Opera North Blog

More than the sum of its parts: Assistant Director Lewis Reynolds experiences a series of revelations while working on Faust



It’s Saturday 6 October and we have just had our first full run-through of Faust, with our amazing, untiring repetiteur Charlotte Forrest providing three hours of piano accompaniment, but with full cast, costumes, make up, set and video projection as it will be for the first performance. It's a good time to think back over the rehearsal process - and the fact that five weeks ago I had no idea what this show would look like. For me, there has been a series of revelations working on this show.

Of course the directors, Rob Kearley and Ran Braun (also visual designer), have had a very good idea of their plans for considerably longer than me. As the assistant director, I joined them for the beginning of production rehearsals. 

That was the first revelation: we didn't begin with rehearsals. Rather, we spent the first week filming. The design of this production of Faust uses video projection to create the visual world of the show, and some of the characters appear at particular moments in the projection. So we had our cast in full costume several weeks before we would normally expect. 

In the middle of the filming, there was a mini-revelation for me personally (perhaps I'm stretching the term... perhaps "shock" is more appropriate). I was asked, with other members of the production team, to appear in certain sections of the video. The most nerve-wracking part of my job so far! Now I am secretly proud of my appearances and look forward to those particular cues. I'm tempted to offer a Mystery Prize to the audience member who can correctly count my different appearances.

Throughout the rehearsal process we worked separately with cast and video, as this was much more efficient. Before moving from our rehearsal studio to the Grand Theatre itself, we had not seen the two together; during cast rehearsals we imagined the video we'd seen earlier that morning, and during video sessions the Stage Management team and I traced the movements of the characters. So our first run-through with cast and video together in the theatre was a major revelation, a beautiful and deeply satisfying one.

The major attraction of opera for me is that thrill of something becoming more than the sum of its parts. When everything is working, an inexplicable extra something envelops the whole thing... opera's peculiar revelation. In this production, I think the use of video is a thrilling and compelling element in a very exciting sum.

I also get asked what it's like working for a team of two directors. I have occasionally struck an apparently lonely figure on stage, but looking closely you would see me furiously eavesdropping on two simultaneous conversations. My favourite moment in rehearsals has been when the directors each took half of a quartet, directing two singers each in tandem. This was an unplanned revelation. We started the quartet again from the beginning and there emerged a beautifully constructed and balanced scene.

What revelations remain? The orchestra joins this week! And then, on Saturday, the most exciting revelation of all, the arrival and participation of our first night audience.

Lewis Reynolds

Assistant Director, Faust

Faust opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on Saturday 13 October before touring to The Lowry, Salford Quays, Theatre Royal Newcastle and Theatre Royal Nottingham. For more information and ticket booking, click here.

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