It was an utterly unique experience.
After our second day of rehearsal (after 3 months) we jumped on a train to Edinburgh and headed up to Stockfest. We got into Edinburgh at 4.30pm and with nowhere to be until our meeting at St. Stephens at 7pm we had some production meetings in various pubs near to Waverly Station – a perfect start.
St. Stephens is a beautiful church with a fascinating history, but the performance space, was as feared, dead, in terms of atmosphere and splashy in the acoustics. A lot of work was needed to be done the next day to get it ready. A quick conflab with our lighting designer for the event, Anna Robertson and then it was off to drink, I mean prep some more…
The complications of staging a piece in a space not designed for performance are huge. However, if you choose to embrace the difficulty as opposed to focusing on it then great things occur. We hired in some very basic lighting to bring in some ambience, and filled the space with candles, inspired by the traditional version of theatrical lighting. We brought in a PA system, gifted for the night by a friend of a friend so the beautiful compositions by Gareth Jones would be heard properly. Other groups were using the room next door so calm and quiet never reigned, but we made the decision to work and to keep the actors focused. With the help of Effie Scott, my assistant for the day, we ran the show in the space twice, checking every angle and aiding with voice work when needed. Most importantly we let the performers, including my lighting designer, play and get on with what they needed to do. Aside from some very specific moments there was no way we could keep to the beautiful lighting design created in Exeter for us by Ross McGivern so instead we were inspired by it. I told Anna what I was aiming for with certain moments and then asked her to be inspired by what she saw and to change the lighting to enhance the image – to improvise alongside the work of Angie and Johnny. It was beautiful to watch. By show time and the third time of doing it that day she was taking risks alongside them.
Three times that day Angie and Johnny did the show; twice for the techies and to get used to the space for themselves, the third to share with an audience. In number three however I saw and heard ideas being newly discovered between them. For me that is what makes theatre so incredible, the chance at any moment to discover something new in something you thought you already knew. As long as you listen and react.