Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Swagger Sticks: Adam Blampied on rehearsing, military style!

Hi folks. It's my turn to tangibly improve your lives with masculine yet tender words, so sit down, put your genitals in the crash position and stop talking for just a second, jeez, while I tell you about what we did yesterday.

Adam Blampied as Roderigo (copyright GSL)

Those of you who aren't going to hell when you die, i.e. people who read the Grassroots Blog, will already know that in order to streamline things (and trim down the amount of actor blood the cleaners are required to mop up at the end of a long day) we nominate a member of the cast to act as play-master. This entails leading warm-ups (difficult), introducing acting exercises (more difficult) and keeping everyone to schedule (hahahahahahahaHAHAHAHAHAHA) and yesterday the task was taken on by John Stanley.

And it was wonderful.

John, having spent a large part of his life in the military, ran a tight ship. “The time is 11.32,” he barked, a swagger stick appearing in his arm from literally nowhere, “we shall commence rehearsing act 5 scene 2 at 11.35!” 

And we actually did. 

He fielded note-giving sessions, barking the name of whoever had their hands up. “I'm going to have to hurry you,” he'd say if the note had started to ramble, “Right, you've got your point across. Now James! Go!”

One of the main upsides to working a play the Grassroots way is that everybody has a chance to have their opinions heard. This of the main downsides on the other hand is that everybody has a chance to have their opinions heard and, if not properly kept in check, note-giving can spiral out of control somewhat, four or five people debating the merits of their own personal taste for many, many minutes. This is all valuable work, no doubt, but can leave less time for getting stuff on its feet that might be allowed under a more dictatorial regime. 

The perfect compromise? 

John Stanley.

Extending the military theme of the day, John also led us in a tiny version of an Air Force boot camp, teaching us the correct posture, standing at ease and attention, marching etc, all the while delivered in the aggressive bellow of a drill sergeant. 

John: What the f*** was that?! Where the f*** did you go to school?

Me: A posh school, sir!

John: I CAN F***ING TELL. Squad, drop and give me 5!

Finally, he played us a verbatim performance of an inspirational eve-of-battle speech, delivered by Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Collins to British troops about to be deployed in Iraq. After fighting to suppress giggles during the boot camp, this left respectful silence in its wake, driving home just what is expected of a soldier; to be ever-aware of honour, of family and, of course, of death.

“Right, now the time is 3.48. 2 minutes and then we return to the floor! Understood?”

“Sir, yes sir!”

I don't really have an overarching point about today's rehearsals, other than perhaps:

(1) what a company of actors sorely needs is a bit of military discipline and a large man ready to impose a timetable upon you with the blunt end of a swagger stick.

And (2) we're having a lot of fun rehearsing this play, and I think that will be in evidence when we perform it. I think this is going to be good, you guys. 

You should come.

The show runs from 2nd - 26th April at Leicester Square Theatre. Tickets available from

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