Hound of the Baskervilles assistant director Francesca Tennant gives us an inside look at rehearsals with her weekly rehearsal diary.
The process of putting on a play is not unlike solving a mystery – a team of experts gather, search for clues, examine the facts, bounce ideas around and piece a story together. Some days the facts tell a clear story, other days ambiguities or inconsistencies need to be wrestled with and turned over for reflection. Over time, the threads come together and clarity emerges.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing an overview of our rehearsal process of The Hound of the Baskervilles, an adaptation of one of the most well-known and loved Sherlock Holmes novels – but not as you might know it.
We started our first day with a meeting of the cast and creative team of the show and the Octagon company. With the aid of Zoom we were able to connect everyone and share a read-through of the script. First days are often full of nerves but this was trumped by palpable excitement at the anticipation of sharing this brilliant comedy adaptation with audiences in our new theatre building and joy at everyone being able to do what they do best after such a long hiatus.
We then moved on to starting tablework, in this case, making crucial discussions about clarity of storytelling. As there are three actors multi-roling, playing nearly twenty characters between them, we considered the details of each one and different accents, physical and vocal choices, to help make each character unique and distinct.
Interestingly, we discovered the characters that needed the most thought were the ones of the actors themselves. This adaptation is actually a play within a play. It uses the story of a company of actors putting on a production of The Hound of The Baskervilles as a frame for the play itself and the basis of much comedy and confusion. Whilst the cast will appear to play a version themselves, there is a script, and those prescribed words and actions create characters. These characters of the company of actors in the script may or may not intertwine with the personalities of the real actors themselves. So, clarifying those differences, their relationships and story was just as important as discussing the more famous characters we know from the novel.
We continued the week with more tablework and moved into exploring the scenes with the actors on their feet. More about that next time …