The Cherry Orchard: Looking back on the first week of rehearsals

25 Sep 2017

Assisting Rachel O’Riordan on a new play by Gary Owen could not be a more enticing opportunity for an emerging director. So when I was lucky enough to receive a JMK Trust bursary, supported by The Carne Trust, to work on Owen’s radical re-imagining of The Cherry Orchard - I was absolutely over the moon.

My first read of the new text exceeded my already high expectations: Chekhov’s classic has been dragged kicking & screaming from pre-revolution Russia to early Thatcherite Pembrokeshire, becoming even funnier, emotionally brutal and politically resonant in the process. Meeting the extraordinary cast this first week of rehearsals has only increased my excitement and admiration of the team putting this together.

The Monday morning read-through kicks off four and a half days of table-work: reading, asking questions, probing subtext, sharing stories, offering reactions & reflections. What becomes crystal clear is Rachel O’Riordan’s insight and intimate relationship with this gem of a new play. In sharing her vision of the play the director activates our own relationship to the text; and makes certain the team has a firm grasp of the internal logic and powerful themes of the play: class, politics, gender, grief all pulsating through the text. The characters and the World they inhabit, early 80s South West Wales, become more tangible hour by hour, day by day – the subtle complexity of the plot becomes lucid and I am increasingly in awe of this hilarious & heart-felt dissection of humans on the brink of Thatcher’s heartless revolution.

Before we know it it’s Friday afternoon and the actors take to their feet armed with the insights and discoveries mined from the script.

Paul Jenkins
Assistant Director (a JMK Trust position supported by The Carne Trust)

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