The final rehearsal this afternoon was focused on the most difficult scene in the play, and the one that had caused most problems during last night’s dress rehearsal: the trial scene. Partly we needed to try hard for a rigorous adherence to the text, which seems obvious but is not as easy as it sounds, all the more so since much of it is delivered in Farsi; I have to take it on trust that they are saying what is written on the page. But that was largely a mechanical exercise in collective memory. Far more important is the business of ensuring that each and every person on stage – and that is the whole cast – is reacting and responding physically at every moment. And by the end they got it, they really did. All they had to do now was reproduce that in the glare and pressure of performance.
And that was a performance in front of, as it turned out, a packed house (though, in typically Greek fashion, it didn’t look like that would happen with five minutes to spare.) I introduced the play with Zerefiah, stage manager turned Azdak, who ten days before had not even been in the company, at my side. She had had five days to learn the role, and it was she who had the task of keeping that final trial scene on track. I was proud to be standing next to her, while we explained in English and Farsi that photos were forbidden, that we should use our ears, eyes and memory instead, and that Isaq Ali had been sent to Athens five days previously. I wished her luck, and we began.
It was great. The cast did themselves proud, remembering nearly everything we had worked on, talked about. The trial scene was terrific, the dance exuberant, and the audience was on its feet, clapping and cheering.
But almost as wonderful was the post-performance. After they took their final bow, rather than have the cast do the traditional thing of retreating backstage, they stepped forward and fell into the arms of their teachers, friends, supporters, children(!). Even a parent or two, though I remain unsure how that squares with the idea of unaccompanied minors. The whole room was full of joy, and it was twenty minutes before we could get people to leave. And yes, I allowed myself the pleasure and indulgence of bathing in all that love.