Today was the first day of rehearsals for The Jungle Book at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. I’m not a huge fan of the first day of rehearsals, I don’t suppose anyone is, despite the self-assured facade of the limelight-seeking performer. That said though, surely I should be a bit better at dealing with it, after all, I’m the musical director, shouldn’t I know what I’m doing? So it comes as some relief to hear Liam Steel, our director, admit that he too suffers from a good amount of nerves when it comes to the first day of rehearsals! Still, it did get me thinking about how we performers deal with it.

As performers, we are a pretty ritualistic bunch, be it actors, musicians, dancers, or even directors! A bit like athletes, we can become reliant upon, even superstitious about, certain rituals and actions right the way throughout the rehearsal and performance process, and this starts right from day one.

So, here’s a small insight into my ‘first day rituals’:

Checking it twice… or three times… maybe once more: For me it starts the night before. I read and re-read the rehearsal call several times over – I know the timings inside out, but I still give it one last check. I check the route to the theatre on Google Maps – in this case I’ve been to the West Yorkshire Playhouse countless times before, but I still check.

Early to bed: Then I go to bed early, having set three alarms because, you know, what if tomorrow my alarm fails, like it never has before in the past goodness knows how many months!

Early to rise: Of course I don’t sleep well, I’m too busy playing through my actions for the next morning. Naturally, when I do wake, I wake on my first alarm, get ready at a hitherto unknown rate.

Fashionably not-quite-late: In the car and at the theatre in the blink of an eye, I am always hugely early. Not wanting to be the first to arrive, I normally then wander somewhere, into the local town, before then returning a little later than planned, normally five minutes before the first call time.

First day tweet / facebook status: In this modern age of course, it’s vital to put out a ‘first day of rehearsals’ tweet and/or facebook status.

Show-fit: Rehearsals and shows are hard work – I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’re not running marathons or anything (unless you’re in The Long Distance Runner perhaps), but they’re relatively draining. So every show, I vow to get fit. So day one of rehearsals obviously involves checking out the local gym options and promises to myself of getting a keep fit routine going.

They’re just small things, and I don’t go as far as particular clothes, or shoes, but we all have these little rituals that help us find a little structure in a process that can otherwise seem a little open-ended, and overcome the nerves that can accompany the ‘firsts’ we encounter.

As for my first day in the jungle? Well, I’m here aren’t I!

The Jungle Book @ West Yorkshire Playhouse
Twitter: @WYPlayhouse & #junglebook