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Rep Season 2013 – Rehearsal Day 10 – SUZIE FOSTER (Company Manager)

December 7, 2012

“Surrounded by debauchery and lust…”

In some aspects Stage Managing a Rep Season is, I’ve discovered, not that dissimilar from managing a single show. Especially during the rehearsal process anyhow (don’t worry, I’ll get to the debauchery and lust later.) You still have the same number of cast checking their call times and forgetting their lines, the same director having a million ideas that we can’t afford, and the same rushed lunch-time production meetings. Most others, I think, treat each play as a separate production, but for me, we are essentially doing one production with three very different acts, in varying orders and some very long scene changes!

As we have to be able to produce all three plays in one space, with one lighting rig, one backstage area and one Stage Manager, I have to see them as a single unit and make them work together. I am always thinking how one may affect the other two both on and off stage. Having done Rep 2012 I know that is where the real challenges lie – fitting eight boys with three costumes each (that’s a lot of shoes) into a small dressing room space is always fun; but that is what makes a Rep Season exciting, creating a different space and atmosphere each day. The three-show days are tough but watching your cast convince an audience they are in three completely different worlds is very satisfying.

So here it is…”surrounded by debauchery and lust…” Given that I am working with 13 actors I would like to say that this is true of the rehearsal room but The Faction cast are a very hard working and studious bunch. Each time I come in there seem to be more books on the table, more facts gained and more ideas and thoughts being discussed. Perhaps once we hit the performances the ‘debauchery and lust’ will come out. Until then, its hard work, a bit of kicky and cake, lots of cake.


Rep Season 2013 – Rehearsal Day 1 – GARETH FORDRED (Gianettino/Soleni/Woodcutter)

November 26, 2012

‘Fly, my darling, fly.’

I guess I should put this in perspective. Today, I accepted the offer of living in the spare room of a man I met yesterday. At a Buddhist choir. Yes, Buddhists have choirs. No, I have no idea how this is going to pan out.

To compare: I am feeling very certain and concrete about how much I am going to enjoy rehearsals for The Faction’s Rep 2. Let’s concentrate on that.

I suspect that I enjoy rehearsals more than performing, I think. The perfect job may just be a constant year of going from playing in a room with nice people, to playing in another room with other nice people, and never having to do the slog of touring or the nerves of first nights.

Why can’t someone subsidise my life?

I may even enjoy this point right now. The point before you even step into the rehearsal room. When you have the job, you have the script and you’re just starting to imagine what you’re going to do. Dreaming it all in your head. There, it’s all perfect. I’m marvellous, and you’re all pretty good too.

I reckon I could get by on £30,000 a year.

Doesn’t it cost more to incarcerate people?

Make that £35,000.

Think about it, get back to me.

Contact me @ thefaction.

MARY STUART – Performance Day 13 – TOM RADFORD (Mortimer)

September 23, 2012

Mortimer – From Raging Papist to Paging Rapist!

When remounting a production there’s a few questions that pop into your head before rehearsals. “Will I remember my lines from last time? Will they re-cast my part? Will the wonderful Suzie Foster still bring in baked goods?” Well the answer to those are: yes, strangely the lines have somehow been etched into my brain; no, luckily they didn’t find anyone who fit my costume and yes, first day back and there was a bowl of homemade cookies.

But once the week of rehearsals start, the questions become a lot more specific to the world of the play and our characters and as Mark quite rightly claims that there is more detail to be found. It’s funny when you think you know the play so well and then you suddenly wonder as you stand on stage with another character “have I ever met Leciester before?”  And thats something I’ve loved about getting back into Mortimer’s shoes.  Even exploring questions as simple as that can completely change your whole thought process during a scene, and soon the show feels like a brand new play.

It’s a great feeling to go into a job without the worry of first day nerves. “Will I like the cast? Will they like me? I hope there’s no awkward small talk”.  But stepping back into the rehearsal room with The Faction is so easy. I have already made relationships with the whole company and I know where I stand…I don’t like them, they don’t like me and there’s no small talk because I ignore every single one of them! 

I wish that were true.  It would make it easier when we come to end of the run of Mary Stuart, something I’m not looking forward to.  But I know that there are already so many exciting projects in the pipeline and it is an absolute pleasure to be a member of the core ensemble and have the chance to work with this ridiculously talented company again!

Long live kickminton!

