I felt very privileged to be invited to attend one of the current rehearsals for Derby Theatre's exciting and upcoming productions yesterday. This is a new production of a new play by playwright Mike Kenny and is a modern adaptation of Homer's classic adventure The Odyssey.
Artistic director, Sarah Brigham and Heidi from the marketing department allowed me to witness the rehearsal process for an hour and to interview Wole Sawyerr and Emma Beattie who are playing Odysseus and his wife Penelope in the drama. Their interview has already been posted before this one and makes for fascinating reading about the nature of rehearsal and the actor's creative input.
I arrived at the rehearsal venue on Green Lane in Derby and was ushered into the rehearsal room mid act. I was greeted by the sound and vision of sheep bleating and an actor having their eye poked out by a very sharp stick! They were in the middle of a first run through of the scene where Odysseus and his crew are trapped in the Cyclops's cave and escape by blinding the creature and crawling out under the rams.
The eight actors were already mostly off book and the rapid physical creation of each scene unfolding through their actions and reactions in the storytelling had been clearly mapped out. The difference between the professional directorial process compared with the lengthier non professional world is fascinating to see and enjoy. This company have three and half weeks to complete the rehearsal and to be at performance level right across the creative board. An amateur production would be in rehearsal for three months mainly due to the fact that amateurs are working at other jobs during the day and commit themselves to the play/show during the evenings and weekends as a hobby not their career.
Sarah Brigham (director) spoke with the actors about 'super -objectives' and about the need to rack up the energy levels and dynamics as the characters went from island to island on their Odyssey adventure where each time more and more of the crew are lost to monsters and sirens until only Odysseus is left floating on a broken raft at the mercy of the sea and the revengeful sea god Poseidon.
They did a fast energy building exercise with Sarah and repeated the story again with a new energy including the blinding of the Cyclops Polythemus, the amusing escape under the rams and Odysseus bragging to the blinded Cyclops, the arrival at Circe's island where the men are turned into pigs and the torments of Odysseus as he is taunted by the sirens as they sail past their rock. There was a drugged up dreamy scene where some of the crew fall victim of the Lotus Eaters and this state was accentuated through a distorted music track and live music.
Sarah told the actors not to wait for the music but to let their actions dictate when the music plays. My rehearsal watching ended when Wole as Odysseus arrives at the island governed by king Alconicus and his beautiful daughter Nausicaa where he rests until the new challenge of returning to his land of Ithaca.
Prior to their break the actors gathered together to listen to a tape of an ex soldier discussing combat tactics and defensive deployment and post traumatic stress particularly caused by having to decide to kill a child in a war zone that his being held as a human shield by the enemy.
Thank you Derby Theatre for this great chance (and future chances) to see top class theatre in action through the rehearsal process.