I’m sitting on the front row in the vast rehearsal space at what used to be The Other Place then The Courtyard Theatre next to the legendary voice teacher, Cicely Berry, listening to our show director and head of the RSC, Greg Doran.
He is addressing the room on the very first morning of our rehearsals for what promises to be a groundbreaking production of The Tempest. This is the 13th time I have performed with this company and as usual…..I’m terrified.
There are around 80 people in the room from various departments including wigs, costume, the armoury, marketing, lighting, stage crew as well as representatives from computer giant’s Intel and special effects company Imaginarium, owned by my acting hero, Andy Serkis. There is even a film crew making a documentary of the process.
The actors make up 20 of the group and there is a distinct buzz in the room, I would go as far as to say it is a bigger buzz than for any other show I have been a part of. If any of the other actors are like me, they have been waiting for this day for a very long time and are being inspired, uplifted and as always, educated, by the brilliant welcoming speech that Greg is giving.
This man is one of the greatest leaders I have ever seen. He is forever humble and encouraging as well as driven and passionate at the same time (and he has great hair!). I first met Greg back in 2002 when he was directing me in Michael Wood’s BBC documentary In Search Of Shakespeare. We have done lots of events and productions over the years since he kindly invited me into the company back then and it genuinely feels like coming home.
I am playing Trinculo and am blown away to be working with a stellar cast including old friends like Joe Dixon (Caliban) and Jonathan Broadbent (Antonio).
Building the world of The Tempest
The morning included a lengthy but invaluable introduction to everyone in the room followed by one of my favourite parts of a rehearsal, the model of the set!
Stephen Brimson Lewis who is a regular part of Greg’s crack team along with our composer, the brilliant Paul Englishby, has designed a stunning stage for us to play on with the ingenious inclusion of CGI and motion capture to help transport the audience into the storm itself and onto Prospero’s magic isle. It is fabulous! Using computer technology, Stephen has created almost photographic images of how the show will look including lighting effects. They look like stills from a movie so you are fully able to appreciate the atmosphere as we move from sequence to sequence.
From the afternoon and really, for the rest of the week, we sit around a table and do the essential work of paraphrasing the play. This has become a staple part of Greg’s process and is an incredibly important stage in the development of the production.