As the preview night looms ever closer for The Aloff Theatre’s production of You Are Always With Me, the first of three days of rehearsals began at The Lost Theater. While the cast have been working tirelessly for over a month to learn the play, it is here that the work really begins. Gone are the cramped rehearsals of the previous weeks, now the crew have a whole stage to work with. It’s quite remarkable how the rows and rows of seats are empty, free of the frenetic hum of the audience that will fill every nook and cranny next week. Apart from the other (frankly quite noisy) rehearsals upstairs, the theater is eerily quiet.

It is the arrival of the stage props that breaks the peacefulness of a relaxed read through, the sees the cast promptly kicked out and replaced by suitcases, sofas and other furniture hoisted on stage, including some rather intricate flat pack style furniture, complete with an obligatory assembly of misaligned holes and things put the wrong way. What we eventually ended up with was a set worthy of Ilyas Afandiyev’s classic play. Some design decisions still have to be made, with a few cans of paint sitting forlornly by the doors waiting for use, but otherwise things are looking good.

With the return of the cast from exile, the production team went over the sound, making sure all the tracks are in the right order. During the play the cast often has to wait for sounds such as phones ringing or doorbells before starting a scene or commencing an action. There was a powerful moment as the cast acted out the opening scene alongside the opening music. Equally powerful was seeing the cast in costume, as opposed to their “civvies.” They were literally stepping into their characters.

With everything in place the cast took it from the top, acting out scene after scene. The team have to make sure that all characters are visible at all angles from the audience and so director Filiz Ozcan and stage manager Beth Duncan prowl the aisles during rehearsals. With everything in place and the closest to the final incarnation of the play, it is here that any discrepancies or anomalies have to be spotted and rooted out. Little things jump out at the team, such as how the cast carry props onto the stage and interact with the props. No one wants a sofa that won’t fold out on the night or a table that’s too heavy to carry! Whatever happens, everything has to be ready by Tuesday night. The journey has begun and the countdown to the opening night starts here!