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Inside Rehearsals for The Silver Sword - Week 2

Posted on 14 September 2015

In this latest behind-the-scenes installment from actress and blogger Rachel Flynn, we find out more about how the cast of The Silver Sword coped with their first puppetry workshop with Jimpy the Cockerel and Bistro the Chimp and delve deeper into some of the parallels between post-war Europe and the refugee crisis currently dominating today’s headlines.

Week two, and I have fallen like a tonne of bricks! I am utterly enamoured with this show.

We have just completed our 6 day long second week of rehearsals for The Silver Sword and I’m really excited by how the show is coming together. After a (at some times very) staggery run through of Act 1 yesterday, the narrative of the piece is becoming much more clear and the true ensemble heart of it unfalteringly shines through. Director Suzie spoke in notes yesterday about how pleased she was with our cast dynamic and camaraderie and she’s completely right about how wonderful these people are. It really does feel like I could fall off the stage; forget my all lines; tear my costume in two on the prop stove or/and accidentally behead Jimpy the Cockerel, and they’d totally be there to support and save me. Of course, all of these things definitely won’t (most probably, not likely, may perhaps, and very possibly will) happen.

It’s really amazing being in a rehearsal room with the creators and writers of a show. It’s very exciting that it’s almost as completely raw and new to Suzie (director and writer) and Steve (composer and musical director) as it is to us. This means we are constantly playing, experimenting and finding things that work and don’t work. We can pop in an effective new scene in the middle of Act 2 to add drama and plot and we can simply cut out a verse of a song that feels too long. It’s incredible that they are being so free with material they have spent years working on, and it’s so interesting to see a piece morph, grow and refine more and more each day. It’s also far more exciting to be able to originate a character, rather than wander forlornly around the Barricade with a box you have absolutely no idea why you’re carrying but it’s been in your role’s track for 25 years. (Of course, the excellent actors totally work it and Cameron, my box carrying is really very excellent. Wink, wink!)

Some of the cast attended a puppet workshop this week to learn how to manipulate and characterise the brilliant animals created by master puppet designer Scott Brooker including the rather wonderful Jimpy the cockerel!

I’ve got a feeling this chirpy chicky will be an absolute show stealer, especially with lovely Sue at the helm. That is as long as she doesn’t cock(erel) it up..!* This week we also met the mischievous Bistro, the German chimpanzee with a penchant for cigarettes. I adore this scene in the show and know that children will go crazy for this cheeky chimp puppet**. Twinkle (our cupcake-laden company manager of dreams) shared this brilliant shot of Bistro (operated skilfully by Olly), Major Hargreaves (our charming Alex) and his driver Jim (Nathan, king of accents). I’m really looking forward to meeting Jan’s best friend Ludwig the dog in rehearsals next week.

We’re all very aware there’s been a lot in the news recently regarding refugees and the crisis in Syria. Our Polish family in The Silver Sword are very much classified as ‘refugees’, fleeing from oppressed Poland under German Nazi rule, to Switzerland where they hope to be reunited with their parents. The children are often dismissed, told to go home or put in serious danger because of their refugee status. Yet, time after time they manage to find people willing to go out of their way to help them or hide them. As I mentioned before, there is a lot of heart in the piece and I hope that it’s message resonates in the hearts of our audiences. Particularly, our song which opens Act 2 has some very powerful music and lyrics.

“Echoes of our conversations disappearing in the breeze. All we knew for generations, slowly fading memories. Lives, traditions, peoples, nations. Now they call us ‘refugees’. Though everything we knew is blown into a million tiny parts, we know we can hold onto who we are. The lifeblood of our nationhood lives here, deep within our hearts.”

I have now arrived in Coventry ready for the final week of rehearsals before teching and opening next weekend – EEK! I’ve moved into my lovely new digs and looking forward to continuing our journey tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.

The Silver Sword opens in B2 on Sat 26 Sept and runs until 3 Oct. For more information and to book your tickets, call our friendly Box Office on 024 7684 6715 or visit www.belgrade.co.uk where tickets are cheaper.

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