From the rehearsal room: Assistant Director Matilda Ibini

‘So I was asked to write a blog about my experience of being in the rehearsal room for RUN SISTER RUN by Chloë Moss and directed by Charlotte Bennett. It is an amazing co-production between Paines Plough, Sheffield Theatres and Soho Theatre.

Matilda Ibini in rehearsal for RUN SISTER RUN, photo by The Other Richard

This was a big first for me. I’d been in lots of rehearsal rooms but only ever as a writer, a dramaturg, or a devisor (and even as a performer many moons ago but we won’t talk about that).

This was the first time I was in a rehearsal room as an assistant director. I was really nervous, eager to learn but I also wanted to be useful to help realise Chloë and Charlotte’s vision.

I feel it’s important to mention that I am disabled and my current state of health doesn’t always make it possible for me to work or create in the more traditional sense. I shared this with Charlotte, who was open and supportive from day one. She asked what I would need to do this role. Charlotte was not just eager to better understand my needs – she also wanted me to feel empowered by the experience. So what did I need I hear you ask; well, I needed flexibility and so the role of assistant director was a job share with the wonderful Lucy McCann. I did a couple of half days and Lucy did a couple of full days, we would then send a brief summary at the end of each day of rehearsal to one another to catch the other up.

I needed access to wheelchair-accessible rehearsal spaces (and wheelchair accessible restrooms), the freedom to take a break when I needed and Charlotte also scheduled check-ins to ensure that I always felt included and able to contribute.

Chloë has written this incredible script (you know it’s great writing when you’re envious that you haven’t written it). And so before rehearsals began, we spent a week workshopping the script, if this is something that could be scheduled into future rehearsal processes I’d highly recommend it. Spending a week workshopping the script before rehearsals begin should be put into every production budget. It was such a rich experience to have the time and space to excavate the script with the cast before throwing ourselves into rehearsals for the production. There were so many interesting conversations had, it also gives the writer the opportunity to make big changes to the script, and can help aid actors in their journey to understanding their characters and helps to ensure everyone is on the same page (pun intended).

Chloë has written a rich, taut but tender play about sisters growing up in the care system in the 80s and how their experiences continue to impact them as adults. The play really tests familial bonds and its breaking points. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a sucker for stories about siblings (I’m the second oldest of four) and Chloë’s script does not disappoint.

Observing the way Charlotte worked with the actors, it was really refreshing to see how collaboratively and compassionately she works. At the beginning of the rehearsal process it’s okay to not have all the answers and that we’re all working together to find the most truthful solutions. What was also really great was observing the number of people behind the production, the people you don’t get to see on stage, and how important it is as a director to surround yourself with collaborators you can rely on (and it helps if they’re wickedly talented at what they do) but who also challenge you, have feelings and thoughts on the play that you’re working on and how beneficial it can be to find collaborators you haven’t worked with before.

Being in such a supportive and welcoming rehearsal room has been such a positive learning experience. There were so many useful techniques and practices that I will take forward into my own directing process.

Huge thank you to Charlotte and Chloë for inviting me on this journey. To my fellow A.D. Lucy who is a generous and fiercely intelligent collaborator.

To the brilliant cast: Lucy Ellinson, Helena Lymbery, Lucas Button and Silas Carson and crew (not forgetting you Patch the dog) watching you all work has been an honour and I can’t wait for audiences to see the magic you’ve all created.’

You can find out more about how to get involved with upcoming Paines Plough projects and find all the details for RUN SISTER RUN right here.

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