Two rehearsals this week, the second one specifically to rehearse with Sherwan. He was long a mainstay of the group, but has been unable to attend since we switched our weekly session to a Tuesday, for he has other commitments on that day.
Not that Tuesday’s session exactly went smoothly. I drove to Wycombe as normal, and parked there, before walking to the station… only to discover that it was closed, “on police advice” – apparently there was a bomb scare. I did quite a bit of walking from one side of the station to the other, via a big loop (and surviving having a policeman yell at me, “Get behind that tape!” (When it was the police that had allowed me to drive into the restricted area in the first place!) Eventually, both sides of the station were shut, and I could not even give up and get my car, since that was in the cordoned-off car park. Probably just as well, for eventually the trains were running again, and I was able to make it to Wembley. An hour late, but hey…
It was quite pleasant to discover the majority of the group were there waiting for me, and we were able to start work. The session was largely devoted to a rehearsal of our extract from “Waiting for Godot”. I had asked Dasha to take over a role in place of Nada (so far as we can tell, now happily re-located to Plymouth) so this was her first opportunity to take on the role. And very well she did too. Ali too now seems happier with the part he has, now that he has more or less come to terms with the pressure of learning the lines. And Abdulaziz did well too; he has a similar issue with remembering both what he has to say and when he has to say it, but he is getting there.
I was pleased with the progress of the piece, but the real test would come on Thursday. We had decided that we were one person short, hence reaching out to Sherwan. He was to play the part of the doctor in a short scene, and I had sent him the lines. However, it was quite remarkable that he was able to run the scene straight away, off-book, and virtually faultless. The rest of the group were as stunned as I was.
What I had not told him was that we had subsequently discovered there was another gap, so I sprang that role on him as well. He was understandably reluctant to perform that as well, but in fact he did not have to. Hamed had arrived at the rehearsal with another asylum-seeker, named Thomas, from Ethiopia. We chatted a little before the session began, and it was clear that he had a good command of English, so I asked him if he would be prepared to take on the role, that of a telephone help-line worker from Migrant Help. And when he read the role, working with Dasha, he was great.
We then ran through the various sketches involving the whole group, none of which have words, so that our two newcomers would know what to do in them. And they were both instantly good. And as we still had time, I tried a complete stagger-through of the whole piece for the first time. Of course, it was not smooth enough for me yet to have a clear idea of how long the piece will be, but even so it was immensely reassuring for all of us. It does seem as though we might have a show!
And once the rehearsal was done, I took Sherwan with me to the London Stadium to see West Ham play AEK Larnaca. Sherwan enjoyed the whole experience, his first of a professional football match. And West Ham won 4-0, so all in all a pretty good day.