The show must go on – and spectacularly so…. In Water I’m Weightless.

David Toole – In Water I’m Weightless. Photo: Kaite O’Reilly

It’s a cliche, the show must go on – and we know cliches exist because they are true…. In the break before the dress rehearsal for National Theatre Wales’s production of my script In Water I’m Weightless last Wednesday 25th July, one of our performers, the phenomenal Mandy Colleran, had an accident and had to be taken to Accident and Emergency. We cancelled the first preview the following night, and, under Mandy’s encouragements, began to consider our options for the performance continuing until she was able to join us again.

There were various possibilities: To get someone, probably the production’s emerging director, Sara Beer, to read in the lines, acknowledging our Mandy-shaped hole in the production, or to rework the complete performance, re-assigning Mandy’s lines to other members of the cast, re-casting, re-blocking and re-choreographing the performance. Cancelling more than the first preview was not, we all agreed, an option, so we chose to do the latter, reworking the whole performance in 24 hours. And so we set off on this Herculean task – and never have I been more aware of the humour, strengths, flexibility, and professionalism of a company…

In Water I’m Weightless is a collage of monologues which are performed collectively, chorally, bilingually, and as solos. It is an ensemble piece, so the cast are practised in working together as one entity – but as it is an ensemble, Mandy’s absence was sorely felt. Swiftly Sara Beer, John McGrath, and I re-allocated the lines, making edits, shifts, and cutting one scene. Overnight the actors – Mat Fraser, David Toole, Karina Jones, Nick Phillips and Sophie Stone – learnt new scenes and staging – appearing virtually word-perfect the next morning for rehearsals.

John worked us chronologically through the script, the technical crew and cast adjusting, amending, reinventing, but always staying true to the original concept and interpretations of the text. We broke for lunch – the actors dotted individually around the front of the Wales Millennium Centre, enjoying the rare summer sun, sandwiches and scripts in hand, running lines, learning the new texts, whilst in the dark of the studio, designer  Paul Clay and the technical crew re-edited videos and replotted the lighting design.

We finished rehearsing the new order in time for a run at 5pm – the whole company going above and beyond expectations in their focus and mastery of the new version – with just enough time for dinner before preparing for the opening, at 8pm. The show went up to a packed audience and with a mixture of pure adrenaline, professionalism, and extraordinary skill the cast and crew carried it off with aplomb. We have a new version which will work well until Mandy rejoins us – and now have a glorious week of performances ahead of us…

One response to “The show must go on – and spectacularly so…. In Water I’m Weightless.

  1. Sounds great! I’m coming to see the show with or without Mandy on the 1st September at your 2pm performance! I love theatre , am a friend of Mat’s and Dave!

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