MORNING: More work on the Flora and Pig scenes. We discuss the various possibilities of Flora’s reaction to Pig, and play with these different motivations. Is she scared of Pig? Is she brave? What does he want from her? Is he expecting them to consummate their marriage? Or is he really shy?
AFTERNOON: Ensemble music – We look at the wedding and coach journey, first musically, then sketching in the blocking.
EVENING: Act 3 palace. We look at the servants as a chorus and the idea that they are like the servants in the film Gosford Park; blank faced and stern, and extremely unhappy about the mud. We give each servant a cleaning utensil and see how this motivates their chorus entries
MORNING: Act 3 – Working with Flora and Old Woman (and Pig). Do we play the Old Woman as a stereotypical witch or is she in disguise? It is decided that it would be quite interesting for her to seem at the end of the first scene with Flora, like she is just a nice old lady trying to help a poor little crying girl. There is some contention as to why Flora is crying. We discuss.
AFTERNOON: Sing through Part One! Jonathan Dove (the composer) and Alasdair Middleton (the librettist) come in, as does David Lan (Artistic Director of the Young Vic). It seems strange to have a sing through now, as often read throughs / sing throughs are on the first day so that everyone has an overview. Given the complexity of the material, that would not have been possible and everyone finds it invaluable to get a sense of how the piece progresses.
MORNING: Act 5 – We look at the interaction between Flora and Adelaide; it makes us question whether Adelaide knows, or how much she knows about Flora. It is also the first time we see a hard-nosed, manipulative side to Flora.
AFTERNOON: Act 3 with the full company. We work on the choreography of the wedding. This piece is so fast paced and it is taking some time to bed down.
EVENING: Further work on the North Winds. We begin to try out some choreography. The challenge is what to do with something that feels so obviously like a dance number, but that actually should remain motivated by the truth of the characters.
MORNING: We start work on Act 4 ‘On princess on’ and the Milky Way with full company. We explore ways of telling the Milky Way story physically as a company, going back to the work that we had done on creating the human orrery, and building on the interest we had in orbits and circles. We try and achieve an expanding orbiting mass of stars.
AFTERNOON: We work through Act 4 chronologically.
EVENING: We visit the Young Vic and everyone is excited by the building. We see the beginnings of the set, and do a sound test.
MORNING: Adelaide, Old Woman and Pig working on the sky scenes. The idea is that Pig is drugged. We play with bringing him on in a wheelchair with a drip attached. We particularly look at the effect of the drug on him, the Old Woman’s motivation to please her daughter, Adelaide’s relationship with her mother (spoilt child syndrome), and the obsession with the wedding.
AFTERNOON: We continue where we left off looking at Sun and Day and introduce Flora to their scene together.
MORNING: Act 5 Adelaide, Flora and Pig –Pig’s bedroom scenes. Looking at the effect of the drug on Pig, and on how Adelaide reacts to Pig. Also looking at how Flora reacts to Adelaide.
AFTERNOON: We look at ‘On princess on’ and the role of the chorus in the Act.
EVENING: North Winds. We work on the choreography.
MORNING: We have a session on the slaves’ physicality and start working this into Adelaide’s aria. We try and ratchet up the level of terror in her.
AFTERNOON: We run Act 5 chronologically.
MORNING: We go back to Act 1 – the three sisters and King Hildebrand leaving. It seems a long time ago that we last did this. Useful recap – we start playing with positioning of King Hildebrand, and individualising and detailing the reactions of the girls.
AFTERNOON: – is all about the slaves.
EVENING: – Old Woman and Flora.
MORNING: We work on ‘Isn’t love a beautiful thing’ with choreography, working to get the celebrations and the proposals right.
AFTERNOON: We have a long awaited sing through of Part Two. Very useful. Everyone has now had a chance to hear the whole piece. We spend the remaining time working in split rehearsal rooms with The Book of Fate and the army physicality.
EVENING: Pig and Flora sections in Acts 3 and 4. Having sung through the whole piece it becomes clear that the detail of their relationship trajectory in these acts is crucial. Whatever happens needs to be enough to motivate Flora to travel across the world looking for him. We go back on an earlier decision. Maybe Pig is less aggressive on the first night visit to her room.
MORNING: We run Act 2 up until the entry of the Pig.
AFTERNOON: Continue working on the choreography of Act 3 – predominantly on the wedding, but continuing to Pig’s palace.
MORNING: We rehearse Sun and Day, and Moon simultaneously and in separate rehearsal rooms, finishing the choreography and ideas with both. We introduce their relationship with Flora and focus on how to clarify this part of the storytelling in the play.
AFTERNOON: Working with Anna (alternate Flora) and Byron on the end of Part One (Pig’s kidnapping by the witch) and the preceding scenes with Pig and Flora.
MORNING: We spend an hour on bedding in the choreography of the North Wind before tweaking ‘On Princess On’ with the full company. We work on the way that Flora walks with the iron shoes, and the interaction with the scientists. Does she see them? We decide that the scientists are like a cheering squad for a marathon runner, plying her with water and willing her on, like Ellen MacArthur trying to traverse the world.
