May 2019: London Rehearsals.
It’s one of those really cold Spring days and I’m wrapped up watching Figaro Act lll being rehearsed in a cavernous church hall in west London. At the same time the company is rehearsing Falstaff in Southwark and Belshazzar in Stockwell while Figaro fittings are in North London – so you need a good Sat Nav if you’re part of The Grange Festival for the four weeks that rehearsals take place in London, and Houdini if you’re Michael Chance or Steve Philips, the company manager for this season, who try and get to all three rehearsals.
At our rehearsal there’s Richard Egarr the conductor , Tom Primrose the assistant conductor playing the piano and Martin Lloyd-Evans, Figaro’s director. This particular rehearsal is all about movement and where things are placed so it’s Martin’s show. If it was full orchestra it would be Richard’s. Mitchell Harper is movement director so he’s working with Martin. Sitting behind tables alongside us are the stage management team who mark out the stage and scenery with red and blue sticky tape on the floor. The model box is on a table in the corner for reference.
Half of the chorus are rehearsing for Falstaff in Southwark and the other half are here, along with Figaro’s main cast. The understudies for Figaro are drawn from the chorus and they’re being coached downstairs.
Most performers are in gym clothes Toby ( the Count), wears a red and white striped t-shirt coordinating with his socks, while Roberto (Figaro) has ‘The Walking Dad’ emblazoned in white on his black t-shirt. In contrast, Louise (Marcellina) and Simona (Countess) wear full rehearsal skirts and costume shoes so that they can swish into their positions.
Everyone looks happy and engaged even though rehearsing a short dance sequence takes all morning. Why such a long time? Michael explained that the magic is in the detail. In other words they’re aiming for perfection – and they’ll get it!