Hello, it’s very nice to meet you! My name is Natasha and I’m Assistant Director on Road at Northern Stage. Every week I’m gonna give you a little glimpse into what is happening in our rehearsal room here in Stage One.

Rehearsals started last Monday after months of planning, producing, casting, creative meetings, health and safety checks and covid testing. I haven’t been here for all that, mind, but I did start two weeks before our lovely cast came in, this meant I could meet the team, start working in the building and get a general feel for Northern Stage life.

Three weeks ago I started delving into what the world was like in 1987 and very specifically for this production of Road what 1987 was like in Blyth, Northumberland. I’ve always thought I was a decent researcher, always managed to get what cast, director and team needed but I’ve had to go much deeper than page one on google for this production. We’re talking Amber side gallery archives, phone interviews, youtube deep delves, newspaper archives, museum archives etc. You name it I’ve been elbow deep in it.

This means that when the cast come in and start to do table work, a phrase that here literally means sitting at a table and working through the script, I have everything at hand to provide context, fact check, date check plus anything else you can think of. Need to know the release date of The Wizard of Oz? On it. Need first hand interviews with Northumberland miners who stood on the picket lines? I’ve got ya. Need to have a discussion about what kind of bread you’d have with your fish and chips in the North East? Well, I haven’t quite solved that one; it's a fairly contentious issue but in Shields we have stottie.

Now I can’t say anything about the set or the costume...but it’s very exciting and after Amelia’s presentation on Monday it was so good and so surprising that I got starstruck and couldn’t talk to Amelia at the meet and greet drinks. So if you’re reading this Amelia, incredible job.

Natalie Ibu is like a detective, pulls everything that you could want out of production, asks all the right questions but leaves so much space for movement, changes and options. I’ve already learned so much and we’re only at the end of week one.

Photo Credit Ⓒ Joanne Coates

Also this week has been the first time our dialect coaches (Yvonne Morley-Chisholm and Tim Charrington) and movement director (Nadia Iftkhar), have worked with the cast. Now if you’re from here, you know that your accent can sound different from the start of a street to the end of a street. Your dad might be from Northumberland and your mam’s a mackem, but you grew up in Gateshead. So your inflection is mackem but your R’s are Northumbrian and your turns of phrase are from the ‘heed. Which for a North East ear is grand but what happens when you bring ten actors in from all over the NE, one from Manchester, a couple from down south and they all need to sound like they live on the same road? Well that is what our vocal and dialect coaches have been tasked with and they’re doing an excellent job. Or “Jerb” if you’re a true Northumbrian.

Then Nadia, our movement director, came in on Friday morning to meet the cast and get them used to the space. Helping them to free themselves up physically for the work they’ll be doing over the coming weeks. I was completely mesmerised, over the course of two hours the cast completely changed, they were free, open and ready. Nadia is a movement master, the end.

Photo Credit Ⓒ Joanne Coates

Friday afternoon, we went on our jollies to Blyth! We met some locals in the pub, went for a wander along the beach then meandered through the different areas of Blyth to get a feel for the place. There is still an overwhelming feeling of industry throughout, giant cable wheels at the end of the street, cranes hanging over the skyline, blokes in their work gear having a cheeky afternoon pint. We’re wanting to bring this reality into our version of Road, which if you didn’t know was originally set in Lancashire. So we’re being, for want of a better phrase, mad picky about every word, phrase and contextual point. We’re gonna do this right, for the audience, for the people and for the place. In other words, it’s gonna be class.

P.S: Are you an artist based in the NE and have always wondered what a Northern Stage rehearsal room is like? Well we have one open rehearsal a week, Thursday 2-6pm which you can book online (and you can also book to observe rehearsals for the Christmas show too). It’s me, Tash, meeting you all and answering any questions you have and I swear I’m dead canny and non-scary. So get yourselves along.

Speak to you next week!

Book tickets for Road here.

Read about week 2 of rehearsals. >