Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier had spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness.
Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 2
Since I started writing this blog I’ve thought a lot about The Other Place, done tons of research into its history, and spent countless hours exploring the space. I’ve talked about how comfy the chairs are, and how nice it is to sit and take in the murals on the walls, or read a book, but one thing I’ve not really explored that much is how the space acts as a working theatre and everything that entails for actors. One of the things that makes The Other Place so useful is its function as a rehearsal space. Not only do RSC actors rehearse scenes for upcoming shows in The Other Place’s rehearsal rooms, but external groups often use the space as well.
Since its reopening in 2016, the University of Birmingham has been a founding partner of The Other Place, which has allowed collaboration between the two, with The Other Place acting as a centre for creativity and academic exploration.
Students travel down from Birmingham to develop devised pieces of theatre and work with the technical team at The Other Place, and they use the space for anything from devising and rehearsing, to design planning and set building. It’s an invaluable opportunity to create theatre in a professional setting.
One student who recently spent some time rehearsing at The Other Place is Elizabeth Hardy, a masters student who grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon and used to visit the building in its previous iterations, during the 80s and 90s, before returning last year to work in the new building. I got the chance to hear Elizabeth’s views on The Other Place first hand, and it’s clear that being able to use the rehearsal space is a brilliant experience for students during their studies.
Hardy describes how "The (new) Other Place has recaptured and renewed its original dramatic spirit, but also recharged it with something different and more daring in its exploration of new work by emerging writers."
She adds: "The collaboration between the RSC and The University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute is a rare chance to pool the expertise of all those most intensely and interestingly concerned with Early Modern drama, either in the academy or in the theatre. And in the case of Shakespeare, especially, who feeds the minds of the best scholars and the dramatic imaginations of the most ingenious theatrical professionals, it is, surely, only right that the feast is shared."
As the name of this blog suggests, The Other Place is described as the ‘engine room’ of the RSC, and I’ve previously described it as a place buzzing with creativity. Elizabeth reflects this, as she recalls her own experience of working in the building.
She says: "the Gatsby Room provided us with a ‘home’ and the chance to find our feet as an ensemble. This rehearsal space is delightfully light, warm and spacious, irresistibly inviting us to play: provoking action rather than just talk – though we did plenty of that too. The wooden floors and clean walls provide a blank page – an ‘empty space’ - which we could fill with the trappings of our evolving play’s context and with our prompts, notes and images. But the exposed pipes and ‘workshop’ framework of the interior gave us the feeling that our theatrical experiments were always pumping with new possibility."
It's lovely to hear that not only did Elizabeth enjoy working within The Other Place because of the unique opportunities the space provided, but also because the people who she and her coursemates interacted with left such a good impression on her.
She describes how, "everyone we encountered during our time at The Other Place – from receptionists to cafe staff, stage managers to creatives – was welcoming, personable and willing to help us in our artistic endeavours. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble for anyone. I was both surprised and impressed by the interest they expressed in our work. And their energy!"
All in all, it's evident that The Other Place is a fantastic resource for both the RSC Company members, and also external groups who use it as a rehearsal space - you can find out more about using The Other Place.
Many thanks to Elizabeth Hardy for her contributions to this blog post.