Rehearsal Diary: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

Sunday 29 September 2019

Delve into the world of theatre rehearsals with this rehearsal diary, written by Sarah Richardson, Assistant Director of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde at Storyhouse.

Rehearsal diary: WEEK ONE

It’s the first day of rehearsals for Storyhouse’s new production of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde! There have been weeks and months of planning meetings and creative conversations and auditions leading up to this point but today is the first time the whole team is together – director, designers, writer, actors, stage management… The rehearsal room is full of excited energy ready for the first read-through of this brand new work.

Director Psyche Scott says a few words about her ideas for this production. She notes that science runs through this story and that science is dependent on experimentation – you try, you fail, you get things wrong, you try again, you learn by making mistakes. She asks the cast to embrace this way of working in rehearsals, to not be afraid of trying new ideas and getting things wrong.

Next, designer Katie Lias gives a presentation of her designs for the production. She uses the model box to talk through her ideas explaining that she wanted to create a set that would enable events to be hidden from the characters on stage, for example if two separate conversations are happening at the same time, whilst enabling the audience to see everything.

Writer Glyn then describes his approach to adapting the novella for stage. Events in the novella are not told in a dramatic way, there are lots of flashbacks and storytelling of things that have already happened so that was something he needed to address with his adaptation. He also wanted to address the gender imbalance in the novella by introducing two female characters including Lady Utterson, a women of science and friend of Dr Jekyll’s who contains elements of some of the male characters (Utterson, Lanyon) in the novella.

Days two and three focus on reading the script and examining it for facts and questions about the characters, events and locations in the play. Working as a group, Psyche and the cast discover facts and questions such as FACT: Jekyll is a doctor. QUESTION: a doctor of what? why is Hyde just a ‘Mr’? The notes from this run to 14 flip-chart sheets, demonstrating how much is known and how much is still to discover.

Days four and five see everyone up on their feet and playing with rehearsal room props to create the spaces we visit in the play – Dr Jekyll’s laboratory, Lady Utterson’s drawing room. There are discussions around what size these spaces are, how messy or tidy are they and what these details tell us about the different characters. Improvisations within these spaces follow to explore moments from the characters’ backstories, for instance Dr Jekyll and Lady Utterson arguing about Jekyll’s discovery.

The week ends with another read-through of the script, bringing together and consolidating the discoveries of the past few days.

Rehearsal diary – WEEK TWO

This week’s work in the Jekyll and Hyde rehearsal room is all about getting the script up on its feet and playing in the space. The Storyhouse stage is marked out on the floor and rehearsal props and costumes are starting to pile up everywhere.

From now on the actors are called to work on individual scenes so Monday morning starts with Natasha (Lady Utterson) and Ed (Dr Jekyll) re-reading the first few pages of Scene 2. They read it once sitting down and then director Psyche asks them to get up on their feet and play the scene without their script, saying ‘let’s pretend we know what we’re doing’.

The actors aren’t ‘off book’ (know all their lines) yet so it’s a slightly nerve-racking moment for them! But the point of the exercise isn’t to get the lines exactly right as they are on the page, the idea is that through play a better understanding of what’s going on in in the scene will become apparent. And as Natasha and Ed start improvising the scene as they remember it, with some lines taken from the script and others made up, their characters start to come to life, inhabiting the space in different ways, discovering connections between the two of them.

Afterwards Psyche asks the actors what they noticed and what they found useful about the exercise. Natasha comments that she realised Lady Utterson isn’t scared of Dr Jekyll, she’s scared for him. It’s an important observation and distinction to make and will be useful in informing how Natasha chooses to play this scene and others in the script.

Also in rehearsals this week is movement director Paul, leading movement sessions with Ed and Matt, who plays Mr Hyde. Writer Glyn has chosen to have two actors playing the roles of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in his adaptation of the novella so it’s important that their joint physicality is explored. Paul also works with Ed and Matt to explore the moments of transformation between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He works through a series of counterbalance exercises with them, encouraging them to play with different levels of tension in the body and helping them to find strong pathways across the space.

Later in the week sound designer Adrienne Quartly comes into rehearsals to watch the work that Psyche, Paul and the actors are doing and share with everyone some of her initial tracks and thoughts about the direction her sound and music design for the show might take. With her electronic beats bouncing round the room, the actors practising the movement work Paul has set them and developing the character work they have been doing with Psyche the different elements that make up this production start to come together.

Rehearsal diary – WEEK THREE

During rehearsals daily rehearsal notes, written up by stage manager Suzie, help keep everyone up to date with the work that’s being done in the rehearsal room. But work on Storyhouse’s production of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde isn’t only taking place in the rehearsal room. People are also hard at work on the production at the set workshop and within the technical and wardrobe departments at Storyhouse and outside of the building with a team of freelance creatives also working on the show. So each week a production is in rehearsal a production meeting is called to bring the whole team together.

Production meetings are a chance for everyone involved in a production to discuss what progress has been made so far and check whether everything is on track and running to time (and budget!). These meetings usually happen during rehearsal lunch breaks so that the director and stage managers can be present. At this week’s production meeting the following people are in attendance:

the director
the stage managers
the production manager
members of the technical department
members of the wardrobe department
the designer
the sound designer
the lighting designer
the movement director

All kinds of issues are discussed, from practicalities such as whether a trunk that is being used on stage needs to be reinforced and when might be best to do this, to whether or not radio mics will be used in the production.

A small sample of a painted window pane that will form part of the set is brought in from the workshop for lighting designer Neill to take away with him and test with the lights he is thinking of using. And everyone crowds round designer Katie’s model box of the set when possible positions for the set’s floor grills are discussed.

Stage manager Suzie takes notes throughout the meeting which will be circulated to everyone at the end of the day, along with today’s rehearsal notes. And then it’s time for everyone to head off back to their various departments to continue the work, grabbing a quick bite of lunch on the way, if there’s time!