Whispers from the Wings

My personal journey

April 23, 2014

Three weeks into our time at Stratford and we had done seven preview performances of two separate shows. The strangest thing about putting on all your shows at once (or one very long show split into two, play sized chunks as you may like to look at it) is that, once in the midst of that process, it is hard to imagine only doing one, stand-alone play.

Even at this early stage it is becoming clear that each play poses and answers questions in the other. Character traits are hinted at and resolved, plot points echoed, jokes and motifs set up and echoed. As a performer it can be instructive and confusing in equal measure to pick up these textual hints as the performances rack up but for audience members, particularly those able to see both shows in a single day, it should enrich the narrative and make the whole, long journey make sense tonally as a unit.

Simon Yadoo in Henry IV Part I

My personal journey, following the whole polyp debacle which I have previously blogged about, has been one of self-discipline and patience. Seven weeks since the operation and I had to miss nearly three weeks of rehearsal time in all before returning to start reintegrating myself to the shows. For the first couple of weeks I was restricted to miming my way through the scenes or, at best performing my lines sotto voce; an experience that was highly frustrating for all concerned.

At that point in the process no actor wants to be delivering his lines at near performance pitch, only to be confronted with a near dumb show, replete with over compensatory facial expressions and flappy hands, which is largely what I felt I was doing.

But patience paid off and, after a few performances restricted to working with a throat microphone acting as a safety net and booster to my vocal levels, I am pleased to say that I have now returned to full operational levels and am performing as usual.

I am hugely indebted to a team of people who have carefully managed my rehabilitation; Emma Woodvine, our voice coach who first suspected the problem, Dr John Rubin who operated to remove the polyp, Dr Ruth Epstein and Penny Anne O'Donnell who have given me an arsenal of exercises and speech therapy processes to get me back to performance levels. But most of all I am grateful to the company of actors with whom I am working; all of whom have proved to be very supportive and patient as I have slowly come back to full power.

Finally, the week or so of performances have been an interesting, and ongoing, process of discovering the space in which I will be working for the next six months. When you're working on a traditional proscenium arch stage it is not hard to adapt to a new room; the acoustic may vary a little or the dimensions may differ slightly but the basic stagecraft remains the same.

The RST is a little different due to the layout of the stage; it is incredibly intimate for such a large auditorium but the 'thrust' nature of the playing space necessarily means that one often runs the risk of partially obscuring the view of someone in the audience. By observing scenes in the technical rehearsals from varying angles I have been able to make a little tweak here and there as performances go by and ensure that I minimise that danger.

Learning the space is all part of the preview process, along with the odd cut here and there; it's a chance to experience people receiving the text that you have worked upon, and to let their responses guide and present new ways to give your performance nuances and textures that a rehearsal room may not have revealed.

As one who missed a lot of that rehearsal room time, I am relishing the chance to be back and able to start making those choices on stage.

by Simon Yadoo  |  No comments yet

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Teaching Shakespeare