The Monstrous Heart: Jordan Blackwood’s Assistant Director Blog #1

News 11 Sep 2019

In his first Assistant Director blog, Jordan Blackwood introduces us to The Monstrous Heart; the world of the play, our characters and the team working on bringing this chilling new play to the stage.

[3 minute read]

Attitudes. Behaviours. History. Questions. Lots of questions.

Week one is complete on rehearsals for Oliver Emanuel’s The Monstrous Heart and we’re already deep in the world of the two leading characters and the larger story. We’ve got a multitude of questions, but that’s a good thing – many of which will be answered once the play gets up on its feet.

First, a bit about the play, The Monstrous Heart is set in British Columbia. Mag lives in a wooden cabin in the middle of nowhere. Beth, her estranged daughter, turns up on the doorstep. The play confronts their past, which Mag thought she’d left behind, and the unanswered questions that are stopping Beth from moving on with her life. It’s a dark rollercoaster ride that we can’t wait to share with an audience.

Our research board in the rehearsal room.

This week has mostly been spent around the table of our rehearsal room in sunny Govan. Olly, the playwright, joined us for the first few days to explore the logic of the play and the intentions behind the actions of the characters. There’s been a lot of discussion (a lot of anecdotes and laughter too) and we’re realising how layered this play is. It’s always exciting to start on a new play and to find new, deeper meaning every time we look at a section of text.

My role kicked off by digging into and sharing research about the play. We’ve been looking into small towns in British Columbia, adverse childhood experiences and pinning down the right time of year for snowy blizzards. Beyond that, I’m enjoying reading the room and being a part of discussions. As an assistant director, your role is shaped by the needs of each project - often it just clicks in to place without you putting your finger on it.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be giving an insight into how this monstrous play is shaping up. First, an introduction to some of our team.

Charlene Boyd in rehearsals.
Christine Entwisle in rehearsals.

So, who is in the room?

We have the brilliant Charlene Boyd and Christine Entwisle performing this fierce two-hander. They’re both very playful, and I love how they’re approaching Beth and Mag in these early stages.

Oliver Emanuel is the man behind the words. He has a story for everything and every day we find a new layer of brilliance in his writing.

Gareth Nicholls is directing. He likes asking very good questions. He likes strong coffee. Two prerequisites for a good director, right? We sometimes dress the same (unintentionally, of course). A prerequisite for an assistant director?

Cécile Trémolières is designing our set and costumes, check out her reference board. The moment she mentioned a Killing Eve reference, I knew it was going to be a great design. Oğuz Kaplangi (sound designer) and Tigger Johnson (lighting designer) will be getting to work over the coming weeks.

There’s a wider team who I’ll introduce over the coming weeks, including our brilliant stage management team and our partners at Stephen Joseph Theatre. The beauty of this co-production is the collaborative approach to bringing all the elements together. Our set is currently being built down in York and we’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of something big - I’ll keep that a secret for now!

Surprises. The play is full of unexpected twists and revelations. There’s a massive one the moment the lights come up - stay tuned for some more hints as we progress.

Charlene Boyd looks at the costume design for her character, Beth.
Director Gareth Nicholls and our Head of Production Kevin McCallum in rehearsals.

Jordan Blackwood, Assistant Director

Supported by a Federation of Scottish Theatre Assistant Director Bursary with funding from Creative Scotland.

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