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Jenna Russell’s Urinetown diary: Week 4

First Published 11 February 2014, Last Updated 13 February 2014

As the two week countdown to previews begins, Urinetown The Musical’s Jenna Russell fills us in on how to tackle a revolve like a pro and why home baking is imperative to keeping up morale:

So week four of our rehearsals starts with a visit to our set, which is an amazing and very ambitious design considering the size of the St James Theatre (260 seats). We actually have levels (which were installed in the rehearsal room from day one) and a revolve… I know!

Revolves are hilarious things to work on. Even the most elegant actor can come unstuck on them. I knew an actress who never worked out how to get on or off the revolve. Her method was to run at it at full speed and hope that she got where she needed to be! Often she would end up with her back to the audience, the poor follow-spot operators having to use their spots like searchlights in a war movie trying to locate her on stage! Her method for getting off the stage was always my favourite though. She would point herself in the general direction of her exit and run like the clappers into the wings where there were four crew members on standby ready to catch her! She’d sometimes take them down like skittles in a ten-pin bowling alley.

Luckily there are no such problems for us, as we were whizzed around at various speeds all looking like ‘revolve pros’, wind blowing through our hair! And that session will hopefully save us lots of time when we come to the tech week.

We are a very social company; the National Youth Theatre rehearsal rooms have a really great Green Room area with a big communal table in the middle. Every tea break is like a company meal. We have had a Bad Biscuit Competition since day one – although the biscuits can’t be that bad as they always get eaten! Marc Elliott though seems to have the knack of finding the most awful ones. We also have some very good bakers in the company – thank you Great British Bake Off! My faves so far have been Rosanna Hyland’s ‘Pina Colada Cupcakes’… very nice! We also had a company picnic in the green room instigated by Richard Fleeshman. Everyone brought food in and Fleeshman was our DJ, providing sounds of the summer from his iPad. There was so much food we were still shoveling it in days later!

Now, this is no good really for those of us who were hoping to lose some poundage over the rehearsal period. But it’s very hard to resist, and especially bad when you have had a costume fitting, which we did last week. I’m not going to go into detail, but suffice to say I love my costume and by association I love Soutra Gilmour, nuff said.

We’ve been going through the show from the beginning and working through each scene in detail, refining and trying to remember the blocking and the bloody lines… I knew them in the shower! Aargh! I always love that moment when you are watching a fellow actor giving it large, fully on it and totally committed, and you are watching them in awe thinking ‘Bloody hell, they’re good, this show is in great shape, it’s going to be wonderful’ then this huge silence happens and you realise it was meant to be you speaking next… twit!

Well that’s been happening a bit this week, but it’s all part of the process. It’s also around this time that the tiredness starts kicking in, the odd tear is shed and, in certain companies, tempers flare – I often book in my diva tantrum for the second tech session via the company manager! But honestly none of that is happening here. Even with the stress-inducing tube strike the cast and creative stayed chipper. They always say the tone of a rehearsal room comes from the top, and for that we can thank the ever present, joyful and inclusive Jamie Lloyd.

Next week is our last session in the rehearsal room. I will be sad to leave but we are itching to get into the theatre. An audience in two weeks! #excitedandscared!


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