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The Green Room: Do you have tips for a successful dress run?

Costumes being prepared for a rehearsal of a musical version of The Little Mermaid. Photo: Pavel L/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 is 58 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV


Movement director Mark Able is in his 20s. He runs his own physical theatre company and has worked in numerous drama schools


Adam Gale, 39, is a director and has worked extensively on musicals. He has taken many shows to Edinburgh and runs a youth theatre


Dale McKenna is 25. He trained at Laine Theatre Arts in Surrey, has performed in West End musicals and is currently touring the UK


Peter Quince is a 71-year-old actor working in theatre and television

Eoghan Barry is 30. He has worked as an actor on fringe projects and work for young people, and more recently has been working as a writer


Annie Walker is 25. After graduating from drama school, she has worked predominantly in regional theatres and is also a writer and street performer

Ted Baloo is 35 and an actor and musician. He trained at Rose Bruford and has worked in regional theatre, on tour, and occasionally on TV

Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays and toured both nationally and internationally

AdamPreparation and scheduling. Giving enough time before the dress run for all departments to get ready – and enough time afterwards, particularly if there is a show that evening.

Annie Keep calm.

Dale Stay calm.

Beryl Finishing the tech.

Ted Time, calm and readiness.

Peter Make sure your costume feels like yours.

Adam Remembering that it’s only a dress and not life or death.

Ted Yes, it can still go wrong and that is very much okay.

Mark Reassure people, be kind, bring biscuits, manage your own expectations, give people second chances.

Dale It’s so easy to panic. I do like the ‘bad dress, good show’ mantra. I guess it’s nonsense, but makes everyone relax.

Annie Panicking in quick changes and finding props and things almost always slows you down. If you used tech well, you’ll have clocked where not to be backstage at certain times, too, so you’ll avoid stepping on other people’s tracks.

Albert Relax – enjoy it and save a bit for later.

Ted A good crib sheet.

Mark Smile.

Beryl Use it, learn from it.

Adam As a director, getting out of backstage, no matter how many things you want to fix.

Ted And looking after each other.

Eoghan Realising things will likely go wrong – as it’s the first full run in the space with everything in place, it’s bound to. It’s not the end of the world.

Mark Help each other.

Adam It’s time for the company to work together.

Annie Yes Adam, it’s only a dress. It’s only a really bad one if someone ends up dead…

Dale Last chance to make mega mistakes and try things without an audience.

Eoghan A cohesive, cooperative and thoughtful company will work to figure out the fixes, think on the spot and so on. Those moments can be reassuring rather than panicking, if handled well.

Peter Remember that, however well disguised, everyone else is as insecure as you.

Adam Remember that, having pulled everything apart over tech and stopping/starting all the time, the show rhythm won’t quite be at its best. That’s all right at this point.

Mark Tell people to problem-solve and we can talk about it afterwards. I’d always encourage a bit of time for the actors to provide feedback on their experience and vice versa with the technical departments – before the director gives their notes.

Albert Try one thing you haven’t done in rehearsal. Surprise yourself.

Peter Right again, Albert. Surprise yourself.

Albert Remember what they say: bad dress rehearsal…

Ted And reconnect with the people you’re standing opposite. Really listen, really watch and really communicate.

Albert … Shit show!

Beryl I think reconnecting is a good note, back to working with your partners after all the motion capture and tech has been sorted.

Adam Before a first dress rehearsal, I like to think of one practical and one character note for everyone and that’s it. Anything else can come afterwards.

Peter Be realistic. Realise that your favourite bit of business doesn’t work with set and costume. Abandon and move on.

Eoghan I’ve been in a dress where the director gave a really nice note – “You’ve never known the show better than you do now, and you’ll know it even more tomorrow” – it meant the cast didn’t panic about some line cuts and changes in blocking (it was a piece of new writing) and trusted the fact that they’d been rehearsing for four weeks already and could adapt easily.

Annie That’s a great note.

Dale I love seeing everyone in costume for the first time. So exciting.

Peter An actor can take on another persona once in costume. Embrace, welcome and use it.

Annie It’s great seeing all departments come together. I love the buzz around an opening show.

Thomas What makes for a bad dress? Not finishing the tech? No biscuits?

Beryl Both those things.

Mark Bad moods.

Albert Stopping and starting.

Mark No confidence.

Adam Negativity.

Mark Not having one and it’s the first preview.

Peter Line insecurity.

Ted Tiredness.

Beryl I think stopping is the big thing, you want to run it.

Annie Not finishing the dress.

Albert I was once in a show that was so badly teched that the cast refused to do a dress as we thought it unsafe.

Adam Oh God, Albert.

Eoghan That sounds pretty awful, Albert.

Beryl Being unsafe, awful. Well done on your company, Albert, loads of folk wouldn’t dare.

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