Monday, 16 July 2012

Directing a Belt Up Show - by Joe Hufton

We have been in rehearsals for over a week now for ‘A Little Princess’ and so far it’s all going well. We have played with dolls, debated lots and laughed ourselves silly (including one memorable conversation about the British Raj and claymation badgers).

As we head into the second week of rehearsals I thought I would share with you the five things I try to remember when directing a Belt Up show (in no particular order).

Belt Up is a creative collaboration
One of the most exciting things about working with Belt Up is the amount of ideas that fly around in rehearsal; everyone offers things and gets involved in the conversation. Belt Up actors have a huge amount of ingenuity and great creative instincts, and any director has to respect this. Directing Belt Up, more than many companies, is about leading a process rather than dictating ideas and there is a real sense that four heads are better than one.

You will only ever be able to rehearse 80% of the show
Belt Up shows cast the audience in a role and as such that role will never be filled in rehearsal. This means that Belt Up’s dress rehearsals happen at the same time as our opening nights when for the first time we get that final missing cast member. As such there are moments in rehearsal where we have to stop and go ‘and now you will do something with the audience that we can’t do until the first night'. It can be quite terrifying then watching on the first night: wondering if the bits you were unable to rehearse will ever come together quite as you imagined. 

There will never be enough time!
I always feel like we are running out of time. A lot of this has to do with the fact that once we reach the end of the rehearsal process we have to build a set! This may be time consuming and stressful, although a really crucial part of the process. It means we have a real connection with our immersive environment; however there is a point as a director where you have to let go of creative decisions and start climbing ladders, cutting material and arranging furniture for 3 days when all you want to do is fix those last little bits!

There will never be enough space!
I always underestimate how much room the audience take up. We rehearse a show and then realise we have lost 30% of our playing space due to the various legs, arms and that most hated of audience accessories, their bags. In 4 and half years of working for the company I never cease to be shocked at how much space you guys take up on the first night.

Remember to have fun
Our rehearsals are exciting and intense but above all fun. As soon as we lose that, I think we are doing something wrong. The company prides itself on the playful nature of our work and I think if we have fun, enjoy our rehearsals and the process of making the show, then hopefully a little of that might rub off on our audiences!

Belt Up Theatre's Edinburgh Fringe Season 2012 includes THE BOY JAMES, OUTLAND and the world premiere of A LITTLE PRINCESS. Full details here.

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