The Dark Road Rushes – One

Aug 26 2013 | By More

Behind the scenes of the Royal Lyceum’s Dark Road

The first weekly blog by assistant director Jo Rush from the rehearsal room of Dark Road, the collaboration between crime writer Ian Rankin and Lyceum artistic director Mark Thomson.

By Jo Rush

Today is the day that rehearsals for Dark Road officially begin.

I have personally been excited for this day since March and now that it’s finally here I can’t quite believe it.

Over the last five months since I became assistant director to Mark Thomson, who has co-written this play with Ian Rankin, there has already been a huge amount to do before reaching this stage where at last we have actors, scripts and production team all in one rehearsal room together.

As an assistant director my role is to support Mark’s direction and provide a second opinion and sounding board for his ideas at all stages of the production, which gives me an amazing insight into how the play is put together.

As Mark has also written the script, an extra perspective is really helpful. In the build-up to starting rehearsals my role has entailed script reading, research, design meetings, casting, photo shoots and a surprising amount of secrecy.

Dark Road will be a world premiere for the Lyceum and the first time that Ian Rankin has written for the stage so when I first found out that I would be working on the production I couldn’t even tell anyone what the play was as it hadn’t yet been formally announced.

And even now that the play is out in the public eye the nature of the piece demands a certain level of caution when discussing it. Unlike many productions of classic plays with well-known plots Dark Road is entirely new and needs to remain a complete surprise for the audience so they can best feel its impact. I would hate to deprive anyone of the feeling of exhilaration and confusion I had when I first hurtled to the conclusion of the play so I’m being very careful not to give any spoilers!

The play has a distinct, familiar Rankin flavour
Jo Rush has entered the building! The Lyceum's sign-in board for Dark Road. Photo © Jo Rush

Jo Rush has entered the building! The Lyceum’s sign-in board for Dark Road. Photo © Jo Rush

I’ve worked with new writing previously at the Traverse where I have been an assistant director to Orla O’Loughlin and also directed at their Words Words Words new playwriting events so by now I’m used to reading various drafts of scripts with an eye out for confusions and inconsistencies and making sure the script flows.

For this collaboration Ian has created the characters and content of the play and Mark has provided its dramatic shape and it is fascinating to see how enmeshed their writing has become. The play has a distinct, familiar Rankin flavour that sits perfectly within Mark’s great ability to build drama and pace.

What makes Ian’s work so recognisable and so perfect for the Lyceum is the way it is embedded in the geography of Scotland and particularly of Edinburgh. The familiarity of local monuments and street names is disrupted and disturbed by the crime scenes and bodies that his writing confronts you with.

I’ve enjoyed watching as these details become clearer in each draft of the script and couldn’t quite stop myself shuddering uneasily as I read the latest draft and realised one of the murder victims lived just around the corner from me.

The work done in the last few months has given a series of teasing tastes of what this production will become. I’ve been able to see how the world of the play will look on stage by attending design meetings where the whole stage is shrunk to model size by the designer before being built for real by the Lyceum team at Roseburn.

I’ve spent the day worrying tourists and locals as we took photos of “murder victims” in locations around the city to create crime scene images – it seems only one person called the police on us! In casting meetings I’ve heard accomplished actors reading sections of the text and been given a tantalising glimpse of its potential.

And I’ve learnt far more than I ever expected to know about secure unit hospitals and police interview tape recorders.

But now, on day one of rehearsals, it’s as simple as: one rehearsal room, eight actors, one director, one stage manager, one amazing script – and me.

And I can’t wait to see it come to life.

Jo is a director and theatre maker based in Edinburgh. Having just completed a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe with the production Hide & Seek, a devised piece of immersive physical theatre, she is now working as assistant director to Mark Thomson at the Lyceum on Dark Road, a new play by Ian Rankin and Mark Thomson, a role that has been made possible through the support of the Federation of Scottish Theatre.

Previously Jo has worked as assistant director at the Traverse and directed work as part of new writing events such as Words, Words, Words and the experimental theatre project Scrapyard, both at the Traverse, as well as directing work at the Fringe in both 2011 and 2012. Jo is interested in visual storytelling, classic works, and developing new writing.


© Jo Rush 2013.

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