MARY STUART – Performance Day 10 – SAM MILLARD (Melvil)

September 20, 2012

You know how actors moan about acting? How it’s actually a lot harder than people think and that for the most part it’s a long old unforgiving slog? Well, right now that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

I’m back working with The Faction and I’m having a whale of a time. I’m the only (not so new) new face in the cast but slotting in couldn’t have been easier. The team know the show like the back of their hand and I was just able to jump straight in and get on with it. In truth I don’t feel like a newcomer to this at all. I’m playing Melvil who arrives newly ordained at the end of the play and saves Mary’s soul. And The Earl of Sandwich. Undoubtedly the best character in the play. He invented Disco. Also, Antonio Banderas used him as inspiration for his role as Zorro.
We’re just about to start the third week of shows now and over half way through the NDT run, the audiences have been good and very responsive to what are doing. As yet there haven’t been any hiccups. I’ve only walked into the furniture twice which I think is pretty damn good. In a way I’m in a lucky position in the show, as for 75% of it I’m an on-stage observer so I get to enjoy the stuff people are doing. It’s always a tiny bit different every night, as it absolutely should be, and I love watching the two queens at each other’s throats in the grounds of Fotheringay Castle. That scene really bristles with energy (especially when Leicester gets his cape caught in Liz’s wig… One of the funniest moments ever in my stage career, and yet not a single corpse from the cast!) I didn’t get to see the show first time round cos it sold out, so I’m glad I’m getting to see some of it now!
On stage and off the company is great, there’s a lot to be said for a group of actors getting on so well. When you’re on stage it gives you a security, you know you aren’t alone out there and whatever happens you will get each other through without the audience having any clue that something has gone awry. When you’re off stage it means everyone can relax and be comfortable, have a laugh and a joke and enjoy yourself. I’ve taken it upon myself to call the fight after each show, at the moment Mary is four rounds ahead but I am open to bribes. 
It’s a show that I’m going to miss being around when it’s done, mainly because of Kickminton –  a game still in its infancy at the moment, but that will definitely be an olympic sport before long! 

Sam x

MARY STUART – Performance Day 6 – LACHLAN McCALL (Paulet)

September 12, 2012

I think this is the first time I’ve ever revived a show. There was The Counterfeiters’ Tragedy, of course, but that was only a gap of three weeks. The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Lord of the Flies were only a month each. None of them needed any re-rehearsal. There was, of course, The Robbers for The Faction but that was a very different experience as, with two days notice before the start of a week’s re-rehearsals, I was moved from the small but perfectly formed role of Schufterle to Franz, the leading antagonist. That week went past in a blur of coffee and anxiety.


This is the first time I’ve returned to a show after five months in the same role and with (largely) the same cast around me and it’s been a joy. When The Faction’s inaugural Rep Season concluded at the end of February, although it had been a great experience, I was physically and emotionally exhausted and was looking forward to some much needed time off. When we returned to the rehearsal room two weeks ago, I had forgotten just how lovely this company of actors are and how much I enjoyed working with them.


It was remarkable how quickly the play came back to everyone. We started on the first day with a run to see where we were at and very quickly, we found ourselves up to speed. We then had the luxury of being able to work on, in detail, all those little moments we were not quite satisfied with in the first run.


To an extent, things have had to alter as a result of converting the play from cross-traverse to end-on but it’s been pleasantly surprising how little we have lost and, in fact, how much we have gained. One audience member who has seen both versions remarked ‘It’s a lot sexier for an actor to be in traverse but the audience miss out on a lot of important information. It’s much clearer end-on.’ With a play as dense as Mary Stuart that’s no bad thing.


Two weeks left at the wonderful New Diorama before we head out on tour. Will the Earl of Sandwich break his silence? Will Lord Talbot get the hang of his crutches? Will the T-Gen last the remaining sessions of Kickminton? We’ll see in Qatar…

BROCKWELL PARK 2012 – Performance Day 16 – ELIZABETH TWELLS (Desdemona/Hermia)

June 28, 2012
‘My story being done.’ 
I first heard about The Faction’s physical, ensemble-based and inventive style through a friend who said ‘you would LOVE their work.’ After doing some research and trying desperately (and failing) to get a ticket for their sold-out rep season, I decided to write them a letter expressing how I admire their company and would love to audition for them.
Four months, an audition, and a vomit story later I was asked to play the two incredible and contrasting roles of Desdemona and Hermia! 
From learning my lines in solitude, to breaking down the text in such detail, to getting up and hoping my mouth doesn’t fail me as I brave to say some of the most famous words out loud, this experience has been the most challenging and rewarding I have had yet.
Having the opportunity to explore two totally different plays I found very liberating and, needless to say, it kept us on our toes! A morning of ‘Othello’ would inform a decision made in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ rehearsals later that afternoon and vice versa. From being swung around, to heightening verbs, to crying, to laughing so much I couldn’t breathe; the main thing I learnt was to trust the text as that will inform you to do the right thing. Also, Fat Friday (bring in a van load of sweet food) is a day I will sorely miss!! 
After three and a bit weeks of rehearsal, we opened. Needless to say, Mother Nature has been a naughty lass this summer and, as this was my first experience of outdoor theatre, she decided to throw me in the deep end! Moving our performance space from the water logged Copse to near the House, we embraced the weather and told the stories of both plays to audiences come rain or shine. 
Now, as we only have a few days to go before we finish at Brockwell Park, we continue to visit each play as if for the first time; working as an ensemble, developing our physical language and enjoying speaking/shouting/whispering some of Shakespeare’s funniest and most insightful words. 
Tonight is ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and with weather like today’s I couldn’t be more grateful! 

