Assistant Director, Alice Malin, concludes her Robin Hood rehearsal diaries with a look at how the panto has come together (hint: it's come together beautifully, get you tickets here).
This past week we reached that daunting but exhilarating point in rehearsals of Putting Everything Together. From my position, firmly ensconced behind the stage management desk, this looked like an almost impossible task – but the cast have somehow managed to unite dance routines, fight scenes, acting, singing, puppeteering and even tightrope-walking and make it look damn good.
The young company continue to fling themselves at rehearsals like experienced prat-fallers at a particularly irresistible banana skin. And there is so much excitement at the prospect of being allocated lines that many of them have learnt all the lines already, just in case.
The rehearsal room is crammed with the show’s many props and backstage is bursting at the seams, so to speak, with beautifully-crafted costumes (lots and lots of velvet, with lashings of leather). All of which are signs pointing to only one conclusion: opening night is quickly sneaking up behind us (‘Oh no, it isn’t… Oh yes, it is!’)
In the past ten days, the rehearsal room has played host to various brilliant experts who have come to share their skills with the cast. Our sessions with the fight director, Robin Colyer, who is also artistic director of Evolve Artists Flintlock Theatre, have produced particularly exciting results. The script includes two fight sequences – one with long, wooden staffs and one with swords – and the challenge has been not only to create the illusion of real danger, but also to imbue these fights with a sense of fun, mischief and comic anarchy. The impression of anarchy can, of course, only be achieved with rigour and attention to detail, and it’s these fine details that Robin and the actors have been honing during their sessions: ‘Stamp on his foot again. And again. No, wrong foot. And again…’
Meanwhile, the ensemble have been in the adjoining studio with Grace and Darren (Choreographer and Musical Director), working on a raucous, toe-tapping medley of tunes, some well-known and others composed especially for the show. And in nooks, crannies and corridors all over the building, our Little John and Will Scarlett (masters of improvisation) have been getting to grips with their puppets.
One of the most notable things about rehearsing panto, for me, has been its sheer speed: one minute you’re congratulating yourself on getting everyone’s names right, and then next… What, sorry, everyone’s on stage? I’ve also been struck by the fiendishly difficult job that both cast and crew have to make all the technical elements of the show work – backdrops whizzing in and out, scenes built and struck in an instant: a Herculean labour that is coming into ever sharper definition as we move closer to our first performance.
But what I’ve noticed most of all has been the performers’ commitment, willingness to try anything, and above all energy: qualities that will shine through on stage, in costume, when Robin Hood begins tomorrow.