The Rivals Rehearsal Diary – Week 4

The Rivals company have arrived in Bristol! Following three weeks of rehearsals in London, find out all about their first week in our very own Theatre space in the latest rehearsal diary from Assistant Director Ed Madden.


Our first week in Bristol began much as our first week in London did, with a chance to meet and greet everybody in the building, whom we’ll be working alongside through the remainder of rehearsals, tech and the run. Unlike in London, this meet and greet was held on the very stage where the company will be performing The Rivals nightly within a few weeks.

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Readers of this blog will likely know this, but Bristol Old Vic really is one of the most beautiful theatres in the country. Standing on the stage, its intimacy is even more palpable than it is from the audience; for actors there is a very real feeling that they are in the same room as the people they are performing to. It’s helpful to get a sense of the space in this way. There are things about being there for real that can’t be gleaned from the mark-up in the rehearsal room: the proximity of the forestage to the front row of audience, the depth of the space, the presence of the onstage boxes.

It’s an invigorating way to start the week, and is swiftly followed by our first music call, where composer Dan Jones teaches the company a song which we are considering using somewhere in the show. It’s one of the many elements being added in thick and fast now that we’re in Bristol. Although there are no costumes in the room yet, most of the company are now wearing period shoes so that they can get used to the feel, and the week has been peppered with costume fittings off-site. Pieces of set vanish from the rehearsal room only to reappear the next day newly painted, and various props arrive to flesh out the world of the play and the actors’ interactions with it.

Perhaps most excitingly: a fight call. Jonathan Howell of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School arrived midweek to teach us about the etiquette of duelling with swords and pistols, and to choreograph some neat moments of action. On the whole, Sheridan is more concerned with battles of wits than of blades, so we don’t quite go full Treasure Island, but it’s exciting nonetheless — and only adds to the sense that the production is hurtling ever faster towards being ready for an audience.

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We’re in a good place going into the fifth and final week of rehearsals. There are still moments to refine and decisions to make, and there is always a sense in which it’s difficult to know exactly what needs work until it’s possible to run the play all the way through. Nobody is complacent, and so the rehearsal room is still a place of invention, rigour and possibility; now we just need to use our last week to distil those possibilities into something we can take into the theatre for tech. Not long now!


The Rivals continues our 250th Anniversary Season 9 Sep-2 Oct. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

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