GUT: Isla Cowan’s Assistant Director Blog #1
02 April 2018 ← return to listing
Week 1 of GUT rehearsals went by in a flash! So why not
grab a cuppa (heck, throw in a biscuit) and let the show's
Assistant Director Isla take you beyond the rehearsal room doors
and inside this week's action in her first production blog…
It's actually happening!
It was a normal, grey, Edinburgh day as I made my way up Lothian
Road towards the Traverse Theatre. But, as soon as I got down into
the theatre bar, I was hit by sunshine and warmth: the bar was full
of people, there was coffee and croissants and a buzz of energy
that could only be described as first-day excitement.
Danielle, the Artistic Administrator, made her way through the
chit-chatting crowds, handing out production lanyards. Soon, it was
my turn. I smiled and thanked her, and she moved on to locate the
next lanyard holder.
I looked down at the tag:
And there it was.
It finally hit me.
I had known I was going to be the Assistant Director
on Gut for months - I had been to interviews and
meetings, sent emails back and forth, met up with Zinnie and
Frances - but, it was in that moment, as I stood looking down at an
official Traverse lanyard bearing my name, that
I realised it was actually happening.
I pushed down a small scream of excitement…
Let's set the scene…
The day began with a read-through. I was overwhelmed by the
attendance. We were not only joined by the team directly involved
in the production, but by many members of the extended Traverse
family and The National Theatre of Scotland.
Nothing compares to the first read-through of a play. No matter
how many times you've read the text, no matter how many scenes have
been read aloud by actors in development sessions, the first full
read-through on the first day of rehearsals is magical. On top of
this, Frances'script is so powerful and utterly moving that the
room was electric - pure energy and emotion. Her play is tense
and intense. It explores how we perceive the world around us,
and the power of fear to change us.
After the read-through, we assembled around the model box and
Fred guided us through her stunning set design. For those of you
who don't know, the model box is like the best doll's house you've
ever seen: it is a small black box containing an exact miniature of
the set. Fred's set design creates the sense of something lyrical;
it is a liminal space which allows the piece to shift seamlessly
between scenes and states of being. I cannot wait to see this
beautiful set in real size in Traverse 1 in a few weeks' time!
Then, we moved on to a production meeting and the logistics of
the set were worked through. This is where the artistic vision and
reality collide. Sometimes this can be tricky to navigate, but,
fortunately, the team at the Traverse are fantastic and, by the end
of the meeting, the initial logistical problems were resolved - the
vision could become a reality. I listened to talks of trucks and
flies and props and lights with awe and admiration.
So, we'd heard the words we were working with and now we had
seen the space we were working in…
It was time to get going.
Research, reading and getting to grips with the
Much of the first week was spent sitting around the table,
reading, discussing, and making notes. It's important, particularly
when working with new writing, to spend time sitting down working
through the play scene by scene before getting it up on its feet.
You have to make sure everyone is on the same page (literally!)
regarding the basic feeling of each scene, before you begin to
play. This first part of rehearsals is also a very special part of
the process as we share our own stories of fear and misjudgment,
coming to a place of understanding for these characters, their
situation and their world, as we work through the text.
I also had the chance this week to share my research with the
group. In the weeks leading up to rehearsals, I had been
researching dangers surrounding children (finding lots of scary
statistics) and the different 'types' of parents who, not only
react differently to potential threats, but also, treat their
children differently in day-to-day life with regards to the child's
satisfaction and responsibilities. Although none of the characters
fall into clear-cut categories, it was interesting to see which
characters aligned with which 'type' of parent and how this could
colour our understanding of their motivations. These questions in
the play of danger and safety, risk and protection, have been
buzzing around my brain all week.
Do we live in a dangerous world that pushes us into certain
Or, is it our distrusting behaviours that create a dangerous
What and who can be trusted in a world where threat is
created, perpetuated and perceived by all?
You can book tickets for Gut
here. Meet the cast and creative team
Assistant Director Placement in Association with
University of St Andrews'