Octagon Academy Member Beatrice De Goede shares her experience as Assistant Director on REVEAL Festival production Flight.
A few years ago, I was going to attend one of the performances shown in the Octagon’s Reveal Festival, and as a young person, the play was simply a play that I was going to watch. However, after watching it, I started to kindle in myself a true appreciation and love for theatre.
When I was offered the position of Assistant Director on the production of the new play Flight by Nuzhat Ali in the Reveal Festival, I was not quite sure what to expect from the rehearsal and performance process, but I was excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the Reveal Festival preparation. The play describes the journey of a girl called Rahma and her father Ibraheem as they try to seek asylum away from their war torn home in Daascus, Syria. The story helps to present the struggles of those living in places which are corrupted by destruction and the purpose of its performance in the Reveal Festival was to gauge how to improve and develop the play further, if it is to have a life in the future.
Rehearsals began with only one week to prepare for an audience. Considering this, and working with a play as multifaceted, intense and touching as Flight, carrying the important message of the devastation in Syria and the desperation of its people, the company was faced with a challenge to do justice to the script and the people whose story it is. Over the week I was able to see the great development from the first run-through on the first day of rehearsals to the performance one week later.
"so memorable and raw"
As someone who is interested in the physicality and movement dimension of theatre, I was thrilled to be in rehearsals when the movement director Lesley came in to work on particular scenes in the play. For me, the movement really added to the pace and action of the play while also enhancing the intensity of the scenes. The scene involving the use of chloroform on a young girl before her kidnapping was fascinating to observe the development of, but also horrifyingly realistic to watch during the play.
I think that, for me, another element that made Flight so memorable and raw was the venue of the performance. The play was performed in one of the buildings near to the Octagon Theatre, moving between courtyards and terraces for different locations in the play, all set outdoors. This brought to life the journey that the two refugees had to endure. Unfortunately, with the dependence on the British weather, it was unlikely that all would go smoothly. About two hours before the show, after a whole week of clear skies and dry weather, it began to rain. A vote led to the decision to contend with the elements and stand by our plans to hold the play outside. We wiped puddles off benches and prepared with umbrellas for the audience and though the rain was a nuisance, it added to the atmosphere of the journey and helped the story to make people try to empathise with the story and understand the struggles of those living in Syria.
As a teenager, it is hard to know what you want to spend your life doing, but the opportunity to be a part of this production is something that I am very grateful for. I have been so lucky to work with the cast of Flight and Janys Chambers, the director of Flight, who have helped me to see what working on a real production is like. Janys is so experienced and professional, and so, even just observing her during rehearsals has helped me to properly envision the world of directing, an opportunity that very few have the option to do.
I have really discovered a new sense of appreciation for theatre through my involvement in the rehearsals for Flight in the Reveal Festival, enriching the love I discovered from watching the play in the Reveal Festival a few years ago.
Beatrice De Goede
Photographs by Bolton Camera Club