I’ve been working at Hull Truck Theatre for just over a year now, and during that time I’ve been able to observe a lot about the innerworkings of the theatre. I’ve learned some lingo, learned the names and functions of obscure technical equipment, and even learned how to delicately convey to customers that “there are simply no more tickets for The Hypocrite”. I currently work in the Box Office, however due to my interest in directing theatre outside of my work hours, I will be undertaking a new challenge at Hull Truck Theatre.
I will be sitting in on a rehearsal every week for our upcoming show A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian. I will be shadowing director Mark Babych in order to, hopefully, learn some new skills as a director. I will also document my experience as best I can through these blog posts, so that I can shout about how great I know this show will be, and also give readers a better idea of what goes on behind the scenes in the run up to one of our shows!
This week I was lucky enough to sit in on the cast’s first day of rehearsals as they begin to move away from the script and focus on the movement of the production and the relationships between characters. During this rehearsal, the actors focused on the initial scenes of the play, where we are introduced to the fiery women within the family, and we begin to see the conflicts unfold. Though I have limited experience as a director, I am often working with scripts that I have produced and am trying to get actors on board with, so it often takes a few weeks- if not months- until the actors feel comfortable without the script in their hand and are able to get creative and develop the characters in action. It was a refreshing atmosphere to observe the first day of rehearsals wherein the actors are already familiar and comfortable with both their lines and their characters. They were focused, engaged, and ready to try anything.
“Let’s not worry about what’s right and wrong.” Says Mark to the cast, and encourages them to simply find moments that could work. I enjoyed observing the excitement from the cast as they form their own ideas and suggestions, and Mark allows them to explore these saying “pursue that thought. Let’s see where it leads us.” This language enables the actors to find what works and doesn’t, by simply feeling it, and in doing so they get a much deeper sense of their character and what fits them.
As the actors go over the same scene over and over, it is never feels tedious. They are finding nuances of their characters each time, and realign themselves on the stage to better display how they relate to one another within the family. As they do so, Mark finds where lines can be focused, he asks the actors “where is the character’s attention?” he suggests shifting this attention to find new meaning in the lines.
A memorable moment for me in this first rehearsal was when Ruth Lass and Hillary Tones who play the grown-up daughters of Nikolai, Nadhezda and Vera, are prompted by Mark about how they feel about one another. He encourages them to explore this “through the character’s mouth”- the actors respond to one another in character and they are able to speak for themselves instead of being justified by the actor. Hillary and Ruth lay into each other and they argue over their family tensions following the death of their mother. They both blame each other for something, and we really begin to see how stubborn these characters are.
Mark puts his hand up to stop it in its tracks, and it’s good he did- the heated discussion looked as though it would end in tears fast. The company take a deep breath together, and let out a laugh. The tension is high in the rehearsal room, and this just goes to show how engaged everyone is and how hard everyone is working. The actors are connected to their characters already and are excited to get to know them. I can’t wait to see how this unfolds over the next few weeks. It was at this point in the rehearsal that I was very relieved to see some dead-pan biscuit-related physical comedy unfold- phew!