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Another rehearsal room dispatch from writer/director Kit Brookman.

Rehearsing a new play sometimes feels like riding a bike while simultaneously being taught how to juggle. It’s messy and chaotic, things (and sometimes people) hit the ground, and as soon as you get a handle on the juggling you forget how to ride the bike. It’s part of creating something that hasn’t been done before, uncovering the logic that the play wants to live by while simultaneously building a performance and a world that can support it. If I can stretch the metaphor, rehearsing a new play for one actor can feel like riding a bike while learning how to juggle with a blindfold on. There’s not a multitude of voices to guide you along the way, you just have to keep moving through the dark, trusting that you’re hitting the right marks along the way.

The Stones is (partly) a play about guilt, about the heavy things from the past that drag on both the present and the future. The character, Nick, experiences a moment of insight that’s followed by a disorienting step into a world he begins to recognise less and less. It’s a sort of contemporary gothic horror story.

Our rehearsal process has at times doubled as a play development process, which has allowed us to shape the performance and the text together, and work out in a moment-to-moment way which can carry the meaning of the piece at any given time. It’s been a very direct and collaborative process which hopefully will mean that an audience will struggle to see the seams between the different elements of the production.

Whenever I’ve written a play, at a certain point in rehearsals the words sort of lose all meaning to me. As a writer you’ve dreamed about the play, thought it through, written it, turned it over in your own head a thousand times and then had other people turn it over with their voices. Familiarity demolishes perspective. It’s always the worst point of rehearsals and always a relief to leave it behind -- to emerge from the tunnel, still on your bike, still catching the juggling balls as they come down, and making your way a bit more easily now along the path.

We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting close, and I’m excited to reach the point in a week and a half’s time when we can share the play with audiences, and let more people into Nick’s funny, fracturing, world.

performer Luke Mullins responds to a note from the director

The Stones plays at Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, as part of the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe.

12:30pm, 8-29 August.

photo by Matthew Kaltenborn

Writer/director Kit Brookman writes from Bath, where our production of The Stones is in rehearsal before its season at the Edinburgh Fringe.

We are in the middle of a heatwave. For Australians like us, applying this descriptor to a string of barely 30-degree days feels a little quaint, but we’re in England, and here this kind of heat is uncanny. On our way to rehearsal, we watch as tourists, parched and red-faced, stumble along the well-worn tracks between Bath’s major attractions. Earlier this year, when I was in Sydney, it rained more or less constantly for three months. Floods that were meant to be once-in-one-hundred-year events were instead happening for the second consecutive year. Given that The Stones is about evading one’s own complicity in terrible events and the guilt that keeps us from acting until it's too late (don’t worry — there are jokes), these strange, out-of-kilter days feel entirely appropriate for rehearsals.

We are in Bath because Luke is performing in Deborah Warner’s new production of The Tempest. The location, too, feels apt. Bath is Britain’s most intact Roman town, and everywhere through the centre of the city are the faded remnants of a society that was almost entirely swept away. I don’t just mean the Romans; Bath was a famous Georgian spa town, and even that society, with its control and repression, feels unimaginable in the chaotic and disjointed present.

Even more fitting are the enormous seagulls that dominate Bath’s central district. Signs in various languages implore you not to feed them, but the gulls aren’t all that interested in a voluntary exchange in any case. Sleek-winged gangsters, they bully children for their chips, or pluck astonished tourists’ sandwiches from their hands. We are of course about twenty-five miles from the nearest coastline; the gulls don’t belong here, they’re just making the best of what’s available. Perhaps we’ll all need to be taking lessons from them sooner than we’d like.

Revisiting The Stones now, three years after its brief premiere in 2019, is both strange and rewarding. In an artistic sense, there’s an added potency to the play’s subject matter “after” the pandemic, but on a personal level, for those of us working on the play, it also feels like we’re coming back to a piece of our lives that existed before the utter disruption of 2020. We were meant to tour the play to Edinburgh that year, but, well, we all know what happened. But there are benefits to having more time than you had anticipated — benefits that we don’t always get to experience when making theatre. Those “lost” years have given us the opportunity to make the work richer, more resonant. Certain moments land differently — lines that before seemed like a far-off conceit still elicit a laugh, but now it’s one of recognition.

Rehearsals themselves are a joy. We talk with our far-flung collaborators while Luke, to invert a phrase from The Tempest, conjures a world out of thin air.

And speaking of rehearsals, we had better get back to it — there are lines to learn, decisions to make, and gulls to avoid on the walk back from lunch.

The Stones plays from August 8-29 at Assembly Rooms, Roxy Downstairs.

We're pleased to announce that our production of The Stones will be presented at Assembly Rooms at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Stones premiered with a brief but lauded 1-week season in 2019 and was due to travel to Edinburgh in 2020 before those plans were derailed by the pandemic. We're looking forward to bringing Luke Mullins' powerhouse performance of Kit Brookman's scalpel-sharp text to new audiences. If you'll be in Edinburgh in August, you can book tickets here.

photo by Matthew Kaltenborn

The Stones plays from 8-29 August at Assembly Rooms, Roxy Downstairs. Show time: 12:30pm.

written and directed by Kit Brookman

performed by Luke Mullins

lighting design by Ben Jacobs

composition and sound design by Jethro Woodward

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