It’s not long until Opening Night of One Man, Two Guvnors in Melbourne. Here’s the third and final entry from the original One Man, Two Guvnors rehearsal diary in which the cast are rehearsing with real props and food, and testing out the action on stage.
During our last week of rehearsals, four-piece band The Craze joins the cast in the rehearsal room so we can hone the scene changes and practise the songs. All this is designed to make the transition into the technical rehearsal in the theatre as smooth as possible.
The rehearsal props, furniture and bits of costume are gradually replaced by the real things (called ‘actuals’). Most importantly, real food for the dinner scene is tested. We have two full run-throughs of the show which audiences are invited to attend and Rehearsal Room Two is full to the seams with 100 students squeezed in. We use their reaction to gauge when a scene is too long, when the plot isn’t clear and when the action isn’t funny enough. New sets of rewrites and cuts are introduced after each run.
The ‘tech’ proves to be a relatively smooth process, especially when considering the complexity of the show’s design; a live band, sliding flats, flying flats, trapdoors, automation (which transports the microphones from substage to stage level). Over three days, we work through the whole play; often running complicated sequences (such as scene changes) several times. Paul Arditti, the sound designer, has a complicated job as he has to mix the band and singers for each musical number in order to get an attractive aural balance, as well as providing direct sound effects.
There are some complications such as the automation system, which makes a loud whirling noise which distracts from the dialogue when the mics are moved at the end and beginnings of scenes. It is decided in previews to only cue the automation after the dialogue has finished, and Grant Olding, the composer, has to extend the music to allow the mics time to travel before the singer is due to begin.
Another major issue is the two doors, located on either side of the stage. These are used in most scenes and the action requires a lot of them. (Farces, or plays with farcical elements, are notorious for their reliance on doors). In different scenes they have to open in a different directions (denoting external locations where doors open inwards, and internal rooms where doors open outwards), they are frequently slammed and crashed against by actors, must stay firmly shut once closed, but not be so heavy that the cast has trouble operating them. At several times during the tech the doors don’t go according to plan. Eventually, the decision is made to give the actors a tech session off (3 hours) in order to allow the production team to fit new lighter, but sturdier, doors, with more reliable catches.
At the end of the tech, there are two dress rehearsals which go very well; although the decision is taken to change some sections of action and the cast have to implement changes in front of an audience during the first preview.
This article was written by Adam Penford and first appeared in National Theatre’s Education background pack for One Man, Two Guvnors.
The National Theatre’s production of One Man, Two Guvnors is playing at Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse from 17 May to 22 June.