The Snow Queen is now into its fourth week of performances. It continues to delight our school audiences on a daily basis. Soon we will be moving into our two show’s a day schedule in the lead up to Christmas. As well as the school children we have been delighting the theatre critics, recently receiving four stars in the national press; from both The Guardian and The Observer. Here’s what the press have been saying:
“One of the most Christmassy things you could indulge in this Christmas…”
— Jenny Amphlett, The Sentinel
“Simply superb in every department…” *****
— Chris Eldon Lee, Staffordshire What’s On
“Exhilaratingly performed and warmed with humour. ’Twould melt the coldest of cold, cold hearts” ****
— Clare Brennan, The Observer
The show really is a delight. There hasn’t been much time for Christmas present buying here at the New Vic – last week saw the culmination of our understudy rehearsals. The New Vic has an understudy policy for each year’s Christmas show. With so many wintery bugs and germs flying around we do our very best to be armed against it, the last thing we want to do is to cancel a show and disappoint our audience from having their annual Christmas treat. Therefore, this year’s understudies, Molly Roberts and James Sidwell work incredibly hard from the first day of rehearsals. For those who may not know, Understudies are substitute performers. They learn a number of the roles in the show which they will then cover in the eventuality of another cast member being ill or injured and unable to perform in the show. Molly and James are regular members of our ensemble so their roles also need covering!
It is my job to plan the understudy strategy of ‘who would cover what’ at any moment and then to rehearse the acting company into the various scenarios. It is a busy schedule, often with two performances a day and an understudy rehearsal in the evening. But, it’s absolutely worth it.
Molly and James learn their understudy roles through absorption in rehearsals and the early performances, then we move into detailed Understudy rehearsals. As the understudy director I have not insisted on absolute duplication, as this can create a robotic like performance. Rather I have insisted that the staging, storytelling and movement at each moment matches that of the actor they are covering but I have encouraged their individual interpretation, it is refreshing to hear the words spoken by another actor. Each actor brings something of themselves to the role and so variation is both unavoidable and, in my eyes, should be promoted.
Last Thursday we had an understudy run, which is a dress rehearsal of an understudy show situation. I was amazed at the professionalism of our two understudies, at their sheer capacity to learn/retain information and their calm approach to the run. It is not an easy task and they met it with absolute grace and skill. Good job we’d done all the work…As I write this blog, we have one cast member off and an understudy performance in progress…