The Metroland Marathon


With Beauty and the Beast over, life returns to Vile Bodies completely and utterly. With all my life devoted to making sure this show goes off without a hitch when it hits the V&A and the Warwick Arts Centre. The all consuming panic of a parent preparing their child for school hits one at times like this; the idea of sending my play into the hands of my team and cast in a venue where I will have no further control imbues me with excitement and also impeccable fear.

However, there is nothing more exciting than the sight of the play’s development. Even when people are tired and everything else, one sees the little moments of character finesse creep in. The Colonel’s laugh, Ginger’s card trick, the way Nina steals a cigarette, or the manner of Fortitude’s bearing; all the characters have taken on the most incredible autonomy. The world of Vile Bodies, as seen through the prism of my script, has truly come alive on stage.

Vile Bodies is a demanding show. Its physical, musical, emotional and a big ask of the actors more than anything. It is riddled with costumes and intricacies and I could not be more excited to see its complete form in under a fortnight when we do our dress at the V&A.

Today felt oddly cyclical in our rehearsal process. Whilst Henry focused on the angels’ singing and Chloe took to looking at the difficult Breakfast Table scene, I looked at Lady Metroland’s, the multi-faceted finale to Act 1. In the space of one party, Simon (Dan Hutton) is discovered dressed as an angel, Melrose’s singers tear each other apart over an opportunity, and Mrs Ape (Zoe Lambrakis) exposes us to a world of fascism, evangelism and horrifying truth. The scene ends in Simon’s scathing attack on the Bright Young Things, and a suicide ripped right out of Sylvia Plath’s life.

The scene is a difficult one because it combines all the disciplines of the show; dance, singing and acting. The angels have a hymn to perform, the cast have a dance number to sing and trip the light fantastic to, and there are some hefty moments of dramatic tension. However, the way to express the slowing down of the Metroland party and the genesis of SImon’s vision was difficult, but came about today with the use of an exercise Shubham used in our recalls- a Frantic Assembly thing called Contact Improv.

In Contact Improv, one creates a series of basic moves with a partner that can then be almost wallpapered with emotions and scenarios. Today we took to trying to use it to show the cyclical and mechanical nature of the party world of the fashionable set, and also to show Simon’s views of the world. His final dance with Nina as he delivers his monologue is nothing short of chilling to watch.

However, even now the scene still needs that final push to make it