Wish List blog by Monique Touko

Wish List is a story that isn’t usually told. Bruntwood prizewinner Katherine Soper wrote a script with characters that needed to be shown to the masses, and provided a zoomed-in account of the climate of austerity that we currently face as a nation. It holds a mirror to what is happening in society today. Benefits are being cut, young carers are struggling and zero hour contacts do not work.

The diverse cast meant the narrative was truly reflective of the contemporary Britain we live in today. Despite the heavy nature of the piece, director Matthew Xia was keen to establish from the get-go that Wish List is about love, compassion and will power.

Wish List was originally rehearsed and staged at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, but as the relationship with the Royal Court through the Bruntwood prize results in a co-production, Wish List feels accessible and not isolated to its regional demographic. This opportunity to work in two of the biggest and best theatres in the country was extremely exciting for the cast and crew, and it’s fair to say a dream come true.

The transfer from Manchester to London meant that we as a company had to adapt to a new space, but Matthew made it clear that Wish List’s run at the Royal Court was not just a re-do in a different venue, but rather a chance to improve the piece. It became very real when we first stepped onto set as the same set design somehow looked completely different. Press night was no longer a distant date but a near reality.

The rehearsal period began as I thought it would, with hugs, jokes and games. The same cast meant the same energy, and there was a real excitement for the journey we were about to embark on as we began to familiarise ourselves with the narrative once again and re-discover the characters.

Throughout the preview nights, Matthew reminded the cast that it is necessary to find the tiny little flickers of hope in this piece. This helped emphasise the play’s spectrum of emotions and really up-held the bursts of humour. Matthew very much wanted the audience to feel for these characters and understand the context; his notes often highlighted how important it is that these characters are not stereotypes but ordinary, everyday people who could be your next-door-neighbour. Katherine was there throughout the process which strengthened the director/writer relationship and ensured both she and Matthew were both on the same page.

As an assistant, my role was to provide support within the rehearsal room, run lines and also manage the audio/visual context of the show. This really helped my understanding of how many brains had come together to produce it.

This show is one which I will hold close to my heart, not only for the phenomenal cast and talented technical team, but also for the opportunity to work with Matthew on such an important story, which is something I am proud to be a part of.

Monique Touko – Assistant Director