One of the best things about this job is the Company. In fact it’s probably the best thing. It is the best thing.
Tamburlaine director Michael Boyd cut his teeth in Russia where acting in an ensemble is paramount to every theatre-making enterprise that happens. His time as Artistic Director at the RSC was therefore characterised by this idea of ensemble, which was at its most evident and thriving in the 2006-8 Histories Cycle, where a company of 30 or so took on the eight History plays. Sometimes they performed all of them one after the other, starting with Richard II on a Thursday night and ending with Richard III on the Sunday afternoon. I was one of the children in Richard III who would come in with boundless energy to annoy this jaded, beautiful Company, only to be suffocated in the Tower of London. The family they created and their anarchic, ballsy way of working was one of the biggest factors in me deciding to become an actor.
Last night, the idea of ensemble was on show in a more domestic way in our Company, but it was amazing to watch. I was talking to Matt Dann, our hero assistant director, in the canteen about Sam Shepard plays (I’m extremely dull) when Raj Bajaj dropped a bowl and split open his finger. In typical Bajaj fashion, he shrugged it off until first aid arrived and said they could see his bone. He was carted off to hospital. Salman, at the time pouring mad amounts of vinegar onto his chips, stepped up stoically to cover him in that night's show. Which meant Anton covered Salman. Which meant Yasmin covered Anton. All with about 25 minutes' notice. They had all done the understudy run in these roles, but that already felt like it happened about five years ago.
They were all brilliant and the play took on an interesting new shape, including Celebinus (Yasmin) being very much relocated to Yorkshire and Calyphas (Salman) coming up with some really maverick pronunciations of words. It was all witnessed by our returning champion of voice Alison Bomber, who I also vaguely remember taking all of us annoying children through vocal warm ups back in 2007. We all went to the pub afterwards, stopped on the way by our Timon of Athens, Kathryn Hunter, who said she was shuddering from watching the play. Which we as an ensemble decided to take as a good thing.