My name is Daisy Bates and I’ll be playing Sarah in CTC’s upcoming production of Our House. This is my third show with CTC’s Young Company. I think it says a lot that I’m still coming back to work on these shows!
Auditions were held in May, a few months ahead of the start of the rehearsal process. The first round of auditions are open to anyone within the show’s age range - this year, 13-21 - who’d like to give it a go. We were introduced to the show’s director, Chris Cuming, assistant choreographer, Nicola Brooks, musical director, Jennifer Edmonds, company manager, Ali Hall, and Louis Ling, CTC’s artistic director and producer. After short physical and vocal warm-ups, we were taught a section of choreography as well as the choruses of two contrasting songs - Somewhere Over The Rainbow and Consider Yourself - which gave us a chance to try both lyrical singing and the more sung-spoken Cockney quality Our House demands! We then performed the choreography in small groups and sung both song excerpts solo. The thing I believe was most effective in helping me overcome audition nerves was focusing on showing my energy and enthusiasm rather than hitting every note and every step - they prefer you to just enjoy what you’re doing than be a perfect performer because your skills are honed during the rehearsal process.
Later that day, I got an email asking me to return for a callback audition in a week’s time for the part of Sarah. I hadn’t expected it at all! I was given a section of a song and a page of script to learn and spent the week preparing my interpretation of Sarah until I knew I could showcase what I could do really well. Although I was nervous walking into the callback room, the friendliness of the casting team and the other performers really helped put me at ease and even enjoy the process. I walked away afterwards and settled down to homework fully believing nothing would come of it - until Louis called me and asked me if I’d like to play Sarah! I was over the moon. I can recall running around the house and bursting out into song like a true musical theatre kid, then spending the evening rewatching Our House, of course.
CTC’s Young Company builds the foundation of a show in a six-day intensive rehearsal period. It’s a great way to get close as a company as well as creating the show itself. Spending six eight-hour days with your castmates means you really get to know them! This year the cast felt particularly quick to grow into a family, maybe after the isolation we’ve all felt over the previous year, maybe also because of the new initiatives put into place within the company. This included a buddy system that allowed old hands like me to connect with newcomers. Talking in these small groups was the first thing we did on Day 1 and it set us all off on a good foot for checking in on all our fellow castmates, newcomers or veterans, chorus members or leads.
After hearing from Chris, Jen and Louis about their vision for the show, we launched into the week’s work with a vocal and physical warm-up. You’re really trained as a performer during CTC’s rehearsal process, and that means you’re worked to your limit! Although we like to bemoan Chris’ energetic warmups, they build much-needed stamina for running dances and scenes over and over again and, ultimately, sustaining energy through the entire show. I always note down the exercises we’re taught in Jen’s vocal warm-ups because they’re invaluable in training your voice for musical theatre.
The crafting of the show began with all of us learning choreography for the Encore and music for the opening number, Our House. Learning these first numbers as a whole cast gave us a sense of community right from the beginning. Every cast member is important - more than ever in this show which features whirlwinds of connecting moments, characters and scene changes that move the fast-paced story onwards. Later we moved into two groups to learn Baggy Trousers and Wings of a Dove. Us lead characters got to be involved in this whole-cast learning on the first day before we started spending some of our time working on scenes and solo songs in another room. I began detailed work with Jen this week on my solo vocal parts as well as duets with Toby who plays Joe. We’ve also been able to go into a lot of fundamental detail about the dynamics between our characters even in the time we were given this week with Chris. With this combination of chorus and solo work, we managed to stage enough material to run Act 1 of the show on the second day: an amazing feat!
Playing such a large part meant my days were stuffed full with new vocal lines, dances and scene blocking to learn, which was challenging but exhilarating! In rare moments when I wasn’t in demand, I’d watch the talented cast at work, continue script work independently, or occasionally rest my eyes for a moment…
The demand of this show and these rehearsals is high; there’s a large amount of material for every single performer to absorb, and it’s a particularly daunting thing to enter such a high-quality show in a leading role. Being in the chorus previously has definitely helped me acclimatise to this larger workload because I’m already familiar with the Young Company’s rehearsal process. Apart from that, the level of support from the team and cast is great. Physical and emotional check-ins helped us stay in touch with our wellbeing; an independent listener dropped in one day at lunch who we could chat to about anything we wanted, a real blessing when mental health support is so sparsely available elsewhere; and as for lunch and break, not only were they a chance to decompress and get to know the forty-eight lovely cast members creating the show with me, but also to sample some of Cambridge’s finest home baking! Cast and team members and their parents began to bring in baked desserts to share during breaks, creating a whole spread by the final day. The Our House bake-off is now official!
On the final day of the week, we managed to run the entire show. Somehow, in six days, we had created a musical - not a perfect one, of course, or fully completed, but full of potential and heart. I spent all my time offstage grinning as I watched it. It was such a testament to all our hard work and the strong company-wide bond - the lines learnt at home in the evenings, the dances drilled at lunchtime, the conversations about characters over home baking, the cast group chats, the company-wide jokes. Driving home, I already felt bereft of something - that unique magic of the intensive rehearsal, where the show is all that fills your mind and you can immerse yourself entirely in the process. Although I was exhausted, I still wanted to come back the next day!
Thankfully, there’s still lots to come. In October, when the show opens at the Leys Great Hall, I’ve got no doubt Our House will be a show I’m truly proud to be a part of.
Performances run from Wed 27 - Sat 30 October at Great Hall at the Leys. Tickets are available from camtheatrecompany.co.uk.