I began the week with some roles still unfilled, and options for doubling restricted, so it was heartening to have a couple of new recruits. The fact that they were both called Ali was slightly disconcerting, all the more so since we already have one in the cast. No room for confusion, however, since one is very small (Little Ali) and one very tall (Big Ali.)
Little Ali is just about able to play the role of young Michael, the baby who grows up, and who is at the centre of the tug of love which ends the play (and gives it its most iconic image.) Big Ali speaks excellent English, so is more than valuable for that alone.
So excited was I by this that I was able to announce to Magda, the headteacher at Gekko, that we now had a complete cast. This was despite the fact that we had lost our one Arabic-speaking boy, who had just stopped coming. And then we lost Little Ali as well. Having rehearsed his key moments, and him showing real enthusiasm, I met him the next day in reception and asked whether he was coming to rehearsal. He shrugged, and Irene the receptionist told him he needed to decide, as he had to attend every rehearsal. Put on the spot, he then (apparently) said he did not want to be in the play. Irene is right, of course, in that commitment and reliability are important, but if I threw out everyone who missed a rehearsal, I wouldn’t have a play.
Two issues continue to be difficult. One is the inevitable need to translate each scene as we go, which is slow and difficult, especially when we don’t have a fluent English speaker there. But the end of that part of the process is in sight. The other is finding a time which does not clash with other subjects; I still have people walking out part way through because of swimming, or German, or whatever.
We do now have dates fixed (up to a point) for the production: June 29, 30, and July 1. I told the cast we had five weeks left. Normally, the shock of this is enough to provoke a burst of energy because there is so little time. They were also shocked, but for the opposite reason; whatever would we do with all that time? We are nearly ready, they said. Well, I’m glad they’re confident.