Rehearsal blog for Moby Dick: Week Four. From the perspective of Actor and Simple8 member, Hannah Emanuel

simple8 Production Diary

This week’s main challenge is to remind myself to sit back into the work. It’s a classic
actor mistake at this stage to feel the need to show the work by pushing our choices
too hard. But as we build familiarity, I will begin to trust these choices more, which in
time will allow me to sit within them rather than feel the need to demonstrate.

Tech week is about giving space for the rest of the creative team to shine now that
we are finally on the set. It’s a slog – long, long days, but there is freedom in the
pressure being taken off the acting. A chance to play with new ideas, building the
relationships in the ensemble – whilst also remembering which damn plank or bucket
to put where and when.

Pressure mounts as the week progresses and the first preview is a wild ride I can
barely remember. But the work doesn’t stop there. Back into rehearsal to hone,
simplify and familiarise before the next show.

Onwards – and hopefully upwards.

Rehearsal blog for Moby Dick: Week Three. From the perspective of Actor and Simple8 member, Hannah Emanuel

simple8 Production Diary

The excitement has ramped up this week, along with nerves and focus. Now comes
the time to delve fully into the scenes and begin charting the characters’ emotional

There can be a propensity in early days of scene work to ‘generalise’ or ‘play state’,
ie play the overall emotion of a scene until we find and understand the shifts and
variations that will create dramatic tension. To find variety it helps to think about
‘previous circumstances’, ie what has just happened when the scene starts.
Importantly, I need to ask myself what does my character know at this stage of the
story? And what is he yet to discover?

At the start of the play when we first meet him, Starbuck must admire and trust Ahab
enough to desire to ship with him. This means there is initially room for excitement
and joy as they set sail – a useful colour to help avoid pre-empting the eventual fear
and desolation that will come later.

It also helps to look for when the character’s expectations are defied; for example,
when Starbuck comes to Ahab after the first whale kill, his expectation is that Ahab
will wish to continue hunting there, given so many whales have been spotted. What
actually happens is that Ahab reveals his desire to hunt only Moby Dick, proposing a
long, dangerous and otherwise unnecessary detour for that singular purpose. If, as
Starbuck, I play fear of Ahab’s obsession too soon, I will have nowhere left to go in
the later scenes. At this stage it is certainly a red flag for Starbuck to witness the
beginning of Ahab’s obsession, but it is not yet a complete loss of hope.

Physical details are also coming; the sense of space – open ocean for miles in all
directions – has an impact on how I hold myself as Starbuck, particularly in his chest
and head where I feel a sense of expansion and lift.

I had a wobble this week regarding Starbuck’s emotional expression in the latter
stages of the play. Seb, the writer, sees him as someone who would never lose
control of his emotions – it is, after all, Ahab who is lost. Here, stakes are key; if
Starbuck fails to influence Ahab, he will most likely die and never again return to his
beloved family. This is what he is fighting for, along with the lives of all his comrades.
No wonder he is emotionally charged by the end of the story. Does this cause him to
lose control of himself like Ahab does? No – on this, the writer and I agree. Does
some of that desperation show in his fight to save the ship and his comrades
however? Surely it must?

Having trust in your director is key when these wobbles occur. Jesse is fantastically
perceptive and intuitive and extremely good at creating a space safe enough within
which to be vulnerable. Acting can be extremely exposing, so without a safe
environment in which to work we cannot easily free ourselves enough to take risks –
and it is this risk-taking that can often lead to the most exciting discoveries in
rehearsal. I’m hugely grateful to him for creating the trust needed for us to explore
these more challenging, vulnerable scenes freely.
Thank you, Jesse.

Rehearsal blog for Moby Dick: Week Two. From the perspective of Actor and Simple8 member, Hannah Emanuel

simple8 Production Diary

This week has largely been a continuation of last week’s efforts, in so much as we
are still busy putting our energy into creating the whole. There is a huge amount yet
to do, but we have now made our way through the entire play, albeit with a fair few
cracks left to fill. At least we now know what beast it is that we are trying to tame.
As far as character work goes, my overriding sense right now is to avoid the
temptation to do too much work outside of the rehearsal room. We can only really
find the truth of a scene through connection with others so by definition this can only
happen when we are all together. How can I know how I’ll speak a line until I know
what it is in reaction to, or how I feel about the character speaking to me? Isolated
work tends to lead me into overthinking and makes me less ready or able to fully
listen to what is being said – and, more importantly, how it is being said. It is only by
achieving this openness and awareness that I can hope to be genuinely affected by
their words.

I might well spend time outside of the rehearsal room thinking about what my
character wants, yes, but I can’t pre-empt or discover alone what will get in the way
of them achieving those desires; that can only be discovered once the other actors
also bring the needs and desires of their characters into the situation as this is what
will ultimately shape how my character then behaves.

In terms of Simple8 and the style of the piece, I must remind myself to remain playful
at this stage, especially when looking at the big, physical sequences. I sometimes
become locked into an unhelpful seriousness when working to ‘get it right’. So
instead of asking what should we do, I can free myself from chasing this
mythological right answer with a slight shift to the alternative question, what could we
do? This allows us space to fully explore any different ideas that emerge in the room
and also helps the ensemble begin to take ownership of the show – an ethos at the
heart of all Simple8’s work and one which we are deeply passionate about and
committed to.
In terms of Starbuck, physical anchors are slowly beginning to help me find him.
Which part of his body is he led by? Where is his centre of gravity? He is a man of
authority; where is this held in his body? The hard graft of whaling will have taken its
toll on him physically; how and where is this manifested in his movement?

