After some time to reflect on Sweeney Todd with Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra I am overwhelmed with the pride I feel about this show that the cast, creative team and me created in such tricky conditions.
It was by no means an easy process:
We sacrificed ease of rehearsal schedules and time to allow us to have less time of singers that were based in London and just finished shows on the West End. This combined with our hard working and talented Northern based team meant that some people didn't meet their colleagues till the technical rehearsals! The small budget for set and costume meant we had to find people who could and wanted to work within these limitations without abusing their time or energy (it had to be for equal value to them). I commuted for six weeks from the south of France where I was working at Aix-en-Provence Festival with a director that I rate highly - this in turn meant that I was working in two high intensity rehearsal environments seven days a week plus the commute. We were performing in the beautiful town hall in Huddersfield and whilst architecturally the right time period for this show and despite the technician's tireless effort it's just not decked out to be a high end performance venue!
I could go on, but actually none of these things stick with me when I think about this show. What I remember is the commitment and enthusiasm each and every member of this cast brought with them despite full knowledge of the situation we were working in. The beautiful music and months of work by Ben and the SPO. And the people who supported the performance and me during this emotionally and physically exhausting time. I paid my sisters to come up as production assistants/photographers/make-up-and-hair-artists/bringers of joy and sugar etc and it was valuable for me to know I had two people on the ground making sure everyone was happy and calm whilst I was busy dealing with everything else.
That is obviously the role I'm used to taking - and as I move more and more into directing my own work on large scale productions I won't forget the value of this role of the assistant director - who seems to be everywhere, hearing everything and supporting the production in ways we can't always see and hear.
So this post is with enormous gratitude to my sisters, Charlotte and Jessica Haines, my parents who traveled all the way up to see it, the team behind the show at SPO who made it happen, everyone who made sure I had somewhere to sleep for rehearsals, the cast who released our production with energy and joy and my partner who put up with the combo of Sondheim and Strauss for a year.
Here's a video of our process with videography credits to Charlotte Haines: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=7NRTynKXSLI
Why not read: