Faithful Ruslan: The Diary of an Assistant Director - week three

This week, Faithful Ruslan Assistant Director George Nichols talks about the challenges which come with moving from the process of exploration to working towards a more refined product.

Tangible progress is the order of the week. Less time can now be afforded to exploration, as, after all, we do have to finish the play. That means our rehearsals have been split with some time afforded to working further on what we’ve already done in the first half of the play and the rest of the time spent continuing on working through the play. While the collective conscience of the chorus improves every day and their movements come closer to being instinctive and intuitive, consistent practice is needed to maintain this, like practising an instrument. Ultimately in this production, it’s important to get the balance right, as the big choral set pieces need to be polished and progressed, whilst progress also needs to be made on the script.

This being a new play, and an adaptation based on a translation, the main edition of the book is in English as Russia has never published the text, there is constant chopping and changing. This also means that seeing a skeleton of the play is essential, to see if the adaptation effectively translates the book to the stage. There are many difficulties involved in adaptation, aspects that seem the most stageable when reading the book can quickly seems ineffective in practice, and so it is important to be able to kill your darlings and pursue the best version of the play possible.

It is important to locate the moments that need changing quickly so that amendments may become embedded in the cast’s minds as early as possible. This means that this week’s rehearsals didn’t focus on achieving as much detail as we would eventually like in favour of seeing the staging of the complete script and this can be irritating to both the creative team and the cast. However, once the structure and words of the play and firmly in the cast’s minds we can start layering detail and precision more effectively.

From a practical viewpoint, the rehearsal period for this kind of play is very challenging. The script is constantly changing and so myself and the stage management team need to be constantly aware of what is happening in order that the book can be kept up to date. The other creatives who are not in the room (and in many cases not even in the country) need to be kept aware of these changes so that they know how the play currently works and can adjust their own work accordingly. While this is challenging, a production like this is one of the reasons why you want to make theatre in the first place; to be part of a process the relies on constant invention, imagination, creativity and most importantly a talented and generous cast.

Faithful Ruslan: The Story of a Guard Dog runs at the Citizens Theatre from 20 Sep - 7 Oct. Tickets from £12.50. 
Call 0141 429 0022 or visit to book.