LeanerFasterStronger: First Day of Rehearsals.

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Cast list of LeanerFasterStronger pinned to the rehearsal room door: Ben Addis, Kathryn Dimery, Morven Macbeth, Christopher Simpson.

It’s finally arrived, after so many months of preparation and research: I’m in the rehearsal room of the Lyceum Theatre, part of Sheffield Theatres, on the first day of rehearsals for LeanerFasterStronger.

The full cast are here: Kathryn Dimery, Christopher Simpson, Morven Macbeth, and Ben Addis, as is the designer, Shanaz Gulzar, composer and sound designer Shane Durrant, co-producer Susan Burns of Chol Theatre, the great crew, and director Andrew Loretto.

We began the morning with a read-through of the play. It’s the first time these actors have met and yet within ten minutes of meeting, they’re collaborating as though they’ve worked together for years. I’m impressed with their immediate complicity. As a playwright, I always think the first read-through is important: You are hearing these words outside your own head perhaps for the first time and so never again will have that freshness in noting any false notes, clunkiness, or gaping holes in the narrative or dynamic.

I always want to get the actors’ immediate responses to the work. In my experience, performers can instantly locate areas that require attention – areas which may not be discernible again until later in the process. Our director Andrew asks them to record their initial gut reactions on flip chart sheets pinned to the rehearsal room mirrored wall: Questions. Images. Delights.

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Kath getting first images and responses to LFS down.

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The actors get their thoughts down and we go immediately into a second read-through for the partners of the project. The rehearsal room bulges with Sheffield Theatres staff, Rebecca and Susan from Chol Theatre, Dr David James from Sheffield Hallam University’s Sports Science department, and staff from imove, of the Yorkshire Cultural Olympiad.

Again, to my delight, the actors give a fabulous reading and I start wondering if they can gel together this well, after knowing each other less than half a day, what might they be capable of after several weeks rehearsals?

After the reading Shanaz gives a presentation about the design and the physical and visual world of the play begins to take form. Earlier, during the second reading, our composer/sound designer Shane had created soundscapes and sound effects, exploring the sonic possibilities.

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L to R: Christoper, Shanaz and Ben discuss the design

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After lunch Andrew Wilcox takes us on a backstage tour of Sheffield Theatres, which is currently hosting the World-famous Snooker Championships. The Crucible Theatre is where where the tournament happens, and the studio, where we will present LeanerFasterStronger in a month’s time, is currently used as a practice room. We stood in the space, surrounded by snooker tables and World-class snooker players, trying to imagine Shanaz’s design in the space, imagining what we may present here in a month’s time.

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L to R: Morven, Christopher, Ben, Kath and Andrew Wilcox in the transformed Crucible Studio. 

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