May 21: The First Grange Rehearsal
We’re at The Grange walking along the terrace towards the theatre and the view, basking in bright sunshine, is breathtaking. We’re here to see Figaro Act II and Act III rehearsed with the piano. London rehearsals are over and this is the first of six three hour sessions at The Grange before the same amount of rehearsals begin with the orchestra. The cast is in costume for the first time and the scenery for Act II is on stage, which is perhaps why I spot Tim Reed, who has designed all this, having a long conversation with Basilio.
Martin Lloyd- Evans, director, is everywhere at once rehearsing technical details, and in this rehearsal concentrating on entrances and exits. Sometimes he darts over to lighting designer Peter Mumford, who is synchronizing lighting with his deputy designer on computers, so that a tap on the keyboard will swivel lights and alter colours. Stage management are working alongside him in the stalls on makeshift desks, watching the action on stage, making notes.
Martin goes to see Mitchell Harper who choreographs movement and is constantly checking that the audience can see what’s happening on stage and not see what’s meant to be off it, such as the crash mat which is visible and needs moving. The mat is for Cherubino to land on after he climbs out of the window to escape the Count. Martin later rehearses the gardener’s climb back through it onto the stage – it’s the scene when the gardener complains that Cherubino has trampled on his flowers. Martin nips over to Robert, Tom and me to explain what’s going on, before rehearsing the Count and Susanna. Later on I watch him discussing
Marcellina’s entrance after the stage hands change the doors for Act III. Richard Egarr conducts the singing and I realise the lady at the piano is the pianist who played at the audition we went to. Michael Chance turns up looking remarkably relaxed and obviously enjoying himself. Perhaps this is why the singers look so happy in each other’s company, laughing and chatting when they aren’t working. It’s all so lighthearted – no Prima Donnas, no shouting, no arguments, just consultation. I ask about the lights and Michael explains that most companies hire lighting – which is cripplingly expensive – because technological advances mean lights are upgraded all the time.
This rehearsal makes Tom, Robert and me aware of just how important the stage manager is. Saskia Godwin is responsible for everything that happens on and off stage, and today she’s on stage following the action and confirming with Richard, Martin and Peter. Lucy Topham, deputy stage manager, is in charge of everything that happens on the night. She, and she alone, ties everything together which includes lighting cues, scenery, stage hands, props, entrances and exits so that Cherubino’s escape through the window is a leap to safety. Is this the scariest job of all?