The run up to press night

By Philippa Cole, February, 13 2017

When we began rehearsals at Bradbury Studios (Graeae Headquarters) on 9 January, opening night and The Royal Exchange seemed far far away. Now here we are our first week of opening and what a week it has been.

After an intense few days of tech with the brilliant design team, it was time for us girls to pull out all of the stops and show audiences what we had created.

Opening day began with our second dress rehearsal that afternoon, an intense yet fun warm up and then the nerves hit. I always feel that right before going on stage the nerves that hit are a healthy human reaction that something amazing is about to happen.

The bells start tolling overhead, our Patricia (Stage Manager) gives a thumbs up and yells “stand by” the doors open to a full house as we return to the house from our fathers funeral.

The intensity of the claustrophobia and tension filled family house is massively intensified by the close proximity of the audience members around us. Bearing in mind we had been rehearsing in this space all week, nothing prepares you for the electric energy and intense gaze of the 700 eyes staring back at you…and then before we knew it we were taking a bow. As is with everything, you’re never quite sure what sort of reaction your storytelling will get, we had been working in this intense bubble of Lorca for four weeks. On opening night when we received a few laughs it was a strange feeling to discover the audience found humour in some of the scenes.

Over the next few days, rather than breathe a sigh of relief that opening night was over, we got to work on the next stage. What else can we uncover from the characters/relationships and space? With the guidance from Jenny [Sealey] and Nickie [Wildin], we got to work peeling back the layers even more, re – jigging and adapting scenes and techniques that didn’t quite work, discovering richer ideas that naturally come from having an audience around you.

Before we could turn around and shout “PEPE EL REMANO” Press Night was upon us. As was becoming customary, our beady eyed, controlling Mother, or as we like to call her Mamma (Kathryn Hunter) gently places her hand on our cheeks – calming the nerves and offering a reassuring presence. As a team, we pulled out all the stops and delivered, in my opinion, the best performance yet. Coming off stage with a spring in our step and smiles on our faces, we put on our posh frocks and headed to the bar for a cheeky wine and a slice of pizza. The bar was swarming and chatting to a number of people and hearing their opinions opened up a lot of positive discussion and debate over the performance.

Once press night was over and the reviews came in, we knew there was no time to sit back and relax for the rest of the run. Now it was time to knuckle down, nail some of the technical glitches and give each audience, whether it’s a matinee or evening show, a performance they deserve. I know for me, I want our audiences to walk away with the play tingling in their hearts and bones, as it is mine and it will no doubt linger there for years to come.

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    The House of Bernarda Alba

    Our co-production with the Royal Exchange Theatre of Lorca's masterpiece in February 2017 marked our first time working 'in the round'. Jenny Sealey directed an all-female cast, led by Kathryn Hunter. ★★★★ 'an extraordinary production' Times★★★★ 'breathtaking theatre' Guardian★★★★ 'truly accessible to all' Reviews Hub