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Inside the rehearsal room with Southbank Sinfonia

Southbank Sinfonia in rehearsals for Amadeus, featuring Paddy [front right, purple jumper] and Oli is [background, red trainers].

Amadeus returns to the Olivier this week, 37 years after its debut. This time, it’s accompanied by Southbank Sinfonia, who are on stage performing throughout the production. Before it opened, we asked Oliver Pashley [Oli, clarinet] and Patrick Tapio Johnson [Paddy, cello] a little bit about what it feels like to be part of an orchestra in an NT rehearsal room. 

Have you done anything like this before?

Paddy: I’ve not done anything on this scale. Some film and TV and smaller theatrical things, but nothing where my extra musical involvement has been quite so full on.

Oli: I did a project a few weeks ago where we had lines and had to act, but that was the first time for me. So it seems this autumn it’s all collided together.

What was the first day like?

Paddy: The first moment that the orchestra and cast came together, we were asked to do speed dating. We were invited to find people and interview them for three minutes. And then one by one we had to tell everybody what we’d remembered about that person. It was surprisingly daunting for all of us – there were about 40 of us in the room – but it was a very good icebreaker and really fascinating.

What about day two?

Oli: We went on stage in the Olivier for the first time – although we were on the set of The Seagull. It’s amazing to know that we’re going to be playing in a space that’s so versatile; having the revolving stage, the different levels. And just the amount of space – it’s inspiring to know we’ll be in this theatre making real use of it as a collective.  

Paddy: Yes, the set for The Seagull looked amazing. There was more lake than I’d anticipated. When we go into the Olivier with Amadeus, we won’t recognise what we saw. It’ll be transformed.

Can you tell us a bit about some of the exercises you did?

Oli: We’ve been doing a lot of exercises and introductions and movement with our instruments. I think a lot of the time, with productions that involve different disciplines – like acting, singing movement – often there are divides that naturally form between groups of performers, but it feels like we broke down those boundaries early on and there’s lots of cross-pollination between the actors and the musicians.

Paddy: We’ve all been thinking on overdrive. As musicians we’re very used to going into environments that have been meticulously mapped out. But here there’s more of an improvisatory feel to how the day is going to go.

What have you learnt from your time here?

Oli: All the time we’re assessing how we react and trying out new things. It’s amazing how differently you react when you’re standing on a different part of the stage or in a different formation. And to have so much time has been amazing. You only have a three-hour rehearsal for a concert, maybe a day if you’re lucky, and we’ve had weeks here.

Finally, what have you enjoyed most about rehearsals?

Oli: The way of working of working is so different to a regular orchestral rehearsal. I enjoy that open dialogue between the director, musical director, actors and musicians. Everyone’s throwing their voice into the pot.

Paddy: I’m enjoying coming in to work every day and not knowing what’s going to happen.



Amadeus previews begin in the Olivier Theatre on Wednesday, with best availability from January. Click here for more information and tickets.

NT Live will broadcast Amadeus to cinemas from 2 February 2017. Click here for more information about the live broadcasts.