May 4, 2012
Unlike no other night in the run Press Night is nearly always edgy. Nerves emerge. Big displacement activities are put in motion to assuage them. Usually a speech from the director exhorting us to forget/ignore the press - 'don't read the notices'!
We've worked hard, we now have a show we can all be proud of. Good or bad press can influence the future performances.
We do a big warm-up - no pressure. We then spend hours buying, even making Good Luck cards. More time writing individual messages to our colleagues.
No matter the relationship, turmoil, lack of respect for their work etc. etc. we write warm wishes. Flowers and gifts from loved ones and agents clog the stage door.
Suddenly it is time to prepare. Despite the fact that these nights invariably begin late we are ready far too early. Knocks on doors. Strong hugs. Best of Luck. The High-Ups flit through. Another visit to the loo, just in case. Then, long silent minutes until 'Act One beginners please'.
Eyes brighten, the corridors throng, 'Have a good one'. We are in the wings. The buzz from the 'house' seems so much louder than in any of the previews. The house lights begin to fade, the heart pumps, the beautiful voices with their sacred music start.
Quiet emotional admonitions to oneself rattle around one's head. The door opens and you're on! A very, very good performance. Terrifically warm applause. Huge relief. Backstage and dressing room corridors very noisy and full of 'We've done it'. 'Thank God, that's fucking over.'
More hugs, strong handclasps. Faces, in and out of the dressing room. Then the ban on alcohol backstage is blatantly ignored, at least in our dressing room as room-mates Paul Chahidi, Jamie Ballard and I begin a one-off celebration.
Within a few nights this becomes a ritual on most Written performances. Once the play is finished - and never before or during - we explore some of the finest wines and spirits Stratford can provide.
We change out of costume. Glasses, limes, even ice come out and we sit and laugh and talk for twenty minutes. It is civilised. It is comradely. It is a fine full stop to the evening.
by James Hayes
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