December 6, 2013
Dep. Clapham Nov 29th 17.55; Arr. Stratford upon Avon Dec 1st 16.00. We have completed the first leg of our journey and are embarking on the second. We're all off to Bardsville where the hard work really begins.
In our final week at the RSC Clapham rehearsal rooms we built up to a run-through of each play in front of all the people who will be enabling our production in the Swan Theatre. The plays are looking remarkably good and we are itching, now, to get into the space and find out how it all works.
On Monday we will be in the beautiful timbered Ashcroft Room, the restored roof space of the old nineteenth century Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.
On Saturday we will start the technical rehearsal - which is bound to be demanding for all concerned; there is a myriad of scene changes and lighting transitions which will need to run smoothly and deftly so that the narrative can maintain its vital momentum. Exits and entrances will have to be precisely timed so that nothing interrupts the forward flow of the show.
Erm . . . where do I go next?
We all carry bits of paper (or pdf files on our smartphones!) which detail where we come on next, and, in most cases, who we actually come on as.
This weekend I will be checking through my personal stage directions to save myself more embarrassment like in the last run: we had altered a position up stage left to a downstage vom in a recent rehearsal and, suddenly recalling that change in the middle of a scene, I flustered and blustered my way downstage, muttering pathetic apologies . . . only to discover when I looked at my crib sheet that this week we'd actually changed it back again to up stage left.
Oh dear, no wonder I got those pitying looks.
Under Garrick's gaze
Eighteenth century actor David Garrick turned Stratford into a place of pilgrimage by organising the first Shakespeare Festival in the town of the Bard's birth. Astonishingly no Shakespeare play was actually performed at that festival, but I think we can credit Garrick with planting the seed for what was to become the magnificent and globally famous theatre to which our company is now bound.
It was particularly fitting, then, that in our last week in London we had a celebratory evening at the club that bears his name. I am a fortunate member of the Garrick and was able to organise what turned out to be a terrific private dinner in the Milne Room, named after the creator of utterly endearing Pooh Bear and his companions, whose legacy to the club has enabled it to remain one of the most desirable and fascinating private members clubs in the world.
It was very satisfying to see our younger actors' wide-eyed wonder at the wall-to-wall array of portraits of performers who have gone before them — we have inherited that precious mantle.
There is a very strict dress code at the Garrick and I advised our men that they would need to wear a suit, little realising that nowadays a suit is not such an essential part of a young man's wardrobe. How times have changed.
When I first worked in repertory theatre, forty odd years ago, we were contractually obliged to supply one lounge suit and one dinner suit for potential costume. Those were the days when we carried grease paint around in a cigar box!
Top image: David Garrick looks on benevolently. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons licence.)
Bottom image: My own precious Garrick Shakespeare Jubilee Medal
by Nick Day
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