We’ve seen a fantastic response to Craig Higginson’s The Girl in the Yellow Dress which is currently playing at Theatre503, including nominations for both Fiona Button and Clifford Samuel in the Offies. As well as ★★★★ Reviews from The Times, The Evening Standard and Exeunt.
We thought you might like a peek behind the scenes, so we asked Theatre503’s Resident Assistant Director, Bethany Pitts to give us an insight into rehearsals….
The first day of rehearsals is always nerve wracking for all concerned, and it seems it doesn’t make any difference if you’ve done the show before. Joining on to a show being remounted with the same cast, (Fiona Button and Clifford Samuel) and director (Tim Roseman) was a bit like turning up mid term at school – except for immediately being bowled over by how open and welcoming everyone was, and how keen they were to achieve more than before with this new production.
Craig Higginson’s play has multiple layers which bear plenty of fruit a second time around, and what has been great about this rehearsal period is the opportunity to delve deeper into a text than is usually possible within the constraints of the conventional 4 week rehearsal schedule. Tim’s method for this re-rehearsal period has been to reinvestigate the work done before, to try new things and add an extra, beautifully intricate level of detail. With only a week to get it ready for the new space, time has of course been an issue but it has felt almost luxurious to be able to spend time closely examining each individual scene with fresh eyes, and of course, one new pair of eyes (my own).
Something that became apparent to me in our first week of round the table readings is that the delicacy of the play must be preserved above all. Each part is incredibly tightly structured and paced and finding the right rhythm, weaving the lightness and darkness together is key to discovering the arc of the play and taking the audience on the journey. We have run scenes with different objectives and intentions for the actors, testing what combination allows us to keep the audience on tenterhooks.
From an audience perspective, we enter into a two hander with a male and a female, and immediately, in the first scene, we know that Pierre has been following a “beautiful girl” around Paris. The enjoyment of the play therefore, particularly for a sophisticated London audience, is the unexpected twists and turns that this set up takes us to.
The nature of a two hander, and particularly a two hander covering the themes that this play does, is that it is incredibly intense, even more so that I had previously thought. This play is hugely demanding of the stamina of the actors as they are on stage almost all the time. ‘Off topic’ interludes are needed to ensure that it doesn’t all get too much at points, so conversations have ranged from the benefits of ASOS and zumba to the quality of Pimlico’s cafes (thumbs up for the falafel from Sand Café) and more dubious off licences (not so much for the off licence with the teetotal owner) .
Playing for a different space makes an immeasurable difference of course, and the early signs from the tech and dress period are that the intimacy of 503 really helps this play and the world of the play. James Perkins has reimagined his abstract Parisian set beautifully and the cast have enjoyed getting to know it as we have got into the theatre. Previews have shown so far too that the London audience really responds to this tautly constructed piece and these uncompromising characters. As Celia says, “We must make up stories to represent ourselves”; we look forward to seeing Pierre and Celia’s stories develop over the coming weeks.
The Girl in the Yellow Dress is presented by Theatre503 in Association with Salisbury Playhouse, and runs at Theatre503 until Saturday 14th April.
Photographs by Flavia Fraser Cannon