Inside COMPANY – Tech Week

Writing an exclusive blog for The Reviews Hub, actor Arun Blair-Mangat will take us over the next few weeks behind the scenes at the brand new production of Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY which is currently running at Aberdeen Arts Centre until 10th February.

Tech week is upon us. We’ve all arrived up in Aberdeen and we’re at the theatre. This is the moment when it all starts to feel very real. Whenever you leave the rehearsal space and move to the actual theatre, everything goes up a gear. Day one of technical rehearsals started at 10am on Monday morning. Alex Wadham (who is playing Harry) led a few of us to the theatre. He performed in the production of Cabaret in 2016 that was put on by the same creative team so he is an ACT-alumnus and is delighted to be back at the Arts Centre!

I always love the first day of tech. All of the different departments come together. Now is the time for Ben Pickersgill (Lighting Designer), Norvydas Genys (Video Design/Projection) and Michael Livermore (Sound Designer) to get to add their creative contributions to the visual and sonic energy of the show.

The cast got to see the set for the first time. It’s minimalist, slick and very filmic. Then our Company Stage Manager, Kieran Enticknap, took us to our dressing rooms. As CSM, Kieran has many responsibilities, he emails out all of our rehearsal and show calls and makes sure everyone in the company is happy and healthy – at all times – yes…it’s a very extensive job!

Mick our sound designer spoke to us about the way that the sound check and vocal elements of the tech were going to proceed and then we all put on our mics and got into our costumes. After a quick vocal warm up with our MD, Nick Barstow, we kicked off with the top of the show.

We also met our Assistant Stage Manager, Martin Aitken, who is local to the theatre. Throughout the show, he is located Stage Left. He makes all the calls backstage to ensure that we’re standing by for the top of act one and act two. He is also in charge of the props table. He was in good spirits throughout the tech process. I asked him what advice he would give to someone during a tech rehearsal and he said ‘just keep smiling’.

Tech is always an insightful experience for me. People often assume or think that tech is going to be arduous, and sometimes it is, but day one ran very smoothly. We got up to the end of Act One – which is no small feat. By the last technical session of the day, after nearly 12 hours in the theatre, most of us had reached a state of delirium. But laughter is always a lovely way to end a day. We were all most definitely smiling!

By day two of tech, we were fully into Act Two of the show. Everything gets a little more heightened in this act. From the full on musical number at the top of the act to the much more gentle, intimate song Barcelona, which is between the characters of April (played hilariously by Jennifer Harding) and Bobby (Oliver Savile). A synthesis of sound, projections and lighting is used to establish the varying spaces and places throughout the show. I’ve always been fascinated by how a simple shift in lighting can suddenly situate the actors in a brand, new environment.

Day three consisted of adding another layer onto the show. The band joined us and we had a sitzprobe. Now, for those of you who don’t know, a sitzprobe is when the cast sings through the music with the orchestra for the first time. For me personally, it is one of, if not THE best moment of the rehearsal process. I love hearing the various instruments playing their parts. From the woodwind to brass, drums to strings, it always gives me the feels. This sitzprobe was no different. All the cast curled up on the stage, and sang through the show, enveloped by the gorgeous sounds emanating from the band pit, located behind the stage. Sondheim’s score is stunning. Co-Sound Designer, Greig Dempster, was darting around, ensuring that the sound levels were loud/quiet enough in the foldback monitors, while Mick was out front in the auditorium, mixing the band and vocal channels.

Throughout the tech period, a couple of cast members were running Twitter Takeovers over on @CompanyAberdeen. First up, on Day 1 of tech, was Simbi Akande (who plays the role of Marta) #MartaMondays. Lisa-Anne Wood (playing Susan) took to the Twitter page on Weds, making sure to snap some lovely moments during the sitzprobe and get some candid shots during our last run before we have an audience!

When speaking with Kimberly Blake (who plays Jenny in the show) she said to me how ‘normally tech feels like tech but in this job it didn’t really feel like that. It just felt like getting to know everybody all over again. I’ve really enjoyed it – more than any other technical rehearsals for any other show’. I couldn’t have said it better myself. And now that tech is done, it’s show time…

Company runs at The Aberdeen Arts Centre from 1st – 10th Feb

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