The Rehearsal (Jean Anouilh) – Tech and Dress rehearsals

It is a great privilege to be allowed to observe rehearsals and I am grateful to Jeremy Sams, Director, Ba Penney, Stage Manager and the cast for making this possible for me. I was excited and very much challenged by the prospect of being able to draw not just the set for The Rehearsal, but to sketch the actors. I do not consider myself to be in any way a figurative artist so this was a real challenge to me. However, I focused on the costumes and outlines, which is my usual method of making observational drawings.

The Rehearsal set designed by Bill Dudley

The Rehearsal set designed by William Dudley


The set, designed by William Dudley, could not have matched my interests better – it was full of intricate archways, trellises, doors and hanging lamps. I could not wait to draw it. During the tech rehearsal there were several unexpected (for me) lighting changes, throwing up shadows against the backdrop and changing the dimensions of the spaces. It exactly replicated what I want in my paintings and drawings: repetition of shape and image, changes in scale and dark shapes set against light backgrounds followed by the reverse – light shapes against a dark background. I just couldn’t draw fast enough! Listening to the baroque(?) music also created an atmosphere as I frantically drew.
The Rehearsal - Set drawing

The Rehearsal – Set drawing

After lunch that day the actors rehearsed and so I sketched them, attempting where possible, to indicate where they were in relation to the set and the auditorium. At least the set and seats did not move, whereas obviously the actors did move for much of the time.

Niamh Cusack

Niamh Cusack


Simon Dutton

Simon Dutton


Katherine Kingsley

Katherine Kingsley


I snatched glimpses of them – hoping for a few minutes without movement. I was shuffling a drawing board and two sketch books, working on several drawings at once.
Edward Bennett and Jamie Glover

Edward Bennett and Jamie Glover


Eventually osteo-arthritis caught up with me, and my hand, now claw-like, had to be rested, which allowed me to enjoy the acting and plot, which had partly escaped me through the deep concentration of observing the cast. I find the theatre timeless and was desperately hoping that the parking warden for Northgate car park was equally timeless as I realised that I had long overshot my parking ticket.

I had a second opportunity to draw the cast on the day of the Dress Rehearsal – Still on a steep learning curve for this new way of working, I noted to myself not to sit above any lighting again when wanting to look down at the stage and still be able to draw. Even though for much of the time I do not look at my paper when drawing, there are times when I want/need to. I could see the stage well enough, but not my drawing board because of the glare from a reflection from the floor below me. I reminded myself that this residency is not just about the outcomes in drawings and paintings, but also the experience of being part of the inner workings of the theatre.

Niamh Cusack Dress rehearsal

Niamh Cusack Dress rehearsal


Dress Rehearsal

Dress Rehearsal

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