Design For Living: Act 1 Scene 1
This week rehearsals began for Salisbury’s latest Noel Coward production – the very brilliant – Design For Living. My name is Kate McGregor and in the run up to opening night (26th January 2012) I’ll be giving you a sneaky peak inside our rehearsal room to reveal what it’s like to prepare one of Coward’s most complex plays for the stage. I am currently the Noël Coward Trainee Director at the Playhouse and Assistant Director to Caroline Leslie on Design for Living. I hope you find the next months’ worth of entries illuminating and above all, entertaining.
On Monday 19th December we arrived in our rehearsal room for the first time, eager to squeeze all the preparation we could into the week before Christmas. If there were any nerves in the room at the start they were soon blasted out of us with the introduction of Caroline’s ferocious: ‘Nine Square’. Playing this slightly terrifying yet addictive ball game was soon to become a staple during our first week with Coward.
After an unglamorously sweaty start to day one, we began to consider the task ahead of us. With no set, props or costume, all we had to work with were Coward’s words. According to Caroline, our task this week was simple; to find out who these people were and why they do what they do. But like any great play, the truth can take a bit of digging up.
To summarise, this week has been about lining up the facts and finding out about the experiences of our characters, the places they lived and visited, the relationships they’ve had and their knowledge of the wider world. Most importantly, we needed to gain an understanding of the timing of our play and the impact of history on Coward and his characters.
In the last five days we’ve done just about everything to cut to the heart of it. Parisian apartments have been designed and made out of paper, a field trip to Gilda and Leo’s London home has been navigated, we’ve visualised the café where the three met in Montmartre and mused upon the value of art and success. With the perfect backbone in place, we’re just about ready to start putting the play on its feet. But alas, Christmas Eve is upon us.
The next time we meet will be in Salisbury, in a new rehearsal room and a step closer to our big reveal. In the meantime, we shall rest our weary brains, tuck into a mince pie and gulp down a Highball or two. (Noel would certainly approve).
Noel Coward’s Word of the Week: “Bunk” (spoken by Leo in Act 1) short for ‘bunkum’ meaning “nonsense”, “rubbish” or “tosh”. First known use; North Carolina, USA 1845.