Whispers from the Wings

Day 1 - afternoon

April 4, 2012

Greg has been talking about the play and showing us the model and costume sketches along with Francis O'Connor the designer.

We are introduced in miniature to the physical world we will inhabit for the coming months. We all crowd around the model-box as the designer with tiny scale models of the furniture and props explains the settings for each scene.

The set design is excellent. Perfect for The Swan. At the end of the presentation we all show our appreciation with loud applause. I have been going through this ritual for decades. We always applaud the design - whatever. Sometimes the design is just plain dull. Sometimes the actors can quickly see how difficult the set will be to work on.

The company for Written on the Heart

Perhaps it will have a very steep rake ie. a heavily tilted stage, perhaps with an uneven surface hard to walk on etc. etc. But we always applaud and always murmer appreciative comments.

Greg suggests a little competition. He asks us to name all the books of the Old Testament in order. We are hopeless. He asks us to name the Seven Sacraments. We manage five. He asks about the Articles of Faith. We are totally flummoxed. We have a lot of research to do.

We are interrupted by Jondon. He tells us that he has been advised by the police to send us home early. There is a serious threat that the riots of the previous night in Tottenham where there was much looting and buildings were set alight will spread to Clapham and other areas this evening.

We all think this is an overreaction. But Jondon insists. So, we reluctantly break and make our way homewards past shops beings shuttered and barricaded. People look worried and there is a mild sense of foreboding in the streets.

Next day as I arrive at Clapham Junction Station I can see smouldering buildings with the fire brigade hosing them down. We are all diverted round the backstreets.

As our group come round a corner we are passed by a large crowd of mostly young people all carrying numerous brushes and buckets on their way to help with the clear-up in St John's Road which is full of phone shops, sportswear outlets, white goods stores etc. and has been badly damaged. It is uplifting to see this public-spirited group heading off to help. How they got together I have no idea. The Blitz comes to mind. This is a small ray of sunshine on a gloomy day.

For some weeks after, as my bus takes me up and down St John's Road to and from rehearsals, I notice virtually every store in the road is damaged and boarded up with large sheets of plywood. It is both funny and sad to observe that virtually the only shop untouched is a large branch of Waterstone's.

by James Hayes  |  No comments yet

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Teaching Shakespeare