Posted on Thursday 4th June 2015

Joshua Val Martin, assistant to the Hoard Festival Directors, gives us a glimpse into the world of the festival rehearsals

Joshua Val Martin, assistant to the Hoard Festival Directors, gives us a glimpse into the world of the festival rehearsals…

I don’t think I’m saying anything new if I was to point out Staffordshire’s proud and rich tradition of ‘craft’; from its internationally acclaimed ceramics to the equally renowned toilets, those bright yellow manufacturing vehicles to - one could argue - the world’s finest oat-based delicacy. Things are made here with care, and so where ever else could the largest found collection of highly detailed Anglo-Saxon metalwork - including over three thousand five hundred gold and silver pieces - have been buried? A similar sense of proud craftsmanship runs deep through the veins of the entire building of the New Vic Theatre.

The Hoard Festival is a project of quite some scale, comprising of four main-house productions which have all been written specifically for the festival,, ten table plays and two studio shows. Furthermore, before leaping into rehearsals, time has been taken for the company as a whole to get to grips with the subject matter. This has included talks from Staffordshire Hoard expert Cathy Shingler, a trip to a toilet factory and to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, a lesson from a metal detectorist in the theatre’s car park (we found two pence) and a number of sessions with an accent coach. It has also been of help, to say the least, that Associate Festival Director Gemma Fairlie has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Hoard and its historical contexts.

As you can probably imagine, the rehearsal schedule in itself is a work of art. At any one given time there are rehearsals for two separate plays taking place. In one room you may find performers bouncing from the walls and throwing themselves to the floor. In another, a group of performers intensely attempting to imitate recorded speech!

If this placement so far has taught me anything, it is not to underestimate the work that takes place outside of the rehearsal room that unquestionably informs what ends up in front of audiences. I was overwhelmed talking to admin earlier today about the amount they have to organise and schedule - so much so I was sweating cobs coming out of the meeting! Box Office were proudly passionate about the particular role they play, as the first faces the audience finds. And, of course, nothing would get seen without Marketing - they’ve had me collating information, taking pictures and writing blogs for them (!).  There’s no departmental hierarchy, quite literally as each office bleeds into one another here on the first floor but also in terms of ethos, each department shares an intense pride and care for their work. This is truly a ‘theatre-in-the-round’.

I appreciate my gushiness may be a little much for some, but I’m hoping that in here somewhere I’ve offered a snapshot of a successful theatre making building as a whole, this one like an efficient beehive. I’m very lucky to be on this three-month placement, thanks to the support of Theresa Heskins and Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme, having learnt already a huge amount. And to think: we’re only half way through.

Joshua Val Martin, Assistant to Hoard Festival Directors