Sunday, 14 August 2016

Day two in the school house

Yesterday started with a fire drill, which is the thing I dread most of all whilst doing these courses. The alarms are always right above the beds and the drills routinely happen at 7am. It's brutal. One moment you're sleeping soundly and the next you're screaming!

This morning's drill was considerably less horrifying than I've known them to be in the past. They've changed the alarm sound to something less terrifying, so I spent the day feeling a great deal less traumatised!

Breakfast happens every day at 8am and we have an idyllic walk from the boarders' house where we're staying to the school itself. The walk takes us across hilly, tree-lined playing fields. Sevenoaks is the sort of school which makes you realise quite how well the other half lives. There are countless theatres and rehearsal spaces, rows and rows of practice rooms, a swimming pool... I think perhaps all schools these days are better equipped than they were in my day - one of the positive legacies of Tony Blair - but these private schools are something else. My taxi driver on Friday told me that, until relatively recently, the students here wore straw boaters in the summer. Part of me thinks if you're going to to step up to the fanciest bell in town, you might as well ring it like a proper posh git. And spend a childhood getting beaten up so they can Lord it over everyone else in their adult years!!

Rehearsals start at 9, and yesterday we basically spent the day working our way through the musical's new prologue, which already feels like it sets the show up more convincingly than the last one. It's a lengthy old sequence: at least fifteen minutes long, with scores of different set ups, all of which need a great amount of work. I'm loving working with the creative team. Hannah is a joy. She's really laid back, but works in an extraordinary level of detail handing the cast plenty to work with. Sometimes I think she must be in my head. I'll be making a little list of notes which I might take to her at the end of a rehearsal, but just as I write something down, more often than not she'll say it out loud to the cast.

Sam the choreographer makes me laugh all the time. She's a fascinating woman, who has been in the industry for a long time, with experience of working in television on some of the most iconic light entertainment shows from the 80s. I wish I could impress on the young people in the cast quite how important it is to sit people like Sam down and ask them about their life and work. I gained so much from asking Arnold Wesker about the theatre scene in the 1960s. There's so much to understand about people which comes from appreciating how they did things in different eras.

I spent the day smelling of biscuits. There's definitely something wrong with my washing machine. That, or I need to acknowledge it's time to throw away a load of T-shirts!

The cast held up well throughout the day, although if it were me, my brain would have been dripping out of my ears by 9pm. Young Frankie took an elbow to the head towards the end of the day, and the poor lass spent the night with an ice pack pressed to her head. For a laugh, Alex the MD was holding fingers up in front of her face: "how many fingers?" He asked. "Friday" she responded. No one knew if she was being serious! I'm glad to report that she seems to be fine this morning!

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