Second time in my life I've entered the National Theatre through the stage door. First time it was visiting an actor friend of friend in the green room. This time I was whisked off, with a small group, through the labyrinthine corridors to a large rehearsal room to have a sneak peek at how the Rufus Norris-directed Amen Corner was coming along.
What we were treated to was the entire first act. The actors were in their civilian clothes except for the odd bit of costume - a choir gown, a bow tie or a hat, for example. There was a rough construction of the set, which is on two levels, with quite a few props and bits of furniture.
A trio of musicians sat in the corner providing musical accompaniment; there for the first time according to Norris who introduced the experience before retreating behind the production team's long tressle table which was cluttered with paper, drinks and snacks. (I heard somebody munching on a cracker during the performance but it was lunchtime).
James Baldwin's play is about Harlem preacher Sister Margaret (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) whose position is threatened as real life tests her devout principles. And what we saw of the production seemed very polished a week ahead of previews. A few forgotten lines were dealt with almost lyrically so that the pace and tone was never lost and it never jarred.
If this 45 minute slice is anything to go by then it certainly holds a lot of promise. The gospel singing is beautiful and I can't wait to hear the cast giving full voice when they are on the Olivier stage for previews next week. In the meantime it was a real treat to get this snippet and from such close proximity to the action.