Monday. We turn up for re-rehearsals of Yellow Moon, which we last performed in November last year. We only have a few days to get it up to speed again, so everyone’s been re-acquainting themselves with the script on their own. I’m feeling a strange blend of two different forms of excitement: 1) the “first day of rehearsals” feeling, and 2) the “the show goes up in 3 days’ time” feeling. We all have a manic glint in our eye.
Guy sensibly starts with a run of the whole thing. Let’s see what we have here. Will everything that we thought we’d got our heads back around fall to pieces once we do it in the rehearsal room? We run it and,… actually, it’s all there. Some rough edges to smooth off, certainly, but we still have a living, breathing show. Relief all round.
The next few days of work on it are good humoured and intense, the awareness of the Thursday preview focussing us on the job. It’s apparent that the time away from the piece has enabled us all to look at it with a fresh eye, and find new ideas. I can see lots of new details in the other actors’ performances, and Guy is adding to and refining the staging and our performances, adding new detail, clarifying the meaning. Liam, our new production manager and sound operator, has mastered the fiendishly complex sound cues with impressive ease. And so the show has grown and is growing, as shows do, detail by detail.We have several moments when we feel like unreliable crime-scene witnesses. “I’m sure we did it this way last time.” “No no, we did it this way. Definitely.” “No, we-“ “Let’s watch it on the DVD.” We gather round the laptop, each assuring the other how wrong they are. Liam fast-forwards to the scene, presses play. There’s no arguing with the action replay. Triumph on one side; bewildered disbelief on the other- “But I was so sure…”
And so we arrive at the preview night. On the train through we engage in typical first-night-actor-talk. “Oh, I just got a wave of nerves there.” “Yeah, me too, I had butterflies a minute ago.” “I don’t know what to eat before the show- not pizza, too heavy.” And so on. All to the good. It’s when you don’t have nerves that you’re in trouble.
And so the first performance comes. I always have a feeling on the first performance of a show that no matter how ready you are, you need to make a sort of leap across a gap, from rehearsal to performance, and land on the other side. The preview goes well, but the first official performance is the big one. It goes even better- the audience laugh in the right places, and are attentively silent in the right places, and seem very warm and smiley at the curtain call. We’ve arrived. Up and running.