Peter Gill’s Small Change takes place in an area now known as Tremorfa in Cardiff’s lower east side and spans a transitional period for the industrial and social life in Cardiff between the early 1950s and the mid-1970s. The play deals extensively with the themes of place, love and memory.
On August 16th 2021, the assembled creatives of Both Barrels Theatre Company embarked on rehearsals for our revival of Small Change.
Below is my (Toby Gordon aka Vincent) endeavour to open the doors to the Omnibus rehearsal room and share our experience with this mercurial and affecting text.
Small Change will see my first steps on the Omnibus stage, but it’s not my first time here. I was in the audience for Both Barrels’ Director George Richmond-Scott’s stylish and touching production of Lorca’s Blood Wedding here in 2018. I was struck by the warmth of this theatre.
In 2021, the atmosphere is resilient. Under Artistic Director Marie McCarthy’s steady leadership, life here has a caring bustle and sense of community which cannot be ignored.
Our first Monday kicks off with a tantalising introduction to the team in full attendance. Designer Liam Bunster introduces us to his versatile and dynamic set. Sound Designer Lex Kosanke and Lighting Designer Ali Hunter share their vision, focus and perspective. We read the play. Together.
It isn’t long before our assembly is a much smaller affair. The following morning, Director George Richmond-Scott and Stage Manager Beth Pratt are host only to us, the four-strong cast.
As Tuesday becomes Wednesday we dive into a forensic examination of the text. Facts and questions. For this performer, Small Change seems to present more questions than facts – some to be answered over the next few days, others will persist into the following weeks. These early days gathered at table will provide a crucial foundation for our staging of Small Change.
Our time around the table in this first week is punctuated by practical sessions with Movement Director Rachel Wise and Musical Director Gemma Maddock. These timely injections of physical work help us to maintain our focus on the page and signpost a way in to the physical life of the play.
The week concludes with a visit from Photographer Lidia Crisafulli. Lidia is a deft fly-on-the-wall as we stumble across our emerging imagery. She makes us look good.
As we begin to bring Small Change off the page, the rehearsal room brims with ideas and curiosity. With George’s calm guidance, even our most notional suggestions are given ample space and nothing is overlooked.
We approach the play in units agreed on at the table in our first week. Inevitably there are lines to be learned and choices to be made but our task feels somehow less intimidating. Moments of staging begin to suggest themselves as our minds and bodies attune to the structure of the piece.
Our second week brings still more intrepid creatives to our rehearsal. The magical Mary Howland coaches us patiently and decisively on the specific dialect of Cardiff in the time of Small Change. An illuminating midweek visit from Cardiff-born Director George Nichols roots us in the neighbourhoods of the play’s action.
This week, some call sheets show fewer names and most of us are treated to a late morning or an early finish. Among the cast of four, Andy Rush (Gerard) seems to clock up the most hours in the room but the rest of us can’t be too far behind!
Our week concludes with birthday celebrations for performer Sioned Jones (Mrs Harte). Tameka Mortimer (Mrs Driscoll) and myself don’t take much coaxing to join the rest of our company for drinks and a lovingly prepared tortilla in the courtyard of the Omnibus bar. In keeping with her character in Small Change, Sioned drinks a Guinness.