Alex Clifton is Storyhouse’s Artistic Director, and has written and is directing A Christmas Carol, which opens at Storyhouse on Thursday 3 December.
In a normal year, the cast of A Christmas Carol would gather in the rehearsal room to read the script, rehearse the music and block out their movements in one collaborative whole. But this has been anything but a normal year, and for the team behind this adaptation of Dickens’ festive fable bringing it to the stage has been a different – and challenging – experience.
With all but a week of rehearsals taking place remotely online, the artistic team has had to come up with new ways of working. The result has been a carefully conceived, if at times rather convoluted, process.
Take what director Alex Clifton calls the production’s ‘banging tunes’ and the accompanying choreography, for example:
“I send the musical director a song that I want her to arrange,” he explains of the current system of working. “She does the arrangement remotely in her bedroom with her own instruments. She sends that back to me, I send her notes on it, she looks at it again.
“She sends it back and I then send it on to the choreographer with some references to the kind of dance steps and energy I’m looking for. She then choreographs it in her front room and films herself.
“Now rehearsals start online. I rehearse the scene with six little squares staring back at me. We just read it in our own front rooms.
“The MD emails across the music for the musicians who then go silent on Zoom because you can’t all play at the same time, so they all mute themselves and play the song together – but none of them can hear each other.
“Then the choreographer sends round the dance steps to the song that nobody can hear, which we all then learn, in our bedrooms or front rooms or kitchens or wherever it is, on our own.”
In addition to the music and movement, Alex takes the cast through the story, discussing characterisation and relationships as well as rehearsing their lines.
Preparation is key, so that when the performers do finally come together in the same room – observing careful social distancing of course – the work they have rehearsed alone in their own kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms can be quickly transformed into a single piece of seamless theatrical magic.
And after all, we all crave – and certainly deserve – a huge helping of magic topped with a liberal sprinkling of seasonal storytelling sparkle this Christmas.