Birdland Dress Rehearsal

“Birdland” Opening Night

Entering into the second term of the last year of my Joint Maths and Computing Degree, I thought to myself, “How can I distract myself from my work in a ridiculous way I haven’t tried yet?”. Having already become captain of the most obscure sport on the planet (underwater hockey – don’t ask), and literally played God in a DramSoc play last year, I decided it was time to actually become God.

Sadly, gaining omniscience is fairly difficult, so I settled on directing.
Sadly, nobody liked the play I wanted to do, so I settled on assistant directing someone else’s.

The play in question is Birdland, by Simon Stephens. It follows Paul, a rockstar at the height of his fame, his subsequent downfall, his descent into madness, and how it alienates and destroys his relationships with everyone around him (#spoileralert). The dialog is sharp and witty, and it provides interesting commentary on the celebrities of modern society.

Armed with a script, budget, and a producer prodding us to get on with it, we began our search for our cast. Auditions were one of my favourite parts of directing, as I got to see the wide range of acting talent we have right here at Imperial. Also, getting everyone to do Paul’s first monologue and rant and rave about a “spectacular peach” was fairly amusing.

Having being told Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t available (something about “The Revenant”, “Oscars”, and “FINALLY F***ING WINNING”), we settled on our cast over Christmas, and rehearsals began. For the last six weeks, Jack Williams (the director) and I have been blocking out scenes, bringing out emotional performances, telling actors to “act higher and/or drunker”, and making Paul a bigger dick than we thought possible. I’ve loved every moment of it. From the initial idea of a scene to the polished performance, every actor brings their own sparks and ideas to a scene, and it’s the collaboration and trying every idea that makes the play great. “Try it and see” has become one of my favourite lines, because even the weirdest sounding ideas can really make a scene. And sitting back and watching a scene that’s really beginning to come together is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

Show week is now on us, and I couldn’t be more excited to see Birdland on stage for the first time. The cast are all fantastic, having really grown into their characters; the crew are all fantastic, pouring nights and days behind the scenes to make sure the play actually happens; and the band have been rehearsing late into the night, all to bring you an experience that will be absolutely fantastic.

Nathan Patel is the Assistant Director for “Birdland”, which runs from Wednesday 24th February until Saturday 27th February 2016. Tickets available at dramsoc.org/shop

From our dress rehearsal: