Whispers from the Wings

The stress to impress the press

January 16, 2014

Of course we all want good reviews for our shows, but this time the reviews could be a big factor in decisions affecting our afterlife. These plays were commissioned by Playful Productions in partnership with the RSC, and as they are a commercial management in London there has been much talk of a possible West End transfer.

Clearly, decisions in that regard will be driven by the kind of reviews we get. Hence the pressure.

Nick Day and Lydia Leonard invent the 'Tudor selfie'The RSC have developed their own protocol in an attempt to take the stress off press nights. Our 'opening night', to which friends and family are invited — and after which we have a bit of a knees-up — is a on a different night. It is intended that this opening night should be the celebratory one when we give out the cards and imaginative gee-gaws we have bought and made for each other.

It never really works out, though. It's always very apparent that we are driving towards the ultimately demanding marketing exercise before persons of influence from the press. It is to the press night that our agents are invited; it's a great sales pitch showcase for them to bring along the great and good of casting directors.

The game's the same
So the immediate prelude to our press night was the usual febrile and feverishly excited affair that we are generally used to elsewhere.

We are proud, very proud, to show what we have created together under Jeremy's spirited leadership. Some months ago I thought that getting this immensely rich narrative on to the stage looked like a task that would defeat all but the most courageous. I feared, somewhat, that if anybody had made up their minds that it was impossible or inadvisable to do this before they saw it, then they might be hard to please. I had never been sure what the critics would make of it.

I should have taken Hilary's utterly charmed faith, encouragement and enthusiasm for what we are doing as a sign that nobody could doubt it.

Stars in our eyes
As it turns out the reviews have been amazing. Four and five stars. We had nearly half the front page of The Times, for goodness sake! We are thrilled.

The relentless schedule has paid off. The changes, implemented right up to the last minute, gradually made our staging simpler and sleeker. Jeremy was always fixing things so that the acting is what does it. Everything that fought or competed with the acting was amended and simplified.

I'm really pleased that critics have praised the staging simplicity that allows our audience to exercise their imaginations on the stage just as they did on the books. Everything that is added to the show complements the wonderful committed performances that are happening all around me.

Now we just have to keep the ball in the air.

If you'd like to find out about future performances of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies  sign up for RSC e-news here .

Image: have Nick Day and Lydia Leonard just invented the 'Tudor selfie'?

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