Written by Francesca Murray-Fuentes, Assistant Director
It’s Tech Week
Often the most intensive week of rehearsals, this is when we move into the performance space and get it all set up for the preview performances at the end of the week. One of the biggest challenges for the cast during tech week is getting the feel of that new place. The rehearsal room is accurately marked to reflect all the exits, entrances and distances between things and stand-in set and props are used. But the actual performance space always feels distinct, not least because there are now 750 seats in amphitheatre formation to play out to!
Richard III is quite a tricky show to ‘tech’. Almost every scene is set in a new environment, and with 24 scenes that is a lot of new lighting states and soundscapes to negotiate. Sinead McKenna (Lighting Designer) and Jon Nicholls (Sound Designer) have ‘plotted’ what each scene will look and sound like beforehand. Now they must work closely with Mark Rosenblatt (Director) to ensure that at each ‘beat’ of a scene the right atmosphere is being conveyed. Lighting communicates a story in a remarkable way. It draws the audience’s eye to what needs focus, creates physical environments and separations, provokes emotions, makes a character look isolated or feel cold or welcomes them to the space. A character’s personality can be revealed by how the lighting changes when they enter the space. An audience will anticipate that Richard is the villain of this production, but the lighting coupled with the sound design are able to reflect his journey down into the depths of villainy. Through the impressive surround sound Jon Nicholls’ cinematic score conjures a dreamlike, dystopian world that pulls us in.
The creative collaborators on the project return all together for tech, with EJ Boyle (Movement Director) and Rachel from RC-Annie (Fight Director) refining and reworking moments in response to the new space. The additions of lighting and costume affect an actor’s visibility and manoeuverability and the use of water and fake blood in sequences that have previously been mimed means that time has to be given to managing these components. The actors even have to get used to the change from light to dark as they go from stage to backstage, and the momentary blindness this provokes. This whole process can be very tiring for everyone, but it is the crunch time when all the components of the show come together. Everyone has to retain focus to get the job done.
A challenge all of their own, previews are a wonderful opportunity to perform the show for new eyes and ears. They are also a time to find out what works in front of an audience and what doesn’t. During previews certain parts of the show will be edited, sometimes cut entirely, so the company has to be on the ball to absorb any changes necessary. An injured hand for one of our cast this week means that scenes have to be reworked to accommodate. The marvellous choreography of the wardrobe dressers’ quick-changes is put through its paces. A couple of close-calls mean a rework of those scenes so an actor can leave a little earlier or arrive a little later back on stage.
A new conversation begins
This final week before opening is both nerve-wracking and thrilling. It’s the crucial culmination of everything that has been worked on during the last 5 weeks of rehearsals, and the many more weeks of preparation before those started. And now the creative team must step back and leave it to the confident hands of Stage Management and the backstage crew. We have reached the point where the show transitions from being an intense conversation between the actors and the creative team to an intimate one between the actors and audience. You are most welcome to join it.