The Grinning Man Rehearsal Diary – Week 3

As The Grinning Man rehearsals pass their halfway point and the puppets come out to play, here are all the latest updates from the rehearsal room from Associate Direct Ben Woolf prior to the creative team’s relocation to Bristol.


It’s halfway week in our rehearsal of The Grinning Man. We have a cake to celebrate.  Although we generously disguise this as being for Tarek (our onstage MD)’s birthday.  He’ll never know.

We’ve been working on Act Two. Compared to Act One, it feels eerily…. easy. Perhaps it’s because the script does a lot of its narrative work in the first act.  Or perhaps it’s because, by this point, the two parts of the world – the court and the fair – have converged. Or perhaps just because it doesn’t open with an all-singing, all-dancing, all-puppetted, full-company extravaganza.

We make good progress. And, early in the week, get into one of the show’s big set-pieces: the retelling of the mutilation of Grinpayne by Barkilphedro – the show’s demonic clown-narrator. The show is structured to give three, conflicting retellings of the Grinning Man’s backstory.

grinning-man-rehearsals-simon-annand-12  grinning-man-rehearsals-simon-annand-03

This sequence begins with Barkilphedro’s cack-handed attempts to shadow puppet his peculiar version of the truth. It’s exceptionally funny and Julian Bleach brings rehearsals temporarily to a standstill of laughter. It’s a good sign.

Tom Morris has been working to tie together the dialogue and song. For example, this act has a scene in which Grinpayne is seduced by Josiana, the hedonistic Princess. On the page, the scene opens with a song before moving into a separate dialogue scene. In the rehearsal, we discover it’s possible to move much of the scene into the song – overlapping the dialogue and the music. It tightens up the scene and makes for an explosive payoff.

By the end of the week, we run the second act. We’re all pleased with how it goes. We’ve now sketched through the whole show. It’s an excellent platform from which to find more detail and fine-tune the scenes.

This is the end of the London leg of our rehearsals. Next week Bristol…


The Grinning Man is the gripping musical conclusion to our 250th Anniversary Season 13 Oct-13 Nov. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

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