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The Green Room: How do you deal with creative differences in the rehearsal room?

Photo: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…

Albert_Parker

Albert Parker is 58 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

Tina-Cerrito- Tina Cerrito is in her 20s. She has worked on a number of productions in leading new writing theatres, as well as film work
Rosie-Montague

Rosie Montague is in her 20s. Since completing her training in 2013 she has played leading roles on national tours in classical productions

Ted-Baloo

Ted Baloo is 35. He trained at Rose Bruford College and has since worked a great deal in regional theatre and on tour. He is an actor and a musician

Victor_Winstanley

Victor Winstanley is 42 and his theatre career has encompassed the National Theatre, West End, touring and regional work. He also writes extensively for radio and TV

Molly_Muffet

Molly Muffet is 36. After graduating from university, Molly joined the cast of a major BBC sitcom. Since then she has worked extensively on stage

Victor You shout, scream and sulk until you get what you want. No wait, hang on…

Ted As long as they’re not deeply personal differences, I think the best way is to deal with them head on and get them out of the way.

Albert Always try out other people’s ideas. And let them see they won’t work.

Molly That’s a good one.

Albert Once, a director told me he didn’t like something we were doing in a scene that everyone else in the rehearsal thought was brilliant. I asked him if we were here just to do what he liked, or to try things out?

Victor In my experience, a good director won’t force you to do something you’re really unhappy with, but, at the same time, if there’s a disagreement you have to earn your version. A bad director is another matter, but if you’re stuck with one of those, ‘creative differences’ are the least of your worries.

Tina I think that unless you are in a devising/collaborative process, you do have to take a back seat on what you may think is right, compared to what the creative team believe is right.

Molly Yes. As an actor, it’s really, really hard, but you have to let the director have the final say. Then, change it after press night when they’ve gone.

Thomas And that’s what show reports are for.

Molly Bum. Forgot about them.

Tina It’s such a tricky one, because sometimes they want your input, but it’s a case of sensing when it is truly appropriate to fight your corner.

Rosie I can’t say I’ve had any major differences, but it has to be about good communication.

Ted I’ve been lucky that differences have been with the director, which we’ve been able to talk about and work through. I presume it’s more difficult to disagree creatively with someone you have to play opposite eight times a week.

Victor The nuclear option – which I’ve used once in my 20 years – is to pretend to accept the note, and then play it so badly that the director changes his or her mind. That’s a very risky strategy, though.

Rosie It’s harder if the difference is a more general and pervasive thing, such as the way the play is handled by a director, than a specific difference on a scene or character.

Albert Honesty and talking things through. Don’t criticise, just ask why.

Rosie And respect that it’s their job, not yours.

Thomas How about designers? Ever looked at a costume and thought: “I can’t wear that”?

Albert I was once draped in some old remnants and tat for The Jungle Book. As I said at the time to the keen designer: “It doesn’t exactly scream ‘bear’.” And certain hats have got lost over the years.

Ted Ah, shit costumes. Most recently, I’ve decided the best way to combat it is to wear it in the tech and do everything you’ve been doing in the room for four weeks, and hope that the director spots that it’s shit, too. Generally works: “Ah, yes, that lion’s mane does look like a dahlia or a massed group of labia.”

Molly I fall back on explaining what a strange shape my body is – and that they weren’t to know they’d have to dress such an odd actor. My fault, of course.

Thomas How fantastically British, Molly: “It’s totally my fault that you’ve made me look so horrible, I’m so sorry to be a bother.”

Rosie I put up with a very short crop top for a good few weeks before saying “I really hate wearing this” to the wardrobe mistress – to which she said I could ask about changing it – I didn’t really know that was possible at the time.

Ted I’ve worked with people who’ve very conveniently lost disgusting bits of costume behind large, unmovable pieces of set.

Thomas And what about your fellow actors? Ever found them taking a scene in a different direction either in the rehearsal room or in the run? Ever found yourself disagreeing with them? How do you resolve that?

Tina When it comes to actor relationships on stage, every actor has their own process, so I think part of the craft is learning to adapt to people and be open to what they offer.

Albert The phrase that’s useful when another actor is really fucking things up in rehearsal is: “How brave of you to do that.”

Molly That’s a good one.

Albert Something like: “Do that again and I’ll punch your fucking lights out” can help.

Ted Sometimes, I guess you just have to let them play and realise they’re wrong, before helping to pick up the pieces and reassemble things as they’re meant to be.

Molly If that doesn’t work, then a sharp left hook should do it.

Albert Go, girl.

Rosie Sometimes I need to be careful when I’m insecure about a scene, it is far too easy to blame the other actor. Have to watch out for that and respect their work.

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