Salisbury Playhouse’s Noel Coward Bursary Trainee Director Kate McGregor takes us into the rehearsal room for upcoming production of The Seven Year Itch by George Axelrod, directed by Blanche McIntyre. The Seven Year Itch opens on 15th March and runs until 7th April in the Main House.
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In the middle of rehearsal week three The Seven Year Itch is shaping up beautifully. There’s been so much laughter in rehearsals I’m almost starting to feel guilty. George Axelrod’s script, told through Richard’s perspective, provides a fantasy fuelled look into the frustrations of a man nearing forty, who has been married for seven years and is home alone for the summer.
Week one was a chance for director Blanche McIntyre to propose the themes and ideas of the play and instruct the actors on how stylistically this piece will be realised. As well as a first read through (which went excellently) Blanche also took the opportunity to meet with the actors individually. The rest of the week was spent putting the play on it’s feet for the first time, reading scenes chronologically. The company were keen to find out where Richard’s ‘fantasies’ would spring from. Without giving too much away, there are some super quick costume changes, a very clever set and plenty of ingenious reveals.
During the second week Blanche began to deepen these investigations in both staging and character work. We spent a portion of time looking at the crucial moment when Richard is almost killed by a falling tomato plant. How heavy does it need to be to get the desired effect? What kind of chair does it fall onto and how can this effect happen every night without destroying the furniture? Getting this right at an early stage will put Richard, or more accurately, Gyuri Sarossy at his ease and maintain a believable death-defying illusion. After much discussion, the conclusion was made that the style of the play would dictate the weight of the object. The company will be looking for a spectacular imagining rather than a close shave with catastrophe.
One continuing thread has been Richard’s real and imagined life. For a man who’s painfully concerned about his waning sexual prowess, he’s making the most of it here. There’s a hefty amount of lust on stage for 1953 and it’s easy to see why Axelrod was described as having ‘a quirky sensibility that always seemed slightly ahead of the curve’. The results in this production will be nothing short of hilarious.
The intrigue about this play for some will be how the stage production will differ from the 1950s film starring Marilyn Monroe who helped forge the iconic status of this play in its transition to film. That’s something audiences will have to wait to see – but in Blanche McIntyre’s creation the theatricality of the script is allowed to shine, and the actor playing The Girl will also perform all four of the women in Richard’s fantasies. It’s a challenging part for Verity Rushworth but one that I’m sure will reap huge rewards and breathe unique comic vitality in this version.
Slick, silly and a little bit saucy, I’m sure The Seven Year Itch will be a shining show for Salisbury.
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Notes about George
George Axelrod was born in New York and was the son of a carpenter and silent film actress. Axelrod described a busy, exciting childhood where he had little formal education but hung around Broadway theatres until someone finally gave him a job backstage. In the late 40’s and early 50’s he wrote for radio and television and published a critically praised novel, ”Beggar’s Choice.” His Broadway production of ‘Seven Year Itch’ made him an overnight celebrity. Axelrod went on to write the screenplays for Truman Capote’s ”Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961) and Richard Condon’s ”Manchurian Candidate” (1962).