Nikki Kalkman’s Girl in the Machine Assistant Director Blog #5
12 April 2017 ← return to listing
Fight over the best seats… It's press
Wednesday marked the world premiere of Girl in the
Machine. Wed 5 Apr has come
screaming around the corner at such a great rate of knots that I
have legitimately wondered where I put all those days in March. Did
I misplace them somewhere? Surely it's can't be over yet?
Press night opened to a sold out crowd of reviewers, Traverse
staff and friends and family. Since then I've watched as several
glowing reviews for Girl in the
Machine have poured in.
But can I tell you a secret?
Here, lean in close, it wasn't exactly an uneventful few days
leading up to press night.
Monday and Tuesday night were preview nights. Previews are
always an interesting experience. I've heard some practitioners
refer to them as dress rehearsals with an audience; others view
them as practice runs for opening night; a few productions I've
worked on didn't even get previews.
But regardless of varying opinions, I believe they are quite an
important part of the process. You learn things in a preview that
you just couldn't have learnt in the rehearsal room. Those first
two hundred or so eyes are some of the most critical, and their
feedback is invaluable. These first few audience members give an
insight into the show that we didn't and couldn't have known for
all-powerful, all-seeing audience
Live performance is exactly that; live. It takes place from one
single moment to the next. It is a cacophony of dramatic elements
all working together to create a theatrical experience.
Liveness and that of its audience are what makes theatre so
wholly incredible. And an audience is a very powerful creature.
I've seen productions fall to their knees at the hands of the
unforgiving audience and there is absolutely no way of replicating
that undefinable pulse, that energy of audience in the rehearsal
room. We try. Directors, writers and performers can all make
predictions on how an audience might receive a piece of the
theatre, we can bring outsiders in- friends, family or colleague to
see runs, but ultimately until that audience are actually in the
space- bums on seats, cell phones on silent, lights down, curtain
up- there is no way of knowing exactly what they are going to do.
What they are going to feel.
Will they laugh?
Will they walk out?
Will they lose interest?
Will they lean forward in their chairs?
Will they applaud? How long will they applaud for?
It all sounds a little neurotic, doesn't it? It's not. Our
currency is storytelling and we have to know if we are telling it
The biggest realisation we've had over those wonderful few days
of previews was about the pace of the performance.
Stef's words are snappy, with a rhythm of their very own. But
with a performance so heavily embedded in the concepts of
technology and future, they also contain a great deal of
information, exposition and emotion. Striking the right balance of
gusto and stillness is something we have been exploring from day
Speed and a bouncy rhythm can reflect playfulness and humour-
something critical to the beginning of the play. But speed could
also mean the audience lose valuable information about the plot?
How can we sure they'll hear us?
Stillness creates tension but driving through a high stakes
moment can also invoke a sense of chaos and inevitability.
Are we giving them enough time to hear the story? Feel all of
those emotions? Or are we giving them too much time? Are we not
getting to the point fast enough?
All of those questions came crashing to the forefront after our
first preview. And so, I watched as Orla and Stef not once but
twice, after our second preview, made several incredibly bold and
While the wine was quietly chilling and canapés were being
prepared for press night, words were cut, blocking of tweaked,
lighting states were shifted and soundscapes were changed. I sat
and watched as Michael (Owen) and
Rosalind (Polly) dived
straight into the changes with the bravery and laughter that I've
gotten to know so well over these last few weeks. As the contained
rolled closed on the freshly edited ending, only two hours before
the audience was due to arrive, I knew, we all knew, that it had
been the right choice. The performance was exactly where it needed
it be, we all breathe deep and broke for dinner.
That was it.
Slap on some lipstick and shimmy into your party dress and lets
get this thing running.
book tickets for Girl in the
The Assistant Director position for Girl in the
Machine is supported by The JMK Trust.