Whispers from the Wings


April 11, 2012

Bruce Alexander with Joseph Kloska in rehearsalRehearsals are moving fluidly now. Greg decides to start the opening scene with the entering characters soaked in rain.

I am the first to mention the rain so will appear in a very wet floor length cloak. 'Masters, forgive me, I have ridden here from Cambridge in the rain'.

I then remove the cloak and selfishly shake the water off it on to the other characters around me. It is suggested by some that this bit of 'cheap business' is my idea and inserted for the purpose of getting an easy laugh.

I have to assert loudly that the idea came from our distinguished director and not me. Obviously I am an actor who tends to look down on such low tricks.

The prison scene takes place at night and is suitably gloomy. Sun does not intrude until the Yorkshire Church Scene which takes place on a sunny summer's day, when the light coming through the stained glass windows throws beautiful coloured patterns on to the plain floor, contrasting starkly with the inquisitorial and sombre nature of the scene.

Oliver Ford Davies and Stephen Boxer are bringing the Ely Place Scene to tremendous life with Oliver as the high intellectual Launcelot Andrews debating, arguing, often in deep frustration with the ghostly, earthy and obdurate William Tyndale. This long and intricately argued scene is proving to be, as it should, the key scene of the play.

They stand surrounded by and delving furiously into the many versions of The Bible, throwing rough printed loose copies of the latest text around the room. The intellectual ferment is blistering to listen to and a joy to watch.

Being the RSC all the 'books' and especially the printed documents are stunningly printed and have even at close inspection a truly authentic look and feel. They need the period detail and ornamentation, as the Swan audience will be sitting close to the action and easily able to detect fakery.

An added bonus for the actors is how much these book and documents, not to mention the beautiful painstaking work gone into the set, furniture, props, costumes etc. provide the solid and true world of the play. It is the same with the quality of costume the RSC provides. The actor walking on stage each night is assured that he looks perfect. You cannot guarantee a good performance, but you know you look right.

Photo: Bruce Alexander talking to Joseph Kloska in rehearsals.

by James Hayes  |  No comments yet

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Teaching Shakespeare