© Richard Lloyd-Mullen

SUS - Rehearsal blog

The Rehearsal room of a student director

Why is the rehearsal rooms such a sacred place?

To most people, the rehearsal room is an unknown zone: Here in this void, a bunch of people get together and like the magic door in Stars in their Eyes, they emerge through the smoke and lights. A  polished production.

In this blog I will

In this blog I will discuss

In this blog I will discuss the main challenges we faced, one brought on by the limitations of the production, and one brought on by me. The tone of which D.S. Karn and D.C Wilby hold, was not the only battle with the text we had to tackle during our rehearsal process of SUS.

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Approaching a play text

The 1970’s

Approaching a play text of a different time period always brings a multitude of worries for those involved in the production, none more so than the tackling the historical context. Tackling this interpretation requires an abounding determination from the actors and director to ensure that the meaning of the language chosen is greatly understood and then conveyed in performance. This is because, historical context is an important part of life and literature and without it, memories, stories and characters have less meaning.

As a student Director, my approach to readying myself for each rehearsal of a new scene was to familiarize myself with the historical context of each scene and how this translated to the now. One of my processes was researching reviews of performances of SUS. I discovered that the actors of the characters of D.S. Karn and D.C Wilby has been vilified due to the extreme caricatures they are playing and the emotions about the sus law at the time. This allowed me to feedback to the actors this information before and during the exploration of each scene. I found that getting to the truth of each moment and away from the caricatures would help ground the reality of being in such an absurd situation, this in turn would then allow the actors to put their energy into bringing the text to life. 


Student Director

 I am here to learn and the only way to learn is to make mistakes, it’s hard not to wonder just what you have learned when you come to the end of University, no more so, when your goals are centred around directing. I mean, I’ve run rehearsals in the past, for small projects; I’ve observed, assisted and been assisted by directors of theatre and film, yet sitting in a rehearsal room full of adults is terrifying when it hits that you’re an inexperienced director about to lead rehearsals for your third year final major project.


There were times in the rehearsal room where we would find ourselves at a point where there was uncertainty about how we should be approaching the scene. The challenge I found was instilling confidence in my suggestions when it is clear I am unsure and still undergoing a learning process. To assist with these moments, I took advice from director and university professor David Thacker. As side from our regular tutorials, he was always an email away to resolve challenges we encountered.


Lean Delroy is an intriguing character, full of wit and integrity, yet I found the play text written in a way that almost portrays him as a suspicious person. I toyed with the notion that he may actually be guilty of something and sought advice about cutting parts of the text that contradicted this vision. In fact, it was during this process of cutting the length of the play and our discussion that I came to realise the importance of playing the text free of subjective interpretation.


Mike Alfred’s in his book Different Every Night: Freeing the Actor he outlines his directing coda. Alfred’s states that the ‘The theatre is not a forum for the interpretation of plays. Its aim is to bring them alive – a surprisingly different concept.’ By bringing the exploration with our actors back to this in the trickier moments meant that they could then reconsider the role of their character in this scene and their delivery of the dialogue.A standout moment for me in our rehearsals of SUS was the opening conversation between D.S Karn and D.C Wilby. This scene was one of the far more difficult scenes encountered during the process, requiring our actors to establish the tone and exposition of the play. Discovering these moments is what the rehearsal room is all about, however the reality is quite different. Actors and directors are both human beings, we have fears and anxieties, a s well as, lives we are living, away from ambitions and studies. Once in the rehearsal room, I found that often people were distracted or unprepared. Fortunately, I had planned my rehearsals well and was able to identify the cause of these issues and build a strategy to limit the effect of, actors who are not paid having other priorities and not being able to dedicate the time needed to rehearse, either at home or subsequently over spilling in to their concentration during the rehearsal, resulting in, less of the focus and energy needed in a rehearsal room. This causes problems and adds to anxieties however, there is a common goal shared by everyone in rehearsal room: to create a piece of theatre.


Dale Edwards