And here we are: the day of the dress rehearsal – to all intents and purposes the first night, but there were still things to be done:
The day started with a radio interview for FAITH radio, and that meant being over in Dennis’ office (also in the Old Wesley Center) by 8.30. It was strange to be the only person in the building, and I sat for a few minutes in the darkened auditorium just soaking up the remarkable atmosphere. There is something quite magical about an empty theatre, and I love just sitting and almost connecting to the building itself. I know, that’s all a bit new age and fanciful, but it feels nice!
Up in the office, surrounded by pictures of myself, the phone call came in at exactly 8.45, and soon I was chatting to the show’s host Bill Arnold. As well as his radio work Bill is a comedian and magician and is one of scriptwriters and original cast members of the brilliant show Triple Espresso, which is also produced by Dennis and the Daniel Group, so we had a great deal in common to begin with.
We chatted for around twenty minutes, and I talked about Charles Dickens’ childhood, The Life of Our Lord, Dickens’ beliefs and faith, my tours and of course the show itself. It was a very nice interview, very conversational and not too scripted.
Back in the apartment I did my morning run of the play, and when it was finished made a huge decision: I decided that I no longer needed the set to be laid out, and so the pieces of furniture were returned to their correct places, and the wooden hanging rail to its cupboard. I will still run the lines each day, but I am confident of the moves now.
After the rehearsal it was down to the gym, as it was a running day, and this time my efforts were accompanied by Liz’s CD. My run was a syncopated one, as The Entertainer, The Maple Leaf Rag, The Magnetic Rag and Solace took me through my workout.
Our rehearsal was called at 2.30, and there was a tangible sense of anticipation in the theatre as everyone worked on their particular area of the show. Jeffrey and I went over a few minor points of blocking and movement, and then worked with Ben and Michael on tweaking the timings of some sound cues, but all in all it wasn’t too arduous.
At 4.30 we broke for ‘dinner’ (a salad in my case), and then started to build up to the performance itself.
The first thing to be done was to get the wig fitted, as my costume shirts go over my head, and today I had three sets of hands fussing over me. So that there is always someone on hand who knows what they are doing Tricia (the lady who made the wig) trained Bob and Kasey, to fit it and in turn they are tonight training Callista who did hair and make-up (as well as danced and sang) in the production of Mary Poppins I saw last week.
The wig was tight and secure when they had finished, and it felt good to be Dickens again.
I was actually ready with an hour to go, as we had left plenty of time in case of any emergencies, so I paced around, did some lines, played some backgammon, chatted with various members of the team. I checked the set, and made sure that all of the props and costumes were in the right place, and then waited.
Being a dress rehearsal it was treated as a full performance and the members of the crew (Jeffrey, Michael, Ben, Michael, Bob, Dennis, Rosalie, Kasey, Callista ) spread themselves out in the auditorium. Dennis’ wife Anne and her mother and sister also came along to watch, so there was a nice smattering of audience throughout the house.
It was a good, powerful, run, with no major upsets: a real positive end to our rehearsal period. From my point of view it was great to have an audience, and to hear the laughter and feel the emotion. Suddenly long-forgotten pieces of timing came back to me, and I could really engage with the people listening to the story.
Costume changes worked, props ended up in the right place, sound effects and music hit their marks: all in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes!
When I came off stage Jeffrey said ‘Congratulations, great job. Get changed, go home, get drunk!’ We will go through his notes tomorrow, but all in all there was a very positive mood in the Old Wesley Center.
Kasey helped me off with the wig, removing the many thousands of pins and grips, until the top of my head could breathe once more. Once released from Mr Dickens senior I changed, listened into a few of the technical notes that Jeffrey was giving and then slipped away back to my apartment for a plate of ravioli before bed.
There is an old adage in the theatre which says: ‘a bad dress rehearsal means a good opening night’. Well, that is usually bandied about to boost the flagging morale of a company that has just suffered a nightmare of a rehearsal, when everything has gone wrong. I prefer my own adage: ‘a good dress rehearsal means that you are ready for a great run’.
Bring it on!