Whispers from the Wings

'Ecky Thump, Love, We're in T'Stratford

August 16, 2012

Wow. We've arrived. We've got excited chills. And they're multiplying.

Arriving in Stratford-upon-Avon at the start of the week was a dream come true. Every time I've been up to Stratford in the past, it's always inspired me profusely as a theatre-goer, as an actor/writer and as someone who loves woodbeams and thatched roofs(!)

On the first day, we were called in at 10am. Knowing that a 12-hour day beckoned, I decided to go up to the RST staff canteen and have a humongous breakfast. Being the proud owner of an RSC staff card – we all have one and almost every single one of our photo's looks like it's been stretched out with a rolling pin, we look well weird! – I wanted to use it straight away. Once up on the third floor, I swiftly ordered and (as it was sunny) went out onto the little, unassuming outside terrace. I'll never forget the sight that lay before me and feeling of 'wow' that hit me. Have a look...

View of Stratford and the AvonThat's the magic of Stratford. What a view and what a privilege to enjoy it at work! But there was no getting away from the fact that work is exactly our purpose here and we had a very arduous, physically and mentally exhausting week ahead. Thirteen-hour days will be the norm from Monday right through 'til Saturday. 10am-11pm.

But, of course, as an actor your brain doesn't switch off. You get home, grab some food and continue thinking about the play, the tech rehearsal, your character and generally worrying! So despite finishing at 11pm, you don't get to sleep 'til 1am/2am. This continued to be the case through the whole of the week! Knackered.com.

Assistant Director Kimberley Sykes painting the CourtyardContinuing on from my comments in previous blogs about the RSC being an all-inclusive (I don't mean holidays - even though it feels like we're on one!), collaborative, community-spirited company, it was heart-warming to see everyone mucking in and turning the foyer of the Courtyard Theatre into an Indian haveli.

I managed to catch our assistant director Kimberley Sykes painting the walls. Here's some photographic evidence!

In Fringe theatre, people often muck in and do jobs that aren't in their job description but it's great to see that even at an organisation as esteemed and revered as the RSC, the same principles still apply. People are encouraged to really immerse themselves in the company. Things like the Artists' Forum, which is traditionally made up of two members of each acting company (Amara Karan and I are the reps for Much Ado), are there to ensure that any concerns, issues or worries are addressed and seen to. Everyone has a voice here.

View of Much Ado set from the balcony, with actors in rehearsal down belowMy initial time on stage is spent up on the balcony in the first scene. This week it felt like I was up there for most of the week! Why? The opening of a play is crucial and it's important that you set the right tone and set the scene. So, as a result, there was a ton of stopping-and-starting the opening section. A lot of fine-tuning. I think – by the end of it – I left the balcony with a full-grown beard and my hair was twice as long. Result.

Our previews this week went really well. Thursday (26th), Friday (27th) and Saturday (28th) were ALL sold out. The first show was inevitably rough-and-ready and lasted three and half hours. We have some shaving to do.

Both the beard and the show....

by Muzz Khan  |  2 comments

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Aug 19, 10:38pm
R. Thomas

My husband and I came to the matinee performance yesterday, and what a treat it was. The decorations and sound in the foyer transported us to India even before we entered the auditorium, and once we had found our seats we enjoyed very much the interaction between cast/characters and audience. Much Ado is one of my favourite of Shakespeare's plays and I thought I knew it well; I was delighted by this production's ability to show me aspects I hadn't previously considered.

Aug 23, 4:30pm
Muzz Khan

Aaaaah, what a lovely post! Thanks Mrs Thomas!!

Really, really, glad you enjoyed the production and its vibrancy. Pleased to see that you're enjoying all the Indian-isms, too!

I've gotta ask the question, which 'aspects of Shakespeare' had we shown you that you hadn't 'previously considered'? Would love to know....

We're all bowled over by how much the Stratford-going audience are enjoying the production. They all see a heck of a lot of Shakespeare in the town and for you to be so happy with it - makes us all feel very humbled and proud. Thank you!!

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