The Monstrous Heart: Jordan Blackwood’s Assistant Director Blog #5

News 21 Oct 2019

What is it like transferring the show from the rehearsal room to stage?

Assistant director, Jordan Blackwood shares the process of getting the show-up-and-running at Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre.

[3 minute read]

Week five. Different town. Extended team. Same bear.

We are officially open after a very smooth tech week and some brilliant previews at our new home-from-home, the lovely Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. From the moment we arrived, we felt like a part of SJT’s extended family – warmly welcomed, supported and offered copious cakes, biscuits and buffets by the team. I’m really pleased that this show has been done as a co-production, and that SJT share the Traverse’s ambition to take risks in programming bold new work – challenging its audiences with something different.

Christine Entwisle in The Monstrous Heart. Image by Mihaela Bodlovic

Transferring a show from the rehearsal room to stage can be daunting. Having found a great shape, pace and level of intensity for the play in rehearsals, layers of light, sound and space become new vehicles for storytelling and the challenge lies in fusing them together. A challenge to some it may be, but with such a talented team in play The Monstrous Heart became a fully-realised show without a stress.

First, we met Cecile Trésmolière’s brilliantly moody set. Taking inspiration from photographer Gregory Crewdson, whose work blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality and offers a heightened view of suburban life, our set surrounds the actors in dark red pine with a scarce amount of windows to let natural light in. Tigger Johnson’s light throws shadow on the space and bodies as the play develops; gives way to a heightened naturalism in key moments and embraces a moody tone throughout. Oguz Kaplangi’s sound design gives an underscore throughout which elevates the world and transports us to the stark, blizzardy landscape of rural British Columbia. Pulling them all together, we’re embracing elements that wouldn’t be out of place in a Scandi noir film. It’s the dark rollercoaster I mentioned in my first blog, and I’m really enjoying seeing audiences experience it.

Mihaela Bodlovic came down to take our production images, see more of them here.

Previews... PRESS NIGHT!

We had the gift of four previews with this show, giving us an opportunity to test out the pitch of the play with an audience – experimenting with where moments of light and shade are needed, finding the right level to open the play at and discovering the perfect towel placement and blood pumping balance (you’ll have to see the show for that). It’s been great to open the play in Scarborough, gauging raw responses from an audience that doesn’t have as much experience of the work of this creative team and cast as our Traverse audience will.

Press night arrived and we were introduced to SJT’s traditions when an in-house show opens. First, a framed copy of the programme gets hung on the wall (obviously with a photo opp to boot); second, a local baker makes a cake that reflects the show (we were all so impressed by the amazing bear sitting atop a dark heart, with the actors headshots on the side); finally, they put on a buffet themed to the play for the post-show party (bear tooth quesadillas and bear claw Yorkshire puds were highlights). WINNING.

Unfortunately, Elsie couldn’t make it along to the press night afterparty, but she’s enjoying her trip to Scarborough – we’ll try and force her up to the Trav bar in a few weeks…!

Jordan Blackwood, Assistant Director

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