Day One

Posted: 2020-05-18 12:00:00


18th May

It’s the first day of rehearsals for a new production of Birdsong. Under normal circumstances I would be en route through the Monday morning rush hour into central London for to meet with the full cast and creative team, all the producers and writers. Upwards of 40/50 people for a big show like Birdsong.

Under lockdown circumstances it is all happening on line. On Zoom in fact. On July 1st, the anniversary of the 1st day of The Somme we will be releasing a brand new version of Birdsong. It will feature a full cast, in period hair and costume, it will feature live music, and sound design as well as the work of a production designer. Sebastian Faulks will be our narrator.

Raising money for The Royal British Legion it is I think the most ambitious creative project announced anywhere in the world using the Zoom platform. And of course it could all go a bit wrong. Hence why we are spending the next month rehearsing before filming starts.

Zoom is a remarkable format in many ways, although not one designed to make theatrical productions on. Thus we are having to be inventive- we have now sent lighting and sound kits out to all the actors and we have instructed them on how best to build what is effectively a home recording studio. Everyone has to endure a painful 90 minute audition - not for their acting but for their technology. Those that failed have been sent rented iPhones. It’s proving quite the undertaking. And we haven’t even really started.

When we started in 2013 I had a young assistant director called Charlotte Peters who during the life span of the show moved up the ranks and ended up as my co-director in the last incarnation of the stage show in 2018. I was thus rather relieved when Charlotte agreed to return to the same role for this rather different version of the show that is being created from the ground floor up.

The actors have been chosen across all 4 past productions, some know each other very well, others not at all. Some remember the show very well, for others 2013 is as if another country and long forgotten. The bulk of the original creative team have all returned and so over the next few weeks

Rehearsals start at 10:30am and will no doubt we consumed by tech glitches, my hope though is that Rachel’s (Rachel Wagstaff) new adaptation shines through the delays and inevitable loss of lines into the ether of the web. As with all journeys, at some point you have to step out and put one foot in front of the other. To make a start- however ill prepared you might be. Wish us luck. We may need it.

I think we have about 30 people joining from the actors to the creative team to the OTC team and Sebastian Faulks is coming in to read the narration. We hope anyway.

Journalists seem quite interested in the show which is a good sign- Cuckoo has also lined up a nice charity in the Royal British Legion to hand over all his hand earned feather money to should it make some money. Most generous bird.