The Light Burns Blue: Rehearsal Diary – Week 8

As THE LIGHT BURNS BLUE company prepare for opening night, Propolis Theatre (Made in Bristol 2015) and Young Company member Jess Clough McRae tells us about the last minute tweaks before the curtain comes up in the Studio…

Jess in rehearsal for The Light Burns Blue. Photo by Justine Frost.

Jess in rehearsal for The Light Burns Blue. Photo by Justine Frost.

After a long Easter weekend we all file back into the rehearsal room. Some are rested, some less so, but all of us are glad to be back and raring to go.

Last week ended with some brutal but necessary cuts, so we start by going over the scenes that suffered most and re-block where necessary. It’s a sad process with a few cast favourites gone, and we embark on a run in the afternoon with some trepidation, but of course, scenes run smoother and moments that had become clunky are given new life. We find ourselves laughing in places we hadn’t laughed before. Characters who no longer have full scenes find new moments to shine. We have to work harder to tell these stories; there is no room for dead space.

Wednesday is spent working through group scenes and transitions. The process is slow, painstaking. By the afternoon it feels like we’re walking through treacle. At the end of the day Silva throws in a curve ball; should we change the ending? We discuss at length and Silva leaves looking thoughtful.

We have another morning of transitions while our Winifred and Elsie work through their newer scenes and a tweaked finale. They join us after lunch, already exhausted, for a run.

With cuts and transitions, the show holds together in a way it never has before.  Mid-run, Polly falls into place in my head. Her journey has finally taken shape. All of a sudden I understand her. I sit and write furiously, Polly’s diary all over my battered script. I miss my cue. It is the only point in the run that we have to stop and go back. I am embarrassed, but I’ve just won a personal battle. Me and Polly are working together on this one.

The run finishes with the new ending. It’s perfect. There are tears in my eyes, and I know I’m not the only one.

We are released early to make way for a meeting with the creative team. I don’t know what hidden energy reserves they’re running on; I’m pretty sure they are writing, directing and composing in their sleep. We are in very good hands.

We make the most of our afternoon running lines in the sun. The weather is also on our side.

Friday. Our last run in the rehearsal room. The set we’ve been enjoying all week is transferred to the Studio throughout the day. We perform to a small audience, which helps us up our game. We are slowly getting to grips with the running order. There are few mistakes. At lunch we are taken down for a health and safety talk and a tour of the space. The set is beautiful. You can feel the excitement mounting.

Saturday is tech day and we’re in for the long hall. We all arrive at 9am and get into costume. Max brings images of period hairstyles; our dressing room is a chaos of brushes and hairpins. I am torn between jealousy and relief; I’ve been growing out my hair for the show but it still only comes to an inch in length. The boys emerge with gel-caked comb-overs and we file into the space.

It’s a long day for Lisa, James and the techies but it is managed smoothly by our wonderful producer and her assistant. The thirteen hours fly by with everyone in excellent spirits. It’s the most painless, professional tech I’ve ever had, and we all leave on a high.

It feels like we’ve been working on this show forever, it’s such a big part of all of our lives now. The last term working with such a wonderful cast and creative team has been a gift; I know we’ll all be sorry when it’s over. But we’re ready. A few final tweaks and a dress run to go, and all Lisa, Silva and the team’s efforts should pay off. I don’t want to speak too soon, but we’ve made something, and I think it’s going to be beautiful.

The Light Burns Blue plays in Bristol Old Vic Studio between 15-18 April. Find out more, and book tickets here

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