BROCKWELL PARK 2012 – Rehearsal Day 15 – ANDREW CHEVALIER (Cassio/Lysander)

June 6, 2012

It’s my turn to blog about the process The Faction are going through
in mounting Othello and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (AMND) for a summer
season at Brockwell Park. I thought I’d take this week to keep a
journal of some of the challenges as we come across them.

Shocker of a start. Boiler broken and rehearsal venue has changed from
ten minutes from my house to a forty five minute cycle away. Less
clean than usual and pretty sweaty, a bigger shock was waiting on my
arrival: we’ve lost a cast member. Very careless.

Last Friday ended with celebration. One of our company had been cast
for the National Theatre (hello) and we were all delighted for him. It
transpires however, that the dates with the NT clash with our post
park tour dates and so the directors have kindly released him from his
contract.  Not easy to say no to Nick Hytner.

A challenge to be sure but I’m not worried because any past performer
that is dragooned will slot right in as they’ll have the The Faction’s
values ingrained. They’re these: 1. You’re here as an ensemble. 2.
You’re here to tell a ruddy good story. 3. You’re going to get
bruised. The shows, I am sure, won’t suffer.

Today we spend the entire day on Othello. In the morning we finished
breaking down the text for the first time (it’s a long but valuable
process where we comb the text; translating and discussing every
line). Othello, it turns out, is pretty tragic.  Sam Millard joined
the company in the afternoon. He will revive his Demetrius from last
years AMND and will take on the role of Roderigo in Othello allowing
Cary Crankson to take over the role of Iago. It’s only a small part

The rejigged castings feel pretty darn good and so what might have
been a day of re-finding our feet instead became a day where Othello
took a big step forward. My collection of bruises was added to as we
became a part of one of Iago’s soliloquies. Not sure what will make it
into the final show but creativity was a’flowing regardless.

AMND day today. We took a second look at the first two acts, adding
detail and tightening everything up but still a chance to try new
ideas out. As well as playing Lysander I double as Flute and so far it
just hasn’t felt like what I am doing is working – never a fun
feeling. Tried something new today which seems to be getting closer to
the character but there’s still plenty to be unlocked and explored.

Sam slotted brilliantly back into Demetrius, injecting a whole host of
energy that only comes when you know the character as well as he does.
Not all things are the same however and this year Demetrius gets
beaten up by the girls quite a bit more than he did. This is a teensy
tiny bit satisfying as he’s only been here ten minutes and he’s doing
far too well, for example, speaking all his lines in their entirety and
correctly etc! But maybe that’s my loyalty to Lysander speaking.

Morning off. What? Been going over lines and going to meet a cast
member a bit early to get ourselves ready for this afternoon’s run of
the play so far. This could be messy.

The first run of the scenes that have been worked on so far (up to Act
3 Scene 3) is, in fact, hugely helpful. First of all it’s a chance to
plot the backstage course of the play: Where you next enter after
you’ve exited, how long you’ve got between scenes, or even what your
cue lines are. It’s also a first chance to get a feel for the energy
and pace of the production as one scene flows into another and the
story gathers momentum. Plus, it helps to solidify the work done
previously. But the real benefit of today was realising what good
shape the production is in. It will change noticeably before opening
in two weeks time but lots of things of merit in there already.

Started with the second Mechanicals scene. Flute is feeling a million
times better and further ideas are brewing. It’s a miserable
experience going on stage with a character that you feel is only half
cooked but I’m feeling much more confident that won’t be the case with

Rehearsals flew by this morning. It is a genuine pleasure to be
working with each member of this cast. And to add to my delight, my
weekend started early as I wasn’t needed for Othello rehearsals in the
afternoon –  fantastic!  My joy, however, was short lived. I got a
puncture just down the road from the rehearsal venue and it’s been a
long walk home.  Ah well, a cracking week nonetheless.