As the beginning of rehearsals commenced my main concern was my physical fitness. I know that it’s a very demanding show, and in particular I’ve had a few niggles from a neck/shoulder injury that have troubled me during previous runs of the show.

So I stepped up my regular running and made sure I got back to a couple of yoga sessions a week – whether it be classes at the Dance of Life (the school I’ve attended for years) or private sessions at home. By the time rehearsals came around I felt in good physical shape.

What I forgot was just how different the movements I perform in the show are to anything I do in the rest of my life! Specifically, quite a lot of crouching on the ground and moving around on all fours. For the whole first week I was aching all over, and my friends got an earful of complaints. One of them said that she thought it was all a bit much until she saw the show for the first time.

I was looking forward to rehearsing full time again, but I must say having performed the show a number of times I wasn’t exactly full of excitement at what we might produce. But after our first full day at the Malthouse I was much more enthused. Firstly it was seeing the full team again. It was just so good to be with these people again whom I love as friends and who inspire me as theatre makers. Secondly, I continue to be impressed at how Christian and Phil manage to bring fresh life to the rehearsal process. And when I cast my mind back now, they did this in previous incarnations of Gilgamesh, but somehow I had forgot, and thought there might have an element of “rehashing” this time round. Instead, we began the rehearsal process with free-form improvisation around some of the scenes and sometimes even wider as we explored the wider themes of the show - this time, specifically death and our reactions to it. As we continued I was again caught up at how we could squeeze the most out of each moment to bring these to life.

We began on the wooden floor of the Hoopla room at the Malthouse. I ruefully noticed that I was collecting some little reminders of the rehearsals – tiny grazes on my feet from scuffling about on the floor, which scabbed up nicely. But having worked with the Malthouse team before this had an element of home to it, and many of Uncle Semolina feel the same way, having performed here before in either a View of Concrete (Richard) or the OT (Uncle Semolina with Kath).

Halfway though the Malthouse rehearsal period I invested in a pair of kneepads. I wondered how I had managed without them – they made such a difference! I later made sure they were packed for the tour, just in case.

Kath told me she was not looking forward to getting into the dirt, but I was less sure. I have found the softness of the dirt a bit of a relief for my feet and it is very hard to do the fight scenes without it. But of course with the dirt comes the impossible task of keeping clean.

It was a special moment to see the full set as we arrived at the Guild Theatre at Melbourne University for the second part of rehearsals. The Guild is a great theatre. I had never been in it (or if I had, it was years and years ago!). I liked it immediately and felt we could put on a good show here.

Staff were friendly and helpful and it was a very nice atmosphere to rehearse in. I biked in almost every day and so I felt very fit indeed! As we proceeded through the rehearsal period we all felt like we were making good time. We started running the show in halves about halfway through and doing full run a few days out. I was pretty relieved when Christian announced that we would be doing less rehearsing as we approached opening date. This seemed very sensible – it is a great feeling to feel your energy collecting in you because you are not expending it on a busy days rehearsal. Then you can fully explore each moment, less troubled by the inevitable exhaustion.