Whispers from the Wings

Basecamp and beyond

December 19, 2013

An arduous week. Technical and dress rehearsals, then four preview performances with daily rehearsals. Getting to the first public performance is like getting to basecamp. If we get there properly equipped, we can safely explore the heights of actual performance, returning each day to tweak and tune, take notes, re-block, re-plot, re-write, refresh, reconsider.

We discover so much from playing to an audience, it's a bit like adding a whole new character to the piece that we must include and acknowledge.

Nick Day blog behind the scenes at Wolf HallI spend a lot of time sitting backstage in a permanent state of fear that I will enter in the wrong place at the right time or the right place at the wrong time. It's a bit like sitting in a dimly lit Tudor backstreet, the prop shelves looking like pedlars carts. I give you a picture.

Actors all dry on stage
The water isn't running properly yet, so the stage will remain dry until we start the tech for Bring Up the Bodies on Monday. The flames look fantastic. Paule Constable's lighting is ravishing and gets even better each day. The costumes are stunning, and under Paule's beautifully specific lighting, they look ravishing too.

We certainly have more hills to climb to get these shows ever sleeker and fitter, but I get a real sense that we are improving with each preview.

The performance is long but, being so close to the audience, we can tell that they are rapt and attentive to the end. There is nevertheless a lot of work going on to cut the text down just a bit and, combined with slicker playing, we're confident we will shave off the necessary minutes.

It's tough, though, when cuts are made this late in the process. Actors are sensitive souls and, notwithstanding the driving imperative to take time off the show, sometimes a cut can feel like a judgement on one's performance. Hopefully we will have a trimmer script for Bring Up the Bodies before we get to actually performing it.

Pleasing the gods
Mike Poulton (the writer of the play scripts) is really pleased with the show, and Hilary's giving smile as we work and rework scenes every day makes it evident that she is loving the whole thing. Hilary has been most helpful to me, discussing the nuances of Norfolk's character as I portray it, and helping me achieve the specificity that I fear I lack.

Greg Doran came to see us as soon as he got back from seeing Richard II into the Barbican, and was generous in his praise the next day.

Privileged peeking
This period and the story we're telling has an extraordinary attraction for people today. I wonder if there is a very interesting house that you regularly pass, that inspires fascination as to what lies behind those doors. Well, if you get my metaphor, it's as if Hilary is taking us inside a house that has always been a part of our lives, and revealing to us what actually goes on in its various rooms.

Our audience can eavesdrop on the most dramatic and personal moments in the lives of the people who live behind that familiar façade.

Image: waiting to take to the stage.

by Nick Day  |  No comments yet


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Teaching Shakespeare