Saturday, 9 April 2016

Last day

We had our last day of rehearsals for Brass today. We'll pick up the reins again in August, and, in the meantime, I've told the cast to write hundreds of letters to each other. One of the themes of Brass is letter-writing and the importance of that particular method of communication in the First World War. I really want the cast to know how amazing it feels to receive a hand-written letter from a good friend. I'm encouraging them to put photographs and little gifts inside. My friend Ellie and I used to put mini Cadbury's Cream Eggs inside letters because we found it so amusing that they got so royally squashed in the process of delivery.

So our last day was essentially a stagger-through of the entire show. Because we're in a very advanced stage with the music, Hannah decided it might be possible for us to put the show on its feet in a sort of improvised way, and the experiment was a good one. The cast got a true sense of the piece and its emotional arc. The huge amount of character work they'd done with Hannah really came into its own. 

By the end of the rehearsal, emotional carnage had descended. As the lads went over the top, tears started pouring down the actors' faces. Some of the men seemed particularly distraught. It's hardly surprising: here was a group of people who'd spent the past week becoming the best of friends, who were now watching their new friends being blown to smithereens in No Man's Land! I also think the plight of the First World War Tommy is something which has the power to resonate with all young men. It hit me at the age of 15 when our school did Oh! What a Lovely War, so I'm rather proud to find that Brass is achieving the same thing.

I discovered a most surreal and wonderful fact today. Ethan Maltby, who has written this year's new commission for the NYMT was a year behind me in the Northamptonshire Music School. We worked out today that we'd played in the same orchestra for at least a year. Both of us were on the tour to Canada where the plane's engine exploded! Ethan's show, which, I'm told, is absolutely incredible, is also about the Battle of the Somme, but told from the perspective of a group of young children. As a result, it's already being described as mini-Brass, although I hope Ethan isn't too insulted by the comparison. I'm sure the two shows are like chalk and cheese. Whenever anyone offers a new piece of art to the world the first thing people want to do is compare it to something else! Anyway, I rather like the idea that we both hail from the same county's earth. Up the Midlands!

We left Sevenoaks, feeling a little deflated and sad, and happened to drive past the Hackney Empire on our way back home, which felt rather prescient. We tried to watch The Voice on the telly this evening but I kept falling asleep. I'm officially a zombie.

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