Last Tuesday had been a tough rehearsal, and I returned home in a state of mild despair. Once again we were translating line by line, at a painful pace. I annoyed myself by forgetting a basic philosophy, of keeping as many of them busy at a time, when Binyam suggested a group who were not on stage could go outside and practise. But mostly, the problem was that I was ill.
Anyone who has followed my travel diaries will know that I spent much of that trip in a state of lavatorial distress, and having bowel surgery since then has made matters worse. A doctor described my colon as my Achilles heel, which sounds anatomically impossible, but you get the drift. And this was affecting me in a big way… well, the usual way – but also no energy, no breath, no patience. Somehow, we did struggle through another five pages, so kept on track, but it was painful for all concerned. (Two of the cast accompanied me to a pharmacy afterwards, where I got some tablets suggested by my landlady, Dr Anchu.)
And today, two days further on (with a rest day in between, thank goodness) a stay in bed, and the medication, seemed to have helped a lot. I had a bit of a bounce in my step, and even the eight flights of stairs up to the Film School was just about manageable. But the rehearsal that followed was, I think, one of the toughest and most draining I have ever overseen. For quite a lot of the time, I was without Binyam, but I was fine with that; like many teachers, I prefer to be unobserved.) But the session was enormously frustrating: even after sorting out all the words for a short section, I would call for action, and be confronted by… well, nothing. Which seemed to go on, and on. I would leap from my chair, go and sort things out if I could, or allow them to sort it out if I couldn’t, then back to my chair. We would usually then progress for a line or two, and then the same again. And each time we stalled, it would mean going back to the beginning of that section.
I do recall, many years ago, on a school exchange to Boston, watching an American director at work. His approach was, book in hand, to march from character to character as they spoke, demonstrate how to speak, move, gesture, get them to copy him, and then on to the next. I thought it was soulless, and vowed never to adopt it, but what did I find myself doing today? Only two o0r three times, it’s true, not every blinking line, but still.
I did, I fear, once or twice raise my considerable voice, out of sheer frustration, (though as ever I apologised afterwards.) The photo shows a comically exaggerated reconstruction of one such moment, with Edale. (Pronounced Eh-da-lay, emphasis on the middle syllable, rather than like some sort of cheese.)
But the important thing was that we managed to get – just – to the end of the play! Not that it will be a piece of cake from here on, but still! I returned home exhausted but happy… except that I did have to put a shift on to get back to the toilet in time.