Devil's in the detail at Druid rehearsals
More discussion, this time between Hynes, Bolger, Clarke and Jackson, and then Hynes suggests that Maeve stands on Liam’s shoes, as they hold hands on the crate.
In her slip of a muddied dress and shawl, the girl’s fragile bare feet contrast against the tough boot leather of the young man. The response is unspoken, but one knows one has just witnessed Hynes at her most inspired, devil-for-detail best.
“Dissecting the piece and putting it all back together again,” is how lighting designer Chris Davey describes it – this being the longest technical rehearsal in Hynes’s entire career. Although Davey has collaborated with design director Francis O’Connor (see panel), and has worked with the Abbey, this is his first time with Druid in Galway.
The director has been keen to ensure that there are visual motifs linking all three plays – Conversations on a Homecoming, A Whistle in the Dark and Famine. Such motifs will reward audiences booking for the “cycle” days when the three run back to back.
The links must be explored in Joan O’Clery’s various period costumes, in O’Connor’s set, and in the atmosphere created by Davey and colleagues on the large production team. There is no doubt that Famine is the “most difficult”, Davey says.
“The other two have a clearer structure, whereas there is no limit to the scope of the third. Famine is such a visual piece, and what we are doing is trying to build on a foundation of extraordinary language. The fact that we have so much dark theatre time, and that Druid pays such attention to detail, helps to create what we hope will be this big broad picture,” Davey says. “At the same time, we will be tweaking it throughout the run, even after it plays in Hampstead Theatre.”
Composer Sam Jackson says: “Things move quickly in tech, the tone changes, and so we have to be here constantly.” Editing his score “on the fly”, he says that there is “always a careful balance to be kept between doing something practical, and something that is artistically good”.
Part of that involves maintaining a close working relationship with sound designer Greg Clarke, who is responsible for some 80 to 100 cues in this play. It is Clarke’s fifth time with Druid; he worked with Hynes last year on the Dublin Theatre Festival staging of Colm Tóibín’s Testament.
“Garry isn’t entirely prescriptive,” Clarke says. “The director has to be like a filter, and so I’ll offer stuff up and she’ll make a judgment as to whether it fits her overall arc.”
The actors have taken a break; five of the entire cast of 17 are in all three plays, manager Tim Smith explains, as is stage manager Paula Tierney. “So it’s very tough, and everyone is working 12-and-a-half hour days,” he says, except for the two boys, Isaac O’Sullivan and Joseph Ward. Sharing the part of 10-year-old Donaill Connor in Famine, their working day must be restricted to three hours each.
The cast has barely vanished when production manager Eamonn Fox has moved in with his team. Master carpenter Gus Dewar, all goggles and drill and sawdust, is too busy to talk as he lays into sanding a door. Fox and company move between the stage and two 40-foot containers out the back of the theatre, which have been booked to ship two identical sets across the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea.