Whispers from the Wings


February 16, 2012

Inside a British Library Reading RoomJob 1: Pre-production research
In the run-up to Christmas I head down to the British Library. It takes them some convincing of my worthiness of a permanent reader's card, and in the end I have to bring out the secret weapon (RSC headed note paper). This done I can get down to work.

Maria is interested in looking at King John through a thematic lens, namely the theme of power. So I research a whole range of texts on power and politics, a smattering of everything from Plato's Republic to Blair's New Labour Manifesto (a worrying polarity, I know). (Also notice that the British Library seems to be the haunt of choice for the 'resting' theatre director, bumping into at least four of them in less than a week... maybe there's some sort of secret society I could get into...)

Outside view of the Swan TheatreJob 2 - Casting the young company
Also pre-Christmas, I make my way from the snowy peaks of the West Yorkshire Moors to Stratford-upon-Avon, for a first round of auditions for the two child roles in King John: Arthur and Henry.

For those of you who are not familiar with King John (and being one of Shakespeare's more obscure plays, it is rarely taught or performed) the plot's axis turns on the threat to John's claim to the English throne from his nephew, Arthur. Arthur is captured by his uncle and comes face to face with a warrant from the King to burn his eyes out with hot irons.

Hmmm, I wonder, how shall I broach torture with a group of 8-12 year olds? Perhaps I had better take the edge off with some sort of festive treat? But I needn't have worried- the boys were already fully entrenched in the story of Arthur, and as for eye-gouging, well... it was like water off a duck's back. (Surely that's one of the Bard's?)

by Sophie Ivatts  |  No comments yet

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Teaching Shakespeare