We have a full rehearsal room now, with Buggy, cement mixer, three wheelbarrows, and numerous implements that look dangerous!
AFTERNOON: Spent on Milky Way and finale chorus. We work on the orbiting with mirror balls and have only enough time to get the finale sung out musically.
EVENING: Spent with Pigs and Floras. Much work done getting started on Act 5 - waking up scenes where Pig is sunk into the wedding cake.
MORNING: We look at Adelaide and Old Woman moments. We look at their lullaby and the sky scenes.
AFTERNOON: We try and chart a rough path for the final chorus; marking in flashes of the journeys made in the show. We then work our way through the second part of the show.
EVENING: Spent going through Pig and Flora trajectory with Anna and Byron.
MORNING: We have two rehearsal rooms in action; one with Philippe working on Sun and Day and chorus choreography particularly the level of physicality in the fighting celebrations of ‘Isn’t Love a beautiful thing’), and in the other, we spend time with Flora, Adelaide, Pig and Old Woman on the Act 5 scene - three nights in when Pig is drugged.
AFTERNOON: Continued work on the Milky Way and final chorus. We end the day with a run of Act 5.
EVENING: Spent with Pig and Flora.
MORNING: We do our first run though with the full company, with Anna and Byron as Flora and Pig. It is meant to be a stopping run, but we do not have to stop much. More people have come to see this run than any of us were expecting. It makes us realise how many people are busied with preparing other elements of the show. Costume seemed particularly pleased by the speed of character changes!
AFTERNOON: We look at much neglected chorus sections and spend time reaffirming and detailing the choreography of the wedding, scientists, princesses, third night slaves, and the Milky Way.
MORNING: Work on the sections that yesterdays run suggested are in most need of attention - ‘Marry the Pig’, Adelaide and Old Woman scenes and relationship. The day is peppered with costume fittings. We have a fitting for the Pigs. They are very excited about Dick’s creations!
AFTERNOON: We look at the Milky Way as a benevolent and unified bright force. We also look at the servants in Act 3 and explore ways of making them more officious. How do they react to Pig and his transformation? How much do they know about the spells? We change the blocking of several of these chorus sections and play with the placement of the servants.
MORNING: Mr and Mrs North Wind - we do the scene with the correct furniture and props. The choreography is all in the timing and there is only one way to get it right.
AFTERNOON: Flora and Pig scenes. We rethink their relationship, making Pig less aggressive and expectant, and Flora braver and more inquisitive.
MORNING: We run Acts 1, 2 and 3 together, including the segues between the acts. We have the buggy in the rehearsal room, so today’s call is preceded by a driving rehearsal!
AFTERNOON: Philippe works on the geese, clouds, stars, and Milky Way in Act 4. TUESDAY
MORNING: We work on Acts 4 and 5.
AFTERNOON: We have invited a class of primary school aged children to watch a run through of some scenes (and some press). We choose three sections from Part One – the opening of the show, the girls’ journey to the key and ‘Isn’t love a beautiful thing’ including the Pig’s entry. It is really vital to get there reaction to the story so early on. Their feedback is very interesting and useful - overall they seemed to understand and engage with the story.
Once they have gone and we have discussed the feedback they have given, we work some more on Acts 4 and 5.
MORNING: We run the show with Caryll and Rodney for the creative team. When the run is over, we work on parts of Act 4 and the scientists at the beginning of the Act, as well as the ending. Caryll has a flying rehearsal in the theatre for an hour. Seeing her fly is fantastic.
EVENING: We do Pig work with Byron.
Today is our day for fixing things. It is a bitty day, encompassing moments from throughout the show that aren’t clear. The orchestra are next door, and every so often we get a wash of glorious sound. Another one hour flying rehearsal for Caryll and Anna.
Our last day in the rehearsal room. We do a rehearsal with the orchestra. Unlike those I have previously experienced, this is a ‘walking-with-props’ run with the orchestra. The balance between the band and the singers is all wrong in the rehearsal room space, and the singers mark much of it, but the orchestration is wonderful, and it is so interesting to see how the instruments have been utilised to tell the story.
Tomorrow we enter the theatre, and will have to deal with a whole new set of problems thrown up by the set, a new space, a new acoustic and a million technical considerations, not least of which is the revolve, but we leave the rehearsal room knowing that we have a version of the show at the ready for everything that the ensuing technical period will throw at us.
17. FURTHER READING
An excellent site about fairy tale and folklore studies featuring forty five annotated fairy tales, including their histories, similar tales across cultures, and over one thousand, four hundred illustrations.
A collection of Folklore and Mythology electronic texts grouped by theme by folklore scholar, Professor D. L. Ashliman.
A site comparing several stories about animal bridegrooms.
Text and annotations of the Norwegian folktale East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
The Wikipedia site features some good background information about the fairy tale and folklore studies.
A simple and easy to use site covering all aspects of astronomy and cosmology.
A site sharing many folk myths about the sun.
The Royal Opera House’s site for teachers and children, taking them through the process of rehearsing and producing an opera.
Wikipedia’s entry on opera, includes downloadable music samples.
A resource site for teachers.