The rehearsal process, from starting point to final destination, from first read-through to final performance, is a journey. (Not that we’ve had a read-through, would that that were possible.) You have your good days, when the road is clear and you can put your foot down, and you have your not so good days, when all the lights are against you and there’s a tractor out in front (and now I’m not sure where this journey is taking me – traffic lights and tractors?) And then you have your days when you get a flat tyre. And this week, I’ve had all three. (And at this point, I shall abandon the driving metaphor.)
I wrote in some detail about day one, but the essential point was that I had the excellent Khaled alongside me. He was far more than an interpreter, was almost an assistant director from the very start. But his strength is his weakness; he is so much in demand – and, of course, has his own agenda – that one knows he is only going to be around briefly. Which was the case this week. On day two, we had Ali, who is the storyteller, and a reasonably fluent speaker of English, though without the clarity I would like. But we continued to make progress, with Ali managing to turn my English text into an approximate Farsi version. At least, I think so. In fact, they could be saying anything at all, and I wouldn’t know the difference. We did almost press-gang one boy into taking a role, and after some initial uncertainty, he started to act with confidence. I was impressed, and told him so at the end of the rehearsal… and then he told me he was off to Athens in the morning. I congratulated him, shook his hand, and wished him luck.
And then today the wheels came off. (I know, the journey metaphor again.) No Khaled, no Ali, no-one with any English at all. Actually, that’s not true; quite a few have a smattering of the language, or at least nod intelligently when I say something. But that is not the same as providing an accurate translation of a piece of text. I thought I was keeping it simple, but quickly realised there was some complex vocabulary there. The word “trunk” caused bafflement, until I realised there was a trunk in the store-room, and was able to show them.
But somehow, we struggled on. It was chaotic, with people talking all at once, and me not knowing whether they were trying to help or just rabbiting on in Farsi, and people using their phones to translate, and me just… well, having to be patient while they sorted themselves out. Both Grusha and Simon were missing for their emotional farewell scene, so we jumped it, and then they turned up – German again – so I sent them up to the gallery to work things out on their own. And when we did a run-through of what we had managed to work out, they were superb, with emotion, pauses, meaning. And without a script. The wheels were back on