The Cherry Orchard – Week Six

27 Feb 2018

Assistant Director Evan Lordan gives us one final update on how rehearsals are drawing to a close ahead of our first preview of The Cherry Orchard.

We have moved from the busy metropolis of London to our home for the next seven or so weeks, The Bristol Old Vic. The excitement has been building among the cast and crew and now that it feels like the show is actually going to happen!

 Personally, I often find the final days of rehearsals one of the trickiest parts of the process. At the beginning it feels like you have all the time in the world and the emphasis is on playing, making discoveries and the notion that you can do nothing wrong in this atmosphere of exploration. Week 6 of rehearsals is a very different beast. It’s essential that there is still room for play and for new discoveries to be made, but now there is much more of a sense of ‘will we discover it all in time?’ It’s not the ultimate aim in reality to be ‘finished’; the show will hopefully keep growing and get better with every performance. But we want the first show to be as good as the last, even if we know it will be different.

You, the audience, may not realise it, but we feel the pressure of you right now. You make us nervous and excited, we love you and we cannot make this show without you. If you don’t like this show, that’s not necessarily a failure (you can’t please everyone), but if you’re not challenged in some way by it, it is then that we have failed. 

The other difficulty for a Director (or Assistant Director in my case) in the final weeks of rehearsal is that after weeks of watching these scenes, tweaking and honing all these miraculous and miniscule moments, it can be very difficult to hang onto your objectivity. Having seen all these relationships and experiences grow and evolve over 6 weeks, I often struggle to see the wood for the trees. All objectivity leaves me because I have a personal relationship and response to every moment and each character. The previews and the presence of the audience always bring the work back into the sharpest of focus and this can be pretty scary.

 We have just dipped our toes into the tech rehearsals and have started to play with some of the magic of lighting, sound and set design. This show treads a very fine line between elegance in its simplicity and showbiz spectacle! It has been incredibly inspiring to work with designers and makers who can seamlessly achieve both these elements in such paradoxical harmony.

This will be my final rehearsal post, but not my last involvement in the show. Once the performances finish here in April, we then transfer to the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. By the end of the run we will have been working on The Cherry Orchard for over five months and this will feel like a very long time. But Chekhov’s play has kept itself relevant and entertaining for over 100 years. It will carry on and on and never grow tired or to put it another way;

Ranyevskaya: The orchard’s just the same as it was back then, nothing’s changed. (Laughs happily.). All, all in white! Oh my orchard! After dank dark autumn and freezing winter you’re young again, you’re full of happiness and the angels of heaven haven’t abandoned you...”