Walking into the auditorium for our first tech rehearsal was slightly surreal. There were aspects of the set that seemed familiar, but everything just seemed bigger and more detailed. At first it was enjoyable and exciting to finally be in the space, and to see how massive the place is from the perspective of the stage, but as the night rolled in, and the hours ticked by, the work became harder. There was no fluidity in the work we were doing; there was lots of stopping and starting. At one point I was lying in cold, wet, sand, absolutely filthy, for what seemed like hours. I think tech rehearsals are the hardest process for the actor to go through, because it’s not about them really, it’s about everything else for a change. We try to keep focused and remain present within our characters and in scenes, but every time we stop, which is every thirty seconds or so, we have no idea why. I understand there is definitely a reason behind it, someone is fixing a sound effect or a light cue etc.
But finally getting onto the stage and seeing the enormity of the auditorium excited us all beyond belief. The intricacy of the logistics involved was initially challenging, but when we had the opportunity to run it together, we felt we had it down. Seeing the fire for the first time did really make me feel like a young kid again; working with that immediate danger on stage really is exciting.
The first performance was unlike anything I could have imagined; the way the theatre is designed, the actor cannot help but see the audience. Just picture the scene: nerves and adrenaline are coursing through your body, you get your beginners call and make your way to the stage, you can’t see them yet, but there’s an energy in the air that the audience are emitting, you can hear them, their laughter and conversation…you can sense their excitement and anticipation. Then you get clearance and the tribal music starts pounding out of the theatre’s PA, you can literally feel the music under your feet. And finally your cue to enter. You are greeted by 1200 people and all eyes are on you. It’s amazing, there is nothing that compares to it.
One thing I hadn’t prepared for during rehearsals was the audiences sense of humour. I wasn’t expecting the show to get any laughs, but there are loads of moments in the piece that the audience really respond to, and on opening night this really took me by surprise. It’s quite a relief actually, as I know that the audience are engaged and entertained in a variety of ways.
I’ve enjoyed my previous experiences on the screen and have a real passion for TV and film, but so far Lord of the Flies has been a sensational experience. I’m honestly having the time of my life. Actors are often asked which they prefer, TV or theatre, but it’s really not a fair question, they are worlds apart. The great thing about theatre, and of course playing Ralph, is the opportunity to take your character on his emotional journey in a chronological fashion. Also, feeling the energy of twelve hundred people engaged in what we are doing on stage is incredible. Having no safety net as you do in television and film was at first slightly terrifying, but now we are in the swing of things, the excitement and focus has moved to another level.
When we performed our first matinee, the audience gave us a standing ovation. Knowing that all the gruelling hard work we have all put in to create this play has paid off is like a feeling unlike any thing I have felt before!