James Pacey’s Rehearsal BLOG – Day One
I guess I’d better begin by introducing myself. I’m James Pacey, on board for the process of Farm Boy in an Assistant Director capacity. My ‘career ambition’ (!!) is to work as a professional theatre director, be it on a long term contract with an existing company or on a freelance basis. To that end, I am endeavouring to acquire as much experience as possible by looking in on a variety of rehearsal processes. I recently assisted Giles Croft on the Nottingham Playhouse’s production of Garage Band which was a wonderful and incredibly insightful experience. I am also director of 2 B Theatre Ltd based in Nottingham for whom I recently directed King Lear at the Sandfield Theatre. Though I am passionate about directing, I haven’t really studied it at a technical level, and as such feel that immersing myself in a variety of processes and observing a range of directors will only better equip me for the future.
The first day of rehearsals proved to be a relaxed and relatively gentle start, with the only real stress coming from the loudest thunderclap I’ve ever heard halfway through the afternoon! Introductions and greetings were followed by an uninterrupted read through of the text, as well as the presentation of the tractor, which, though unpainted, is a truly astonishing feat of set design. I felt like a kid again, so hopefully the children in the audiences will be blown away by a real tractor in their school. John couldn’t resist having a go, though a desire not to give into my instincts prevented me from mounting the ‘beast’.
Daniel appears to have taken a very story-telling approach to his adaptation. Though there are two actors performing the words, the piece is essentially two characters telling a story to the audience. It is a deeply personal and affectionate piece, told through the touching relationship between a grandfather and his grandson. It’s amazing to me how engaging it is, primarily because of the closeness between the two characters. Interesting as well how my memories of my grandparents are affecting the way I observe the piece. Hopefully the audience may have similar responses.
Though Daniel has steered clear of stage directions and a traditional scene structure, there are nevertheless frequent occasions when the story shifts in terms of time or location and/or the tone of the piece alters. It was to my eyes crucial then that Daniel and the actors spent the remainder of the day reading slowly through the script again, and deciding exactly where these ‘jumps’ (be it in time, tone or scene) were.
One thing that concerns me is the problem of establishing different places. The audience will, hopefully, understand that the world in which they are greeted is a barn, but how do we change that space to become a war-zone, a village etc without appearing too theatrical or staged? Similarly, in assuming the roles of different characters, particularly when the boy assumes the role of grandfather (which perhaps may confuse?) a prop, or an item of clothing could serve a purpose here, as could a change in the soundtrack or a sound effect – Matt Marks the composer joined the company for the afternoon.
It has been a fruitful and informative day. As with Garage Band I’m kicking myself that I did not spend longer doing cast/team script analysis on my own previous project. Still, that’s why I’m observing, to learn and develop. Roll on next time!
James Pacey (Assistant Director)