Work experience student Olivia Brennan tells us about her week in the rehearsal room for Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh.
From the moment I got an email offering me a work experience placement at MTC, I knew I was going to have a good time. Being someone who wishes to pursue a career in theatre I knew I needed some form of experience in the industry. Hence, I went into the week ready to learn, and it’s safe to say that I sure did.
When I arrived, I was taken on a tour of MTC’s headquarters where all the rehearsals take place and stagecraft elements are made for each show. I was blown away by all the different elements that were put together to create a show, and got the opportunity to learn about individual elements of production and how they were made. The tour completely inspired me and definitely solidified that a career in the theatre was absolutely for me.
For the rest of my time at MTC, I was assigned to the second week of rehearsals for Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh, directed by Stephen Nicolazzo. I shadowed Pippa Wright the stage manager. The environment was completely positive as soon as I walked into the rehearsal room, and with the help of Stephen, the crew, and the cast (including Zoe Boesen, Pip Edwards, Daniel Frederiksen, Benjamin Rigby and Katherine Tonkin), I walked out of the week knowing I had a much better understanding of the industry and was also able to share many, many laughs with the company.
While everyone was hard working and driven to get through their rehearsals and create a wonderful show, there were many moments of fun, which gave me the impression that everyone enjoyed their jobs to the point where it didn’t feel like work at all. Stephen is such a wonderful director and what he has done with the play is so inspiring. He always accepted the actors’ ideas in certain scenes and made it a collaborative process throughout the rehearsal. A highlight of my week was when Stephen decided he didn’t like the way a scene looked, in which the actors had to dance to a slow song, so he asked them to run the scene without dialogue while Pippa blasted what he referred to as ‘disco music’. The actors all let loose and danced to the music while still in character, and from then on the actors were encouraged to dance like they had, while adding the original dialogue.
Throughout the week, I was also given lots of advice on the industry and how to get into it, especially from Pippa who taught me many things about stage management, which I now think is what I wish to explore in my further education. As well as Stephen and the cast who all took the time to talk to me individually and always included me in conversations. There was even a time towards the end of my week where Benjamin Rigby (who plays Tony in Abigail’s Party) was on the same train as me on the way to rehearsals in the morning and spoke to me about the industry and how he got involved.
As part of my week, I was also given the opportunity to see an MTC production at Southbank Theatre. The show I saw was The Children by Lucy Kirkwood, starring Pamela Rabe, Sarah Pierse and William Zappa. It was incredibly interesting to see after knowing what goes on during the development stage of a show. It was a much more naturalistic play than Abigail’s Party, which gave me a good concept of the different theatrical styles there are in theatre.
Overall, the week I had at MTC will be one that I hope I never forget, because of all that it taught me and all the fun and happy memories I was able to make while there. I am especially lucky to be invited to sit backstage with Pippa during one of the performance days to see how she runs the show as a stage manager. I know it will be a wonderful opportunity and I look forward to seeing the show from her perspective.
Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh plays at Southbank Theatre from 17 March.
Learn more about our Work Experience Program.