Today was a day of discovery. There were lots of breakthroughs, some epiphanies and many, many tears. It would be almost impossible to rehearse a show about the First World War without being dragged into an emotional whirlpool. The first thing that any 18 year-old lad confronts is the thought that 100 years ago, he would himself have been stumbling over the top. And for what exactly?
We have all thought about death in some way this week. Actual death. The death of innocence. The death of a world obsessed with class and empire. Camaraderie has been strong as well; partly as a result of our all living in the same bubble, and partly because Brass is an ensemble piece. It's an "us against the world" story and the cast have supported each other wonderfully through the desperately long rehearsals, the meltdowns and all the challenges.
I suspect no one who was present today will ever forget the little exercise we did up on a hill behind the school. At the bottom of the hill is a dry river bed and Sara and I took the male cast there and asked them to perform their last "going over-the-top" scene from within that natural trench. The men then climbed out of the trench, ran up the hill and acted being shot one by one. It was a chilling sight, particularly when the female members of the cast started throwing blossom at the men to represent the butterflies which feature so prominently in our show. As the cast re-entered the space, they were given a round of applause by members of the cast of the other show which is rehearsing in the same building, who had been watching the spectacle in awe through a window.
I felt rather proud to have conceived the exercise, because it means the cast will now have a very strong physical sense of what it means to climb out of a ditch and walk uphill into no-man's-land, which is exactly what happened to the Leeds Pals.