Paul Bunyan: the penultimate rehearsals

Posted on Tue, 2013-08-13 17:29 by Backstage

This is it. This is the big one. The big push before the Welsh National Youth Opera unveils Paul Bunyan to the masses. We’re about to start the third week of our intensive rehearsal time, working long hours to make sure that this show will be the best it can be. 

The bulk of the production is now learnt, blocked and choreographed. Martin, the director, is now fine tuning and adding detail to the scenes to make sure the story is coming across clearly. It’s a time consuming process, especially when the whole company is onstage and there’s a lot of stuff going on. A great example being the Christmas party towards the end of the piece. In our version of Paul Bunyan, our Christmas party is, to say the least, drab. Imagine the cheesiest, most socially awkward office party you’ve ever been to, and then imagine David Brent organized it. That’s pretty much what we’re going for. (I have been given the very prestigious duty of getting blind drunk and spewing into a bucket. Don’t worry, I won’t be going Method on this one!).

We’ve also started up a little baseball league! I don’t know if this was a deliberate attempt to get us all to man up and embrace American culture, but it’s certainly been a good laugh.

Last Saturday, we managed a complete run of the show for the first time. Getting to the end of that run felt wonderful. It finally feels like the show is coming together. You learn a lot about the production when you run it for the first time. It gives you a sense of the overall story arch, the emotional journey, the chronology and the pace at which your character progresses. Practically speaking, it also lets you know how long you have to get changed and collect props for the next scene; which at times looks pretty tough. I will do my utmost not to walk on stage still pulling up my trousers, but I can’t promise anything.

The other good thing about a run is that it shows up the parts of the show that need work, and that’s where our focus will be for the next week; smoothing out the rough bits and giving it a good old polish. There will be exciting times ahead as we move the set from the rehearsal room into the Donald Gordon Theatre of the Wales Millennium Centre for the first time. I had the privilege of performing on that stage back in 2005 when I was 18 (8 years ago!) and I told myself to make the most of it, because I thought I would never, ever get the chance to perform on it again. I’m so glad I was wrong. Most of the cast have never performed in such a large theatre before, which will make Paul Bunyan an even more memorable experience for us all.