[Ahead of Nikolai Foster’s first production at Leicester’s Curve as Artistic Director, one of the assistant directors/ stage managers gives an insight into rehearsals for Timberlake Wertenbaker’s 1988 play Our Country’s Good]
‘It’s a theatrical custom, the company is formally introduced to each other’
(Our Country’s Good: Act One, Scene Eleven)
The first week of rehearsals for Our Country’s Good began in the studio at Curve. Although not all rehearsals will take place in here and the room currently looks different to what it will look like for the performances, it gave the cast a feel for the size of the space. After initial introductions were made, the company sat down for a readthrough of the script, giving the opportunity to hear Wertenbaker’s words read aloud for the first time and in the voices that will inhabit each character. After each scene, Nikolai and the cast discussed the text, getting to grips with unfamiliar terminology and bringing in points picked up from prior research. For instance, we talked about the famous actors of the 18th century such as Garrick and Kemble who are mentioned in one scene and how knowing more about them informs the cast’s interpretation of their characters. The day ended with the cast being measured for their costumes.
Over the next two days, the company started to put the play on its feet, starting with making a ship for the first scene. The production is going for a stripped back feel, which this scene epitomises. In a simple, yet very theatrical and poetic way, Nikolai and the cast have begun to explore ways to evoke the barbarity and longing that exist amongst the fleet of English convicts. It looks to be a powerful opening tableau. Another scene which was focused on was Scene 3 where the officers are shooting birds whilst discussing the convicts. As this production will be staged in the round, the company are discovering the power of diagonals, and so it has been especially interesting to see how characters make their entrances and where they look up to shoot. The cast were also encouraged to be specific with the play’s use of Wertenbaker’s language and how punctuation helps to give a stronger sense of narrative and informs character motivation. Furthermore, in looking at the officers’ physicality and how they might carry their guns, the actors have started to build a level of detail which will help solidify the world of the play.
Although we have just begun the rehearsal process, we have started to thoroughly explore the play which will further our ability to tell its story well. The cast now has a week off to individually work through their scripts and are looking forward to returning to rehearsals to continue working through this exciting play which acts as an affirmation of theatre and its value in society.
Our Country’s Good, directed by Nikolai Foster, plays at Curve, Leicester 16th-18th April, 2015. It is a co-production with De Montfort University students.