Backstage Blog: Betrayal Week 1
Written by Alex Thorpe Assistant Director
Sheffield Theatres has a dark secret it would like to share with you. For eleven months a year it disguises itself as an internationally renowned theatre, producing some of the most exciting work available to audiences in the UK. But for that one remaining month each year, the theatre can no longer contain itself. Overnight it morphs into… an internationally renowned… snooker venue?
Yes, it is that time of year again when Sheffield Theatres is taken over by a mass of film crews, bookie stands and snooker tables as it hosts the World Snooker Championships. During my time at Sheffield Theatres, a number of people have asked me what happens to the ‘theatre’ whilst the snooker is on. Every room is taken over by the snooker. The stage management office is taken over by the officials, the green room transforms into a hospitality lounge and the Studio theatre doubles up as a practice area. As for the rehearsal room, this becomes HQ to the world press (I always wondered why there were internet points spread right around the wall).
But whilst this is all going on in Sheffield, the Betrayal rehearsal room has been shipped down the M1 to a converted church in North London.
Now on my fourth assist at Sheffield Theatres, I am starting to see a few patterns occurring within rehearsal rooms. All four of the plays I have worked on have had a very similar first day, kicking off with a read through of the play. This particular read through was a special moment for everyone in the room for a number of reasons. It was the first time that Nick Bagnall (Director) had ever heard the play read out aloud. Usually, the director would have at least heard sections of the play read whilst he was auditioning the actors for the parts, however Nick was in the fortunate position where he knew the actors he wanted to work with, therefore auditioning wasn’t part of this process. It was also a surprise to discover that no one within the rehearsal room had ever seen a production of this play before. Betrayal is often described as being a modern day classic and has been produced at regular intervals since its inaugural production in 1978. The chances are that at least one of us would’ve seen it before. This put us at a huge advantage when approaching the play over the first few days, as no one was bringing in any outside influences about other productions of the play into the room, one of Nick’s golden rules within the rehearsal room.
I can’t talk about the first week without mentioning one major discovery that took place … the uncovering of half a dozen unicycles. This brought much delight to the playful director and his assistant (me) and pure fear to stage management as they quickly rummaged around to find a dusty copy of the risk assessment. They were soon put at ease when John Simm (Jerry), Colin Tierney (Robert) and Juliet Aubrey (Emma) refused to have a go. Spoil sports!