injecting some fun into the play. For the most part if worked, though the second half slowed down and the fun turned into hard work.

The second version of the play we did imagining the performance was in the Roman Coliseum. This meant big performances projected to an audience of ten thousand people, a long way away. If the acting wasn't good enough, the actors were to be thrown to the lions.

The second run through had as many problems as the first, only in different and sometimes new positions. I was beginning to get the sinking feeling only associated with very large ships. But luckily we did not hit a creative iceberg. We surged on with the third run-through which went, I am very relieved to say, well. Well enough.

The performances were bigger, the interactions sharper, the energy higher. The actors are going into the theatre tomorrow to run the play and work on their lines while I'm at work. I'm happy to have a break and let them bond without me heckling them from the light/sound booth.

Two runs this morning. I wish I could say the play was ready for Tuesday. I should be able to say the play is ready. But it's not. We need more time and run-throughs. Well, we can squeeze a maximum of four more in if we're lucky and all goes well.
Tomorrow we are not rehearsing. We're getting into the theatre after the last show of Making Dickie Happy to begin work on our set. I know some of the actors need more time. I know some of the actors just want to get on with it. I feel both. We have what we have: two days to go.

It's late and I am exhausted. Too much has happened over the last tow days to detail here. The word limit and the limit of my energy will cut it off short. If anyone wants to know about the extreme highs and lows of theatre work, hours before the show is going ahead, than come and see the play and I'll fill in all the details.
Just today there have been more highs, lows, tantrums, heavy lifting, hard critique and brutal honesty than I want in a year.

Yes, we've had a bad day. A bad Dress Rehearsal. Theatre lore says a bad Dress Rehearsal can make for a great performance, because it gives everyone - the director included - a sharp kick up the rear.

'Sharp' is the operative word. We need to sharpen up this play. Turn it from a pleasant and highly useable butter knife into a deeply cutting and lasting meat clever. On the plus side, ten hours of collective work on the set has made it look great. Paul created a wonderful light for the poster of 'Che Guevara' poster. And the bookings are going nicely. I have a number of friends to thank for that. No room here. I will do it personally.

In fact, both room and time have run out. I hope you have enjoyed this round-up of our work over the last few weeks. There has been more hard work from my actors than I can properly detail here. I hope you can come and see it.

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