Director and 14/48 vet Neil Reading said he “got a bit of a gift” with his play today. It had a good script that didn’t have a lot of movement, but did have “lots of rich dialogue” and “a dream cast.”
“All four of us were rolling ideas around. … As a director, you want to support that and edit.”
The only downside to his play is that it’s the first of the night, so after they had their tech, there’s a lot of down time where it’s less clear what you’re supposed to do. The actors still were running their lines, but Neil had time do what he facetiously called his favorite part of directing, putting his feet up and letting the actors do the heavy lifting.
Although the shows follow the same format, Neil said he’s noticed some major differences.
The UK 14/48s are newer and are smaller, both in terms of space and audience reach. This creates the problem of not being able to fit all the rehearsal spaces in the same room. Director Neil Reading said that his rehearsal spaces could be up to a half mile away from the main auditorium, and since their productions expect directors to go to the band and designers when they need something (instead of a band or design representative coming to them), getting something from the band could take three quarters of an hour that have to be accounted for in their tight time budget.
The actors also come on stage during the actor draw, which is helpful for figuring out who’s who when you’ve got virgins and people who haven’t gotten a chance to meet.
One of the theaters also has a complete British Sign language interpretation (the theater has a proud tradition of accessibility), to the point where the translator might get in on the action. One of their plays had been about gibbons in a zoo, and the interpreter was wearing the same gibbon make up as the actors.
One thing that’s much harder in Britain? Getting a laugh. Although American’s quickness to laugh slightly bothered Neil last year, this year he hasn’t noticed it half as much. He decided it has its plusses and minuses. He said he’ll be very glad for it when he gives his opening speech, but last year, he noticed he got laughs in some scenes he wanted to be poignant.
“You don’t have to earn a laugh here. … In the UK, you have to put a lot of rehearsal in for a laugh,” but getting emotional moments is easier. “Here, it’s flipped.” If you want an emotional moment, you have to put in work. He thought that an American audience goes into a comedy work with the mindset that they are there for a good time and the people up front will make them laugh. In the UK, the performer has to make them laugh.”
Another difference? We Americans stay out later. The 10:30 show in Britain is still mostly vets and crew. “By half ten, we want to be going home or in bed,” so the audiences who do come are slightly dazed by what they see. “We’ve talked about maybe making it [an hour] earlier.”
One last difference: Although the American 14/48 crew love their booze, they don’t love it as much as the Brits. “We drink hard all day, but we’re British, so that’s the standard.” While the Seattle 14/48 crew has a rule that you can’t drink until the work’s done, the British rule is more like you can’t start work until you’ve had a drink, “especially on Saturday.”
But now it’s Saturday at 5:40. The tech’s are almost done. The all company meeting’s a little over an hour away. The first show is in an hour. The glory and booze isn’t far off.