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Alarms and Excursions, a rehearsal of short plays at Greenwich Theatre – South London News

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This week at Greenwich Theatre has been given over to technical rehearsals for Alarms and Excursions, the collection of short plays by Michael Frayn that forms the central point in our spring season.

James Haddrell, artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre

That basically means that all the work that the actors have done in the rehearsal room over the past four weeks is put into costume, set under lights, placed within the set and accompanied by sound.

It means the cast discover exactly where that light switch is, where that door is, how difficult it is to change in the time available from one costume to another – and scene by scene, everything that has been rough in the rehearsal room becomes precise.

The technical rehearsal for a show can often be challenging.

The same small moments are run over and over so that actors know exactly which spot to hit for a light, which sound effect works best as a cue, and just how dark it is in the wings to pick up props and change costumes.

For Alarms and Excursions, the challenges are multiplied – instead of one play, the collection features eight short plays.

We have to move from a dining room to a conference suite to a pair of rooms in a hotel, and that’s just the first act with another five pieces still to come in act two.

Meanwhile our cast, of course, have to change character – and costume – from piece to piece as well.

This is not the first time I’ve directed a collection like this.

Last year, we took on Bad Nights and Odd Days, a collection of four short plays by Caryl Churchill – two of which were 50 years old and had only been presented on the radio.

That brought its own challenges, and we had to work out how to make it rain on stage, how to bleed through a sheet, how to move from the recent past to a not too distant but dystopian future.

In many ways, technical rehearsals are the most collaborative moment in the creation of a show.

The director works alongside the various set and costume designers, sound and lighting designers, stage management and actors to problem-solve, to turn the ideas that seemed easy into the rehearsal room into an often complicated reality.

As the show takes on its final shape, I think it is impossible to predict which of the eight pieces will prove most popular, and if the run is anything like Bad Nights and Odd Days then it will change from night to night and from person to person.

That is surely one of the most exciting things about producing a show like this.

It will inevitably split the audience – different people will find different things funny, different things relatable, will remember different jokes or different ideas on the way home.

However, the one thing that I think can’t possibly split the audience is the quality of Michael Frayn’s writing.

We have loved putting this show together, and I can’t wait to share the work of one of this country’s most prolific, most important writers with our audiences.

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