Sunday 27 Feb - Technical rehearsal
We've been building up to this for months. Gradually absorbing and repeating the lines, carefully planning and practising the movements, slowly getting to know the other members of the cast as well as the characters we'll play.
The 'technical' is our penultimate rehearsal before opening night, the final check on lighting, props, staging and costumes; it has always had the potential to be both scary and demanding. Despite all the careful planning and the very best intentions of cast and crew, the last few weeks have been challenging for Lonnie our director and the four hours set aside in our rehearsal schedule, which had seemed so ludicrously generous all those months ago, suddenly appear to be nowhere near enough.
It's one thing to walk through the scenes when all you need to do is imagine the props, another one entirely to manoeuvre around the small space of the village hall's stage without totally blocking the audience's view, as a fellow cast member delivers their most poignant line. It should be easy to wield a meat cleaver with conviction, but the more you do it the less natural it feels. The Gut Girls are supposed to be coarse and common, but we're still being urged to be louder and more raucous; and you may think that it would present no challenge, but I haven't yet entirely got to grips with the art of swigging convincingly from an empty beer bottle.
Theatre is full of superstition. Many believe that mere mention of the name of 'The Scottish Play' is enough to bring on a plague of bad luck. Others attempt to evade calamity by banning whistling anywhere in the theatre, avoiding the use of mirrors on stage and insisting that the colour blue can only be worn when offset by silver. But probably the best known of all theatrical superstitions is the phrase that's meant to replace any ill-advised good luck wishes. This week Sheila, our prompt, took that a little too literally. Having spent weeks patiently and successfully overcoming the challenges of a cast who change their lines at every rehearsal, her downfall was the curled up edge of carpet in the doorway of the hall, which resulted in nasty tumble and a fractured femur.
It's strange how you think you know people just because you pass them in the street and say hello. I saw a different side to my fellow Shoreham Players that night. Sheila was very brave, despite her obvious fear and pain, but she was matched in stoic fortitude by Jill who crouched down motionless for a limb-numbing age to hold the injured leg still. Derek's kind, calming, softly spoken words are just what I'd want to hear if ever I was in trouble and even Megan, who in my heart will always be my little girl, showed me she's far from that in the confident clear way she called and spoke to the ambulance service.
Sheila has now had an operation and is recovering in hospital, but even so, I don't think anyone will be telling us to 'break a leg' on opening night.