Our main concern at the runthrough yesterday was the pace that was needed. Obviously, we're getting to the stage where we need an audience - the occasional giggle from our director, crew or fellow actors, who have seen it all before, isn't really enough; and working 'in the space' was obviously going to slow things down too. However, it's also true that hesitancy on some lines and cues will sometimes reduce us to the 'wading through mud' feeling.
Finally, it's undoubtedly true that it can be a danger with a Northern accent. Because of the relaxed drawl (just listen to Last of the Summer Wine), it's all too easy to relax so far into it that we drag our vocal heels, as it were. Not only that, but the authoritative, controlled, possibly pompous nature of our three couples (to varying degrees) means that a measured tread is completely appropriate to character. The challenge is to keep that steadiness and authority without sending the audience to sleep.
Tonight's rehearsal, therefore, was a 'line run' - sitting in a circle on stage, acting with voice and face but not body. Genevieve stopped us, or we stopped ourselves, when it became clear that we were 'stuck in the mud' - or that an alternative approach was required. Where a faster pickup of cues was required, or line delivery needed to be faster (or, indeed, slower) we went back and tried it out again.
A fascinating, and successful, gambit was to have our 'figures of authority' - particularly Councillor Parker and Alderman Helliwell - lose their measured tread as they lost control of the situation. As panic sets in at the realisation of just what has happened (or rather, in the case of their marriage, what hasn't happened), we tried hastening their speeches - while slowing down those of Gerald, who is relishing his new-found power as he tells the tale. The switch between the two was highly effective, and did as much for the integrity of the characters as it did for the theatrical effect. Likewise, when we three ladies were already at sixes-and-sevens over the matter of Mrs Northrop, our reaction to the arrival of the reporter and photographer from the Yorkshire Argus was explosive. Lines overlapped, pitch of voice was raised: panic stations.
This was a very useful and encouraging exercise. Now, of course, our next two rehearsals are technicals: which, based on previous experience, will be taken at a very slow pace indeed...