Tech Week and Previews and Opening Night and Partridge in a Pear Tree

Swords clash. 

Blood bags burst. 

Flooring rips. 

Costumes are altered. 

Sound cues are checked. 

Friday 14th July, opening night marks the end of tech week for Bard in the Botanics. It’s been a long and interesting week. For those of you who are not fluent in the often counterintuitive theatre dialects, Tech Week is the few days, maybe even hours (not a week as the name might suggest… see counterintuitive) for the creative team to ensure the all the technical elements of the show coalesce with the blocking, props and staging of the performance to create the final production. 

It is always a hectic week. 

Monday saw the set of Queen Lear take its place on the outdoor stage in the Botanic Gardens. Replacing the candy colours of The Taming of the Shrew? with hessian flooring and corrugated iron doors, Queen Lear looked every bit a rural kingdom. Costumes were fitted and the royal family took their place in smart overcoats, badass boots and with gleaming swords in hand. 

Tuesday saw us dive into technical and dress rehearsal, and barring a runaway crown and a spell of unfortunately poor weather everything ran along quite smoothly. A few line runs and productions shoots later our jaws hit the floor as we realized it was Wednesday afternoon and our first preview was starting in a matter of hours. 

Now, previews are always a funny beast. It’s the first time an audience get to see the performance. It’s the first time the actors get to perform in front of more than just Jennifer (Director), the technical team and myself. It changes things. 

An audience. They are a powerful entity. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. An audience can make or break a performance. I’m not being superficial, it’s true. 

A performance is live. It’s an exchange in the moment between performer and audience member. Their energy, their reception, their ability to invest and believe in the story we are telling them defines whether or not that performance will come out of the gate strong or die a quick death. 

Of course as creatives we do everything in our power to insure the performance is engaging, with relatable characters and believable choices. In fact we work very hard at that. Three weeks of full time rehearsal hard. But ultimately it’s up to an audience and if they are unforgiving, things can turn sour quickly. 

As I made my way through the audience on Wednesday evening to take my seat, I felt a welcoming and engaged feeling coming from the audience. The evening was crispy and clear. There wasn’t cloud overhead and the night air was remarkably warm…. well not freezing for those of you, like me, who don’t hold up so well in the cold. 

The audience seemed upbeat; some sat with their dinner spread out in front of them and some sat with what I’m sure was not a thermos or two of hot tea. I made myself comfortable on a small picnic blanket at the front and waited for the opening music to start. 

It’s always an interesting experience siting amongst the first audience. I found myself a few times holding my breath, waiting to see how a moment would be perceived or clenching my jaw when a something; a line or a bit of blocking went slightly awry. 

The performers did marvellous work; maintaining a fantastic and fast paced energy, building tension, delivering the more emotional scenes with true honesty and compassion, and recovering beautifully when those very few awry moments occurred. And as those final moments were… oh wait hold on I won’t spoil it… but as those moments came to a close I was proud to see the cast take their bows to a mass of applause and even a few crowd calls as well. 

Now it’s on with the two-week run, during which the performance will have a chance to spread its wings and really take flight. The performers will find new things, moments will shift and intentions will change as they always do with live performance and the team will be there to see it all unfold. 

Unfortunately though, I must bid you farewell.  This will be my final blog. 

But I would like to take this chance to thank and applaud everyone on the Bard in the Botanics team who made this project and experience invaluable. Congratulations to everyone and best of luck with the upcoming run. My fingers and toes are crossed for good weather. 

I would also like to thank all the readers of these blogs and lastly I would like to thank Jennifer Dick and the team at Bard in Botanics. Jennifer has been a fantastic director to work with and I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to learn from her and the whole team at Bard in the Botanics. 

Until next time.