The Swan re-visited
December 7, 2010
It's an important weekend for the company. On Sunday we are having the first sneak preview of the new theatre. We have invited anyone within the company to come and fill both auditoria in both the Swan and the newly re-developed RST, we so that we can practice a full evacuation of the theatres, and hopefully be granted our License. I have devised what happens on stage, but I suspect the event itself will upstage anything we do.
Seeing Niki Turner's model box for the design of Cardenio in the Swan (see previous post) gave me a huge lift. The Swan has been closed since 2007 when the re-development began. It is my favourite theatre. I did my first Shakespeare for the company in this space, and have since been lucky enough to direct some dozen plays here, from All's Well That Ends Well to Ben Jonson's Sejanus. Niki has a history at the Swan too. We did a production of Fletcher's The Island Princess (1619-21) in the Swan as part of the Jacobethan season in 2002. It was the first play on the English stage to be set in the Far East. Because of the quick change-overs to enable a rapidly changing repertoire, the sets were minimal, but Niki managed to evoke the rich aroma of the Spice Islands with a few fretwork arches, and diaphanous drapes.
Having discussed the design together, we head over to the Swan, but are waylaid by Vikki Heywood, (RSC Executive Director) who tells us we have to stop by the new Rooftop Restaurant, where there is a staff tasting taking place. We're delighted to accept the invitation and as we sit chatting through the design, we are given delicious mouthfuls of a mushroom salad in a citrus sauce, pork cheek with skate with a broad bean puree, or parkin with liquorice ice cream - all a great treat, as we were just expecting to snatch a sandwich en route.
Alistair McArthur, the Head of Costume, has also been enticed up for the tasting. He is up to his eyeballs preparing for Matilda. So we get an extra opportunity to fill him in with what sort of costumes we are imagining for the production. Given the period setting, the different social classes, the cast size, and the amount of doubling likely, he can think ahead, and budget accordingly.
Finally we head over to the Swan, which like the rest of the building is being hastily prepared for Sunday's event. As we enter, I can't help grinning. It's like recognising an old friend. Niki is grinning too. And I can really begin to see the production now. I can imagine just how the play may work in this space. It is going to be a real thrill to kick off our 50th Birthday Season with the extraordinary tale of Cervantes' mad man, the crazy Cardenio.
by Greg Doran
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