Good Tech/ Bad Dress
There is a tradition in theatre that if you have a poor dress rehearsal, as a consequence you will have an outstanding first night. There are so many variables at play in this production and it is of such an interactive nature that I really didn’t know how certain things would play to an audience. Yes, I tested, yes, I hypothesised, however, you never quite know what you’ll get. The dress rehearsal then was horror for the wrong reasons. In truth, we were all knackered still from the tech but there was a whole series of errors, fluffs and props not doing exactly what they should. I was furious with myself. As soon as we’d done our get-out I disappeared off and had a good hard examination of what had just occurred and how I was going to fix it. The play was stalling, it was too rammed and needed to be lean. The Fringe is a demanding beast. You get what you pay for. We had paid for an hour slot and we couldn’t run over. If you do, the venue fines you. People plan their evenings here around more than one production, it is unfair to run over.
After I had played through the dress rehearsal in my head, I decided to edit a whole bunch of the story out. I didn’t want to, but really, I needed to pick up the pace and raise the tension. There is only so much you will get into an hour after all. In any other theatre environment, you have a situation whereby the venue would rather have a longer show, preferably with an interval to allow them add-on sales from drinks and merchandise. Not so with Edinburgh. It is a maelstrom. C Venues (our venue) alone has over 200 shows on a tightly packed and frenetic schedule. The Fringe remains a proving ground, a place where ideas are revised, added-to, bent out of shape and re-born. I re-engineered several effects and orientated the play back to interactive and immersive. That’s what we had pitched as, that’s what we needed to do. I got up early the next morning and edited, chopped, installed and created. I was terrified to be doing this on the day of the first performance but really had little choice. As a theatre-maker I have been lucky to work across the world with ISTA (the International Schools Theatre Association- check ‘em out www.ista.co.uk) as an ensemble leader and artistic director. ISTA specialises in bringing young theatre students , teachers and industry professionals together at festivals all over the world. In 4 days they create a half hour production that is shown on the final day. It’s always laced with panic, stress and long hours but above all it fosters ensemble and getting on with the job of making theatre. I think those experiences as a teacher and director allowed me to calm the heck down and push on.
True to tradition, the first night went well. Maybe not the best, all things considered, but it was there; intact and moving at pace and rhythm that was needed to raise the tension and inculcate the belief in the given circumstances.
The next few days built, sculpted and refined. By Saturday we had a show (and as a serial editor, still very much subject to review and critique) and I am pleased to tell you that we are now on three Four Star reviews from critics including Fringe specialist’s Broadway Baby and also The Stage & Television Today, the national trade paper of show business. The Stage made some excellent points and suggested The Devil Without should tour! This made me very happy.