James Pacey’s Rehearsal BLOG – Day Eight
So, pasty consumed, here I am again. I never ate this unhealthily when I was at the Playhouse. I blame Matt Powell. Still, it can only be a good thing that the above is really the only negative comment I can make about the piece and the process overall. The long process of re-examining every moment and tweaking every nuance has now begun, and it continues to intrigue me as to how much can continue to be teased out, despite a good piece already being in place.
In many ways, the play already works without the music. As a pure piece of storytelling it is effective. If I play devil’s advocate for a moment, I would be cautious as to whether the introduction of music is going to adversely affect the process-will it require extensive re-jigging and is there the risk it may work against the details that are already there?
Daniel is very much like a composer when he directs. Whereas a previous director I worked with had a very laid back, yet still involved, approach to rehearsals, Daniel is very much more hands on. At times he is like an excitable school boy, barely able to contain his excitement and enjoyment of the work. He moves his hands with a flourish as the actors rehearse, as if they are musicians who will respond to his every nuance. His expressions mirror those of what, we hope, the children will display and at all times his enthusiasm is infectious. He has such a clear idea of what he wants, and will interrupt the action frequently to mould and direct. Though he welcomes suggestions and thoughts there is no doubt that this is his piece. This is fascinating for me to watch, in particular with regards to how the actors respond to him as a director. Nevertheless the atmosphere is as relaxed and as creative as previous shows I have observed/worked on. It just goes to show that there doesn’t seem to be any ‘one’ way to direct.
From my experience on Garage Band and now this, my appreciation for the care a director takes over his actor has grown drastically. To give an example, on Tuesday Daniel wanted to introduce the image of Grandpa tossing the coin to decide who gets Joey. After several attempts with a 1p piece, John expressed gentle frustration that it wasn’t weighty and large enough. Now, in the past, I would have moved on from this, either saying something along the lines of “we’ll get a bigger coin for performance” or, worse, “see how you get on with it.” Now, with both of these no malice or ignorance would have been intended, rather such an instance would not have registered as posing a problem in the grand scheme of things. Daniel however stopped, and attempted to rectify the problem then and there. There were similar instances during the rehearsal process of Garage Band. I am quickly understanding that despite what I may think, if an actor has an issue then it needs resolving, whether it be for their piece of mind or simply meaning they can nail that moment. I said to Daniel some weeks ago on the train that in the past I have looked at the generalities of a piece and tended to brush over the minutiae. The above is a perfect example. My wife keeps telling me to stop being so self-critical, but lord above, there is so much I would like to go back and change about King Lear.
As an assistant director there is a fine balance to tread between sitting back silently observing, and becoming an annoying and unwelcome ‘co-director.’ I find the silent observational route is so informative, but on occasion I do try and throw my penny’s worth in. It can be rather satisfying when such a point involves a re-examination of the text, such as a particular moment today when the son/grandpa/ (in the guise of John Walters) admits his growing despair. It reminds me that as a would be director I need to constantly be aware of how the text progresses, and one line several paragraphs previously can inform/affect the delivery of a line later on. Similarly, as Daniel pointed out, a line can work in a literary sense, but not when spoken. It also helps when the director has a clear sense as to how each line should be performed.
On another note, there is an ever changing dynamic to the play, and I love how Daniel is trying to explore the various states of tension, from building up the excitement of the ploughing to the release that comes after the handshake that seals the bet.
I’ll leave you with the quote of the day – “That’s NOT a chair” (John Walters – trying to convince himself that the old brown chair IS in fact a heavy plough).
James Pacey (Assistant Director)