Ed Barr-Sim’s Frost/Nixon rehearsal diary: Part Two – I love rehearsals in the springtime


Ed as Frost

So, it’s been almost two weeks of full rehearsals and there’re another three weeks to go. There’s things to look back on and improvements to look forward to. The almighty fear of actually having to do and finish the bloody thing is in a very distant future, a future that’s almost out of reach, that seems as if it might never come – and if that’s the case, then we’ll lay down in a perpetual springtime meadow of undergraduate rehearsals, laughing gaily, sipping Pimm’s gaily, wondering if we could get away with eating the left over fruit from the Pimm’s gaily, and playing games with gay and reckless abandon.

Or so you might think! You would be forgiven for not noticing the grander anti-plan of the directors. But it’s definitely not negligence, for there is an achievement that comes from not trying to achieve anything – or, rather, not trying to achieve one thing in particular.

I’ve always found that the most fun things to learn are the things I didn’t know I didn’t know – unknown unknowns – such as the fact that salmon migrate through smell (say what?!). It seems like if you head for the end goal too directly, the charm of the thing disappears, like how travelling is more about getting lost than about seeing a prescribed list of things. James and Josie (the directors) are wise to, sensitive to and appreciative of this phenomenon. There has not been even the slightest mention of how the show should look on the night. I mean they’ve considered lighting (obviously (they’re not mad (well… (No, off topic)))) but they haven’t told any of us the ‘right’ way to say a line in , the way they want it to sound on the night. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. We’ve spent most

of our time deliberately destroying the patterns you inevitably, hopelessly develop. The minute a sort of sound groove emerges, we’re subjected to line running over tickling, running, press-ups or alterations in age, place, disposition, breakfast and the consequent myriad of changes they induce. Anything to bulldoze the bad habit of actor-reciting-script-cum-stopped-believing-it-cum-the-audience-hasstarted-thinking-about-supper.

You might well say: surely doing the scene as a bored 78-year-old who has turned to crack to fill the void of her negligent children has nothing to do with Watergate – you’d be right, it doesn’t! And that’s exactly the point. It has nothing to do with David, so that when we eventually get around to doing them as David, the lines and thoughts will come out with a sense of freshness, of novelty. And if the actors think that this is really the first time they’re happening then surely the audience will think so too. That’s the end goal: we’re just taking the long way round.

PHOTO / Frost/Nixon


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