The Cherry Orchard | Week Five

20 Feb 2018

With just over one week until The Cherry Orchard opens on our stage, Assistant Director Evan Lordan gives us an update on how the cast are preparing for their first preview on 1 Mar.

The process has now sped up significantly and this week we have been firing forwards at a rate of one Act per day! We work through from the beginning, stop when we discover new opportunities, or new ways of understanding that hadn’t been twigged until now. It’s amazing that this keeps happening after more than four weeks of rehearsal, but when you’re dealing with such a rich text and when you have performers who can bring something new to the part every day, it would be wrong if this process didn’t cast new light onto every moment. You get the impression that if we had six months to work on The Cherry Orchard that we would still be making new discoveries about the play and the characters that inhabit it.

On Friday afternoon, we welcomed 11-year-old Rowan Williams into the rehearsal room for only the third time. The part he plays (I will not name the character, but those of you familiar with The Cherry Orchard may hazard a guess) is a very delicate one and he has to appear just the right amount and in just the right way for his part to work. This is all very cryptic I know, but I am here to provide intrigue, not spoilers! When Rowan is working, all the senior actors are impressed by his professionalism and ability. When it gets to break time, however, everyone drops 15 to 20 years from their current age to make games with whatever comes to hand in the rehearsal room! I am not exaggerating – we have played volleyball (girls vs. boys, obviously) over a chaise longue, tossed an empty Coca Cola bottle into the air in an attempt to get it to land upright, played a pseudo-basketball game with the cork form a whiskey bottle... All of a sudden Michael Boyd is trying to get a bunch of children to settle down to work after their playtime.

I’ve been standing in for Rowan during the majority of rehearsals so that Michael can get a sense of the character’s journey throughout the show. It’s been good to mingle with these performers just as they are hitting their stride. However, I am not to get my hopes up in terms of becoming Rowan’s understudy; I have been told in no uncertain terms that despite my strong performances in rehearsals that I am too tall (which is a first), too hairy and too old.

On Saturday, we had the opportunity to run the whole show for the very first time. Something Michael has said from the very beginning is that Chekhov doesn’t judge anyone and certainly not his characters, and after seeing this show right through I was struck by just how well I could understand each character’s perspective. Like anybody, they are flawed, they try their best and at times they contradict themselves and betray their intentions, but I know where they are coming from and understand why they want what they want. Whether I forgive them their flaws is left up to me.