The cast of Practice Room 99practice_room_99

Practice Room 99 is a brand-new comedy heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer via the online Fringe Player. Based on the backstage and rehearsal chaos before a live performance, brass players Ida, Ally and Clara have just 30 minutes during rehearsal to fix the fallout from post-show drinks the night before. But, with a zealous stage manager thwarting their every move, and a demanding soloist to contend with, their preparation for their orchestra’s return to the stage after a year away, is far from straight forward…

This is a show which celebrates the magic and mayhem of live performance that we’ve all missed over the last year.

I often feel like my sister and I were witnesses to a wild and wonderful childhood of concert halls, opera houses and music festivals. Our father is a professional musician and while we loved attending his concerts, it was not before long that we were performing in our own.

There is a type of camaraderie between musicians that is so special, so unique, you rarely see it in daily life. The same way Medics form their clusters and become inseparable, there is nothing quite like the bond you feel between you and your fellow musicians. Over the past year I’ve realised just how much music was integral to everything in my childhood and I, in the pandemic, missed it. It has informed so much of my friendships and life choices that seeing concert halls close their doors gave me the idea of recreating the world I had grown up in, in the form of Practice Room 99. It offers an insight into the music world that I, and so many others, all miss and love; the union of the skills, talent and commitment of each member of a performance, both off and on stage.

“Over the past year I’ve realised just how much music was integral to everything in my childhood”

Music is so much more than notes on a page or time spent in the practice room (although that’s still time well spent, I promise!), but the friendships you establish through shared experience of a passion you share. Practice Room 99 is rooted in this principle, recalling memories (if exaggerated) from youth orchestra rehearsals, school choirs, a Capella groups, and following in awe the careers of my father, grandad, and uncle, who perform with orchestras all over the world. Even the names of the characters nod to the most important musical influences to me. Each, I should say, has been infinitely more encouraging and enthusiastic than their name-sake.

Bringing the show to the online Edinburgh Fringe Festival was not a sprint, but an endurance run. We had long hours in and out of the rehearsal room (mainly out of the rehearsal room on Zoom) and managed to film the show live, and in just one take. After weeks on Zoom it was wonderful to finally meet our (very talented) cast for just three days of in-person rehearsals.

When writing a show focused on a myriad of backstage mishaps, I hadn’t imagined we’d have quite so many of our own to deal with. Over the four weeks from first rehearsal to final performance, our cast and crew faced laryngitis, a broken back, juggled line-learning with exams and – I suppose rather inevitably – Covid. Isolation alone has confined 50% of our cast and crew, with some members called to isolate the day before our first rehearsal.

“The show is testament to the perseverance and drive of the cast and crew”

With that in mind, I want to say thank you to our cast and crew; to members who joined us from our first rehearsal, those who stepped up last minute and those who were unable to join us for rehearsal days and filming. Along with the brilliant team at the ADC Theatre, after a year away from concert halls and rehearsal room, you have reminded me of what I missed so much – and it was great to be back. The show is testament to the perseverance and drive of the cast and crew, each member of whom has taught me much, including several new warm up/pick-me-up games (some more broadcast-able than others) which kept morale up during the longest rehearsal days.


Mountain View

Diary of a Playwright: A Shakespearean Tragedy

Practice Room 99 may have been written in reminiscence, but it looks forward to a time, hopefully soon, when concert halls can welcome musicians and performers back to stage with audiences, who value their talent and support those who continue to inspire us.

Practice Room 99 streams online via Fringe Player, as part of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 6th August. Tickets available now on the Edinburgh Fringe Festival website.