When Lucy checks in at stage door to perform as Rosalind in As You Like It, she sometimes wonders what her eight-year-old self would make of it all. For as a child living in nearby Worcester, the RSC in Stratford was where she went to see “big” theatre, Christmas shows that would thrill her and then later, at the age of 11, her first King Lear.
Lucy experienced drama on her feet at school and by Year 9 was chosen to play Viola in a school production of Twelfth Night. She was also doing LAMDA exams at the time and is still in contact with her teacher, Mrs Wright, who came to see her former pupil in As You recently.
She went on to Exeter University, gaining a First in French and Spanish. She says that she did feel a sense of loss while concentrating on her languages, so was delighted that her parents encouraged her to apply for LAMDA. Moving to London with all the theatre it had to offer was a big step for her.
Arriving at the RSC
Her first professional audition was for the RSC’s The Merchant of Venice but she wasn’t hired. Having gained considerably more theatrical experience, in late 2016 she contacted RSC casting director Helena Palmer to see if they were still looking for actors for the Rome season. Lucy was lucky enough to gain an audition and was subsequently hired.
New to the company, she was working alongside very experienced actors like Martin Hutson, Nia Gwynne, Tony Byrne and Josette Simon. In Antony and Cleopatra, Lucy played Octavia, while in Julius Caesar she understudied both Portia and Calpurnia. In Dido, Queen of Carthage at the Swan, she played Cloanthus while Sandy Grierson was Aeneas. Now, she is back alongside both Tony and Sandy; the former playing Dukes Senior and Frederick in As You Like It and the latter the hilarious Touchstone. Sandy will also play Angelo to Lucy’s Isabella in the forthcoming Measure for Measure.
Director Kimberly Sykes was passionate about Dido, Queen of Carthage and Lucy says it was a joy to work on in rehearsal, a real collaborative effort with Kim generously embracing ideas that emerged in the process. She was therefore very happy at having Kim direct As You Like It although Rosalind was not a character she knew at all. Her upcoming role as Isabella was already known to her, as she did it for A Level, loving both the play and its heroine, but with Rosalind she had everything to learn.
Lucy says that her linguistic training helps her acting since the actor is continually making choices, the same choices you have to make when translating. What is the writer’s intention? Why does he give this character these words at this particular moment? This attention to the detail contained in the writing was her way into discovering Shakespeare’s Rosalind.
At the opening of the play she says little; rather it is Celia who is in the driving seat. At court she is “contained”, unable to speak her mind, frustrated at having had her natural right to succession taken from her. But her banishment to the forest is her liberation. There she finds her voice and emerges as the natural optimist she is. Ganymede, a persona assumed initially for protection, is useful in testing the validity of Orlando’s love. She is able to retain his interest by her clever, articulate exchanges and her endless enthusiasm in the task of being his Rosalind. For her he passes the ultimate test when he saves his brother’s life, revenge turning to reconciliation. Lucy says that Rosalind can seem domineering, giving advice to all the lovers, correcting misjudgements, but it is to bring all to a final harmony.
Rosalind is a character well known by many in the audience. Lucy is only too aware that she is part of a shared collective history of the play, one of many Rosalinds. But until April 2020 she has the joy of holding the baton.
Viv Graver is a retired teacher, who taught Shakespeare for more than 30 years in the north of England. Her present interest is introducing Shakespeare into primary schools. Viv's blog is a series of interviews with RSC cast and creatives about their path to Shakespeare and how they first came to it, at school and elsewhere.