Another big consideration for me currently is when and how Starbuck expresses his
emotions. He cannot easily show his feelings, given the subservient nature of his
relationship to Ahab, so when do these emotions begin to push through the cracks –
and at what point is he no longer able to contain them?

How could I possibly answer this question alone at home, given it will, at least in
part, be created by the actions of other characters? There will be clues I can pick out
from the script for sure, but they won’t tell me the whole story.

With that in mind, it’s probably time to put down the pen again for now, make a cup
of tea and wait to explore this all further with my fellow castmates on Monday.

Rehearsal blog for Moby Dick: From the perspective of Actor and Simple8 member, Hannah Emanuel

simple8 Production Diary, Uncategorised

It’s a funny thing being an actor. You spend weeks, months, even years yearning for
the opportunity to be in a rehearsal room again, and when it finally comes, it is
nothing short of absolutely petrifying…at first.

It’s a sign that you care, to have nerves or fear at the beginning of a process – and it
certainly doesn’t leave you short of the energy required to tackle those first few days,
albeit the nervous energy of high dose adrenalin.

It’s a familiar discomfort; an odd term for a feeling telling me that, although this is
uncomfortable right now, it is also a natural, expected and familiar part of a process
which we can’t – and shouldn’t – skip over or rush through. It’s a vulnerable place to
sit, but it’s also a crucial one; trust the process and don’t look too far ahead.
We start by making connections with the team we will be working with over the next
few months. By necessity this happens incredibly fast in a rehearsal room, but this
shouldn’t mean that these connections are shallow or less meaningful than ones
developed over a longer period of time.

But it’s after the initial dust settles that the work can really begin. Within Simple8
rehearsals this is a layering up; a rough sketch to be filled in with colour at a later
date once we have delved deeper into the play; music, movement, physical
precision, character choices all to be added, step by step, beat by beat. For now,
let’s just work out what needs to happen where and when, as simply and cleanly as
we possibly can.

The actor process creeps in fairly quickly though, in spite of efforts to keep our focus
on the whole. Small moments where you feel a tingle at the back of your neck and
you know you have found something, however small, that might help you unlock the
character or the relationships that will ultimately drive your character’s actions.
For now it’s mostly questions without answers: How do I feel about the other
characters in the story? Where does my character come from/what is his family life?
What drives him? What does he most fear? How does he see the world? What
excites him? Who or what would he die for?

It’s helpful that on this occasion there is a book with some of those answers
conveniently supplied. But they can never replace the imagination of the actor, only
support it. There is the Starbuck in the book, to whom I must in some part be truthful,
but there is also my interpretation of Starbuck within which there is room for my own
imagination to take flight. In an ideal world the two will merge into one. But that’s me
getting ahead of myself again…

Sit in the vulnerability, trust the process, be ready to fail, then fail better.

The rest is for next week and beyond.


simple8 News

Following our hugely successful evening with Dame Sian Phillips, we are deeply
honoured to have the support of Dame Eileen Atkins at our next fundraiser.

Please join us to hear Richard Digby Day in conversation with one of our acting
greats – a rare opportunity to hear her talk about her extraordinary life and
career. Hightlights include: The Crown, Doc Martin, Upstairs Downstairs,
Cranford, Cold Mountain & Gosford Park.

Venue: Notre Dame London Centre,1 Suffolf Street, London SW1Y 4HG
Date & Time: Mon 20th Nov, 6:45 drinks reception, 7:30 show (duration 90 min)

To book tickets: Contact Hannah at:

We look forward to seeing you there.

Dame Siân Phillips

simple8 News


We are delighted to announce that this year’s fundraiser will be supported by Dame Sián Phillips. Please join us for this very special evening, to hear the Golden Globe and BAFTA award-winning actress talk about her glittering life and career.

Film and TV includes: Goodbye, Mr. Chips, I, Claudius, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Nijinsky & Clash Of The Titans.
West End: Marlene, A Little Night Music, Pal Joey & Gigi.

Drinks and canapés will be served beforehand, followed by a short reception with Dame Siân. All proceeds from the event will go towards the next Simple8 Season.

Mon 15th May 2017
6:45pm drinks and canapés
7:30pm show
Running time 90 mins

Notre Dame London Centre
1 Suffolf Street
London SW1Y 4HG

To buy tickets and to find out more for this exclusive event, please email Chris:

We hope to see you there!

a passage to india announced today

simple8 News

We’re delighted to announce a new collaboration with Royal & Derngate, reimagining Forster’s classic novel, A Passage To India. Stay tuned for more details!

thank you

simple8 News

Thank you to everyone who came to see Don’t Sleep There Are Snakes. We had a tremendous turnout and response from critics and fans alike.

Please stay tuned right here for more news, when we announce our new season in the autumn.

Thank you again,

The simple8 team


post show with daniel everett

simple8 News

We are delighted to annouce that Daniel Everett will be joining us after the performance on 15th April for a post-show discussion, with co-writers Sebastian Armesto & Dudley Hinton.

Dan spent over 30 years with the Piraha tribe – his book and simple8’s play detail his personal journey from missionary to academic, during which Dan was compelled to question the fundamental tenets of language, and what it means to be human.

Tickets for this unique and rare opportunity available right HERE.

Please join us and meet the man who inspired this wonderful story!