The Dark Road Rushes – Six

Sep 28 2013 | By More

All tech-ed up: The final week on the Royal Lyceum’s Dark Road

Actor's view from the Lyceum's stage during tech week. Photo © Jo Rush

Actor’s view from the Lyceum’s stage during tech week. Photo © Jo Rush

Tech week – The sixth rehearsal-room blog from Jo Rush, AD on Dark Road, the collaboration between crime writer Ian Rankin and Lyceum artistic director Mark Thomson.

The final week leading up to our official opening night of Dark Road has been surreal to say the least. During tech week everyone essentially lives at the theatre all day, everyday.

You start to lose touch with the outside world – and find it hard to explain to any friends who manage to make contact with you why you are so sleep-deprived and oversensitive!

The job of tech week is to bring together the full technical elements of the show: set, lighting, sound, projection and costume, with the work the actors have already created in the rehearsal room – and then to make the full effect as polished as possible.

Technical rehearsals can be very stop and start because if a cue doesn’t go right you have to pause and correct the problem. So you rarely get to run a scene from beginning to end without stopping, never mind the whole play.

We are working with a revolve set which allows us to swap between several locations on stage without long, full changes of set between each scene. Being able to move quickly from one location to another is vital for this play as it helps us to build momentum and pace and keep the action of the play moving forward.

“I don’t know where I am or where I’m going!”
View from upper circle of tech desk which they use to control sound, lights, projections etc during tech week. Photo © Jo Rush

View from upper circle of tech desk which they use to control sound, lights, projections etc during tech week. Photo © Jo Rush

However it also throws up many difficulties. Our set has been amazingly designed to provide three different locations but as a result when actors are exiting a scene they have to be extremely careful that they don’t walk straight into the next scene. And when you’re stood at the centre of a revolving set of doors it can be very hard to remember which door will lead you safely offstage and which will accidentally reveal you to the entire audience! This has led to much confusion and hilarity backstage with one actor often heard saying “I don’t know where I am or where I’m going!”

A lot of our time during tech week has been spent working out how to perfect transitions between scenes. It is not just about the actors finally putting their performances onto the stage but also about the backstage crew being given time to rehearse their roles in making the play happen.

The stage management team have the tricky task of making sure each scene is set correctly with all the right props and furnishings without ever being seen onstage themselves as that would break the illusion of the world we are trying to create.

Due to the fast pace of the show there are also a number of lightning-quick wardrobe changes that the actors have to make. Sometimes with less than a minute between leaving a scene and appearing in the next scene in a totally different outfit.

Zoe and Jo, our assistant stage manager and dresser, spend most of the show hiding in various tiny corners of the revolve making sure that all this can happen and occasionally having to push actors out of view of the audience when a door swings open at the wrong time. It’s a mind-bending task that they’re faced with and the show just wouldn’t be able to work without them.

My role during tech week has mostly involved running up and down the three floors of the theatre’s auditorium to check sight lines and ensure that all the action onstage can be seen and heard by the full audience-all 658 seats!

I’ve also been running lines with the actors whenever they’re not needed onstage, standing in for them while lights and sound are plotted during breaks, and taking note of scenes we want to work on and feeding back ideas to the cast.

Jo Rush is a director and theatre maker based in Edinburgh. Having just completed a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe with the production Hide And 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.

Dark Road opens at the Lyceum on Saturday 28 September, running through to 19 October.Previews were on 25 to 27 September.

Full details of Dark Road on the Royal Lyceum’s website:


© Jo Rush 2013.

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