Vicious fighting and nautical weapons
May 22, 2013
We've just started rehearsals for the summer production – we're performing Henry V in the challenging, but entirely appropriate, open-air venue of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, alongside HMS Victory; that means we have until mid-July to get our act together (pun intended!). We'll then bring the production to the RSC's open air theatre The Dell.
As befits the play, centred on the Battle of Agincourt, there's some fairly vicious fighting involved, so we've started an intensive programme of training to ensure we don't damage anyone or anything when wielding swords, boarding pikes, belaying pins, fists, feet and anything else the director thinks would be suitable for killing the opposition. Yes, boarding pikes and belaying pins – nautical weapons, because we are setting the performance in 1805.
As HMS Victory prepares to deploy for action against the French at Trafalgar; the crew mean to raise the blood and morale by putting on the famous Shakespearian play Henry V where the English, facing incredible odds, see victory against a superior force.
Last night was the first try-out of choreographing the big fight scene. Outdoors, as dusk approached, passers-by must have wondered why this group of 30 or so assorted folk – sailors and civilians, young and old – were alternating between rushing around with (apparently) murder and mayhem in mind, and stopping still whilst a few of them (director, fight-master, stage manager etc) had an earnest conversation.
Scary stuff – some, like me, have little experience of fighting on stage, and convincing a keen-eyed audience that I'm really delivering the killing blow when in fact the 'victim' (a) is a good friend, and (b) will be back again the next night for a repeat performance, will take an awful lot of practice, confidence and trust in each other! But then, that's theatre for you!
by Tim Stoneman
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