So here we are, one week to go till we officially blast off to Frottage III for our production of Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens. We’re nearing the end of our rehearsal period now, and as Director, it’s now my job to steer us away from the (sometimes slightly warm and sticky) confines of the rehearsal room and into the theatre as we go through final preparations for lift off.
I can't sit still at rehearsals. It's a problem. By that I mean I’m not massively comfortable sitting down and in the rehearsal room I do a lot of pacing and a lot of talking quickly and loudly banging the furniture. I love getting into the action as we’re creating it and being able to shape the performances like you would do a sculpture. (Mostly from an energy perspective, not quite from a manhandling perspective of course!) I think sometimes I’ve found one of the toughest things about directing a show is actually trying to translate the vision that you have in your head into something which makes sense to the actors and the audience and explain what you want to see happen. (Use your words, David!) Sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we have to try again, usually when we look back at something again its better. Sometimes there are no words to really explain to someone how you want them to perform a fully committed lesbian romance through the medium of a rock production number, but we try! For this show we have our first proper fight, a stabbing, a western inspired hoe down, a Glitter Ball, a Stripper Pole, and more bubble wrap and glitter infused fabulousness than you can shake a stick at - Tough call! I’ve also learned how to make Dame Sara Lynam disappear, and this is a life skill I am taking with me back to the office when I return, I can tell you!
It’s all about choices, at the end of the day, and no matter what work you perform, I have the brilliant luxury of being able to decide how things look, how they feel and then you throw it open to the audience and it’s out of your control how they receive it. We've made some decisions this time round which I'm proud of - Vulva Savannah in particular still makes me hoot! The actors themselves are a brilliant source of collaboration in the rehearsal room (even if they are too noisy, leave their bags all over the floor and eat crisps too loudly when people are talking. I'm just joking, I do still love you guys!)
For this show I’ve been very blessed to work with Harriet and Erin and the three of us have got a really great working pattern together now, even if we are still probably a little terrified of the actors and messing up in front of them as much as they are in front of us! Having so many talented and confident people round is a real confidence boost, and it gives us the space to be able to experiment a little bit. I also love working with our backstage crew during show week – so love and welcome to Emma our new Stage Manager, who is already proving to be her weight in gold, and Sally who I have instantly bonded with over our mutual love of the “Live Long and Prosper” Emoji. It's the little things...
There are loads of things I love about show week itself, I love the creativity of the tech run, where we get the chance to properly see the set that we’ve been carrying round in our heads for weeks finally come to life and then be able to light it. (as opposed to pretending) Then to watch as things like special effects and sound all start to come together. The tech run for “If I Go” was a massive highlight for me, I loved pacing up and down at the back of the theatre directing how the stage should be lit and what should happen when. I’m owning the fact I looked a little bit like Mickey Mouse as the Magician’s Apprentice but I loved it! It’s stressful of course - you’re constantly on the clock, there’s a million things all happening, but when it comes together, it’s like magic. When you sit with the material for as long as we have, it can become stale sometimes, which is why when you have a brilliant rehearsal and discover something new, or become hysterical and laugh at something because you’re so tired, it’s all part of that experience of bringing something together.
Then there are of course things you find challenging in bringing every project together. I don’t love the chaos of the get in (I’ll try and linger outside, thanks), I never feel like there is enough time to get stuff done, and we always forget something – but you do what you can to minimise those risks wherever possible (rumours of that electrical cable throwing incident have now passed into Proforca legend!). I’m also well ready for the “half a sandwich and half a can of Diet Coke” diet which seems to follow me round during show week (I lost half a stone last time!) as well as spending the whole week dressed in black ("drains my colour and jades my heart." 10 points if you spot that in the show!). There is a funny phenomenon where you can guarantee the minute I start to eat something, my radio will go, or someone will ask a question and the rest of that sandwich goes uneaten, only to be rediscovered the next day when I finally get back to “just that small job I wanted to do before opening night” It’s gross, I know it.
Then there are the other things about show week which I love. I love watching new friendships unfold as people spend far too much time talking to (or getting naked in front of) each other in cramped dressing rooms, I love meeting everyone’s families after the show and telling them how good their partner, child, or sibling is. (Seriously, its the best bit – I’ve got a bet with myself this time I’m going to try and make Paris cry, you watch me) and I also love that hour in the theatre on my own with some very loud music, just before everyone arrives and we start our warm ups and notes for the performance to come. (Well, one day I’ll get the full hour I promise myself, I've never made it yet...)
In any rehearsal process there are moments of triumph. I am not ashamed to admit when everyone got that bit of choreography right on Sunday I cheered and possible banged some more furniture and when we made brilliant use of those props to tell that other bit of the story it made it so funny and fresh that my face hurt from smiling. Those are great moments. I’m being vague, (spoilers, obviously) – but buy me a drink and I’ll tell you what I’m referring to!
Next week we come to the end of this part of our journey, ready for pastures new, and you’ll find out what they are very, very soon. Harriet, Erin and I will be making some video diaries about the week and you’ll be able to follow us all over the internet in the run up to the performances. We’re planning some fantastic nights out for all our audiences and our aim now is to simply give you a brilliant, brilliant night out. So as Sir Flannan Hassett is so fond of saying “Get ready to leave your inhibitions at the door - (now that sentence also ends with "and your pants on the floor" but I absolutely can’t sanction that bit, Director's veto)” as we bring you the results of six months hard work from a brilliant cast, a fantastic production team, and one knackered but very proud Director. Let’s see you throw some shapes, laugh, and feel free to have a drink or two and celebrate with us.
See you at Saucy Jack’s, and if you’re buying, mine is a Radar Thrust.
David Brady is Artistic Director of Proforca Creative and is Director and Executive Producer of "Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens" (Tickets on sale NOW!) When he's not hiding somewhere finishing that last half a sandwich, you can follow him on Twitter @proforcadavid, and Proforca @weareproforca