Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Military drills

We had the dreaded fire drill this morning, which is genuinely the only truly awful thing about staying at Sevenoaks School. No matter how much you try to mentally prepare yourself for the moment it always seems to be that little bit more shocking than you'd remembered. I think it triggers something deep down in my psyche that could only be explored via hypnotherapy because I'm quite sure that more normal people get woken up from deep sleep by a hideous mechanical wail, and find themselves irritated but perfectly able to haul themselves out of bed and into a puddle-filled car park wrapped in a duvet before going back to bed again.

I found the noise of the alarm so shocking that I woke up screaming and then, when I returned back to the room, was so worked up that I instantly burst into tears like some kind of fruit loop! I mean, that's just not right is it? Maybe I should put myself into some regression therapy? Perhaps it goes back to all those childhood dreams I used to have about hearing the four-minute warning of nuclear attack? It's fascinatingly primal!

The other slightly quirky thing I've noticed at Sevenoaks, is something I encountered a few years ago whilst staying in another school. Dawn choruses from birds who live in the vicinity of private schools and hotels tend to feature one or two whistles and chirps which sound curiously like modern-day alarm clocks and iPhones. I noticed that again this morning, probably as my sub-conscious was trying to prepare me for the drill which we were assuming would happen at about 6am. There are certain British birds (don't ask me which ones) who are capable of mimicry, and I suppose the one thing they hear a lot of in school grounds is the sound of loads of alarm clocks going off in rapid succession, so that's the noise they copy.

We had a good day of rehearsals today. We're slowly ramping things up and lots of music work is getting done. Hannah has continued with character and story background work and it's very much bringing the actors together. She's created a safe space where anyone can talk about anything without feeling either silly or frightened. She split the cast into groups of four at the start of yesterday and asked them all to prepare and deliver a little seminar on one of the themes of the show. Everyone took to the task with great alacrity. We had a song about trench life, a boxing match reconstruction of the causes of World War One, a quiz about Leeds and a brilliant talk about desertion and shell shock. The interpretative dance about early 20th century homosexuality was a little perplexing, but, I guess you can't win them all!!

Food in the canteen was a tad disappointing at tea time. It's usually very tasty but as I exited the serving area with a plate laden with vegetarian ravioli, Outrageous Jordan pointed out that it tasted of bleach. It did. I made do with the soup instead...

We went back to the residential blocks tonight and ate pizzas whilst chatting about lions escaping from circuses, rubbish supply teachers and science experiments going badly wrong.

Here's a bizarre thing... We have managed to cast a sixth form pupil from a school in Yorkshire as the wife of a character who is played in the show by someone who is actually her teacher in real life! That is one of the potentially bizarre things which can happen when the age range of a cast is 16-23. Fortunately, Brass is a very young person friendly show, so there's no funny business on stage, in fact, the two actors are only together in one scene, but when you're casting with a net as wide as we do with the NYMT, it's almost astonishing to think we could have ended up in this position!

The male cast did military training today with a real army colonel. They learned how to march and stand to attention and were utterly humiliated by the big man who made them run up and down hills, wear traffic cones on their heads if they were naughty and generally shouted and blustered a lot. Perfect from my perspective. The cast got mucky. And a bit angry... All is good.


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