THE ARTS WEEK
After that first day at the Arts, doing the read through, I was swept along with the whirlwind of rehearsals and script cutting. We had decided to cut the script down to 75 minutes without an interval. We had been advised that a workshop should be either 45 or 75 minutes long. It was better for the audience to leave wanting more. We never quite managed to get it down to that time but were close.
I spent long nights and early mornings churning out paper and words from the depths of my study. During the days I watched the show unfold, sitting close to Helen, watching and waiting for her eyes to turn to mine, checking that what she had done with the actors was ok. When the actors needed to know what I wanted from a scene or a piece of dialogue I leapt in to offer advice. Helen worked through scenes with tremendous energy and skill and always made me feel a part of it, which means a lot to a writer of a new work. It was very intense and exciting. There was very little time for the kind of re-writes there had been in the Greenwich workshop. We had the same amount of rehearsal time to block and rehearse twice the length of material. By Thursday Helen had taken the actors through to the end of the script and we had our first full run through. A young director called James Quaive assisted Helen on the book and anything else that was needed- he turned out to be a real gem. Jules Tipton, who I met on the E15 POSSESSED workshop came along to a lot of the rehearsals and lent a hand anyway she could. She was a rock of support.
Everyone gave their all, contributing to scenes, discussing their characters and really working incredibly hard to make POSSESSED live. The actors were amazing - we were so lucky to have gathered such a wonderful cast. Steve was there every day to accompany everyone on the piano, working away on new orchestrations quietly in the corner and offering up ideas when he was needed. There was a lot of laughter even though everyone was working so hard.
Wednesday was a tough day with decisions to be made about the projections and whether we were to use the main stage at the Arts or not. We decided not to use it because it had very little flat stage set up for the show in the evening and this turned out to be the right choice.
Thursday was the first run through of the cut script. My friend Charles Girdham, who had done all the beautiful publicity and web design, came in to take rehearsal photos. He was amazingly inconspicuous for a photographer and the picture above of Anna Francolini and Joseph Millson is one that he took that day. There are more up on the possessed website. The actors and I cobbled together some basic costumes to give a feel of the time and the characters. The run through went well - we all knew we had a show!
On Friday 25th, producers and a few friends, who couldn't make Sunday at Oxford, had been invited to a private rehearsal in the Arts Pigeon 1 at 3pm. In the morning the three piece orchestra ran though all the numbers before the actors arrived. Steve had found two wonderful musicians: Juliet Leighton-Jones on violin and viola and Etta Morgan on French horn. They all shared some percussion instruments, which the National Theatre had kindly lent us. It was the first time I had heard Steve's orchestration and I was in raptures (sorry no other way to describe it!). While Steve and Helen took the actors through a run through of the songs I paced around waiting for radio Oxford to call and interview me about the show.
We had an audience of about 50, including most of the producers I had invited. It was intensely exciting waiting for the show to begin. It went very smoothly. There were a lot of tears and laughter and when Anna sat on stage singing HOLD STILL at the end a wave of intense relief swept over me. The audience reaction seemed very good and everyone joined us for drinks and talked animatedly about the show afterwards. Tish Francis from the Oxford Playhouse was there to support us which was really wonderful. My dear friend the journalist and writer Stephanie Calman admitted to having cried through nearly the whole show, which I took as a great compliment! The actors and musicians pulled out all the stops, and for a show in a little rehearsal room it felt electric.