Pantomime rehearsal periods are renowned for being the shortest in the industry. It keeps costs affordable for producers, but how do we make sure we can still achieve a brilliant outcome?
A detailed schedule
I find that publishing a detailed schedule in advance of rehearsals gives me a useful roadmap to tech week and helps the cast prepare themselves for scenes and routines we’re covering that day. Leave plenty of flexible time slots towards the end of rehearsals where you can run the show or polish individual sections as you require.
More than one rehearsal room
Try to rehearse at a venue where you can have 2 or 3 rehearsal rooms running at once. This enables you to direct scenes in one, teach choreography in a second and have music rehearsals in the third. If you’re lucky and have assistant creative team members, you can be even more flexible with who is doing what, and where.
Plan your blocking in advance
For some shows, I prefer to develop the blocking in the room with the cast. However with short rehearsal periods, this isn’t always the most productive way to use the time available. For panto I tend to have a rough plan in my head with then flexes and develops in the room. Looking for ways to make something slicker and funnier is one of my favourite parts of the job.
Request cast to be off book
Reading from a script in quick witted comedy routines can be a real drag on the pace of a scene. If your cast are off book on day one of rehearsals, you’re one step closer to a fluid and pacy final result. Once the cast can run a scene with pace you can start picking out extra details and comedy which would be impossible to add with scripts in hand.
Facilitate a Happy Room
Short rehearsal periods can be stressful for cast and crew when everyone is on a tight deadline. Do your best to ensure that your rehearsal room is a happy and productive place to be. Keeping everyone’s spirits high makes for a better workplace environment and a better show. If cast are enjoying themselves in rehearsals, they will on stage and that will really show to an audience.
I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on making the most of a short rehearsal period. You can email me, or get in touch via my website where you’ll find lots more blogs aimed at making your panto experience the best it can be.
Alex Jackson is a pantomime director and script writer originally from the South West, now based in London. His scripts are performed by professional and amateur companies across the globe, and he most recently directed the inaugural season of Prime Pantomime’s production of Snow White at the Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple. Credits as Director include: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple); Cinderella (Brackley & Banbury) ; Henry: A Killer New Musical Workshop (The Albany, Deptford); Michael Morpurgo’s Out of the Ashes (The Bike Shed Theatre & South West Tour); Jack and the Beanstalk (South West Tour). As Associate Director: As Associate Director: Bang Bang! (Exeter Northcott Theatre & UK Tour); Monmouth: The Westcountry Rebellion (Marine Theatre and South West Tour). As Resident Director: Club Tropicana (UK Tour). As Assistant Director: Beauty and the Beast (Exeter Northcott Theatre); Hot Flushes The Musical (UK Tour), Buttons: A Cinderella Story; High Ridin’ by James Hogan; For Reasons That Remain Unclear by Mart Crowley (King’s Head Theatre); The Monstrum (Marine Theatre & The Egg at Bath Theatre Royal). As Producer: All That Scratch (The Other Palace); Cracking (South West Tour Clarke Andrews’ The Tempest (South West Tour); Hot Flushes The Musical (UK Tour). As Assistant Producer: La Traviata (King’s Head Theatre); Playmill New Writing Festival 2018 (King’s Head Theatre), The Monstrum (Marine Theatre & The Egg at Bath Theatre Royal).