It’s good to be back at the RSC for another season! This time in the beautiful Swan Theatre.
It’s good to be back doing a comedy by Phil Porter via Plautus.
It’s good to be back doing a biblical tale brought to life by Oscar Wilde.
These last few weeks in the rehearsal rooms in London have been excellent, however strange at first. At the start, I was missing the amazing group of actors that I worked with last year on Hamlet, Cymbeline and King Lear. Rehearsal rooms become like second homes because you spend so much time there. But for the first week or two it was like a new family had moved in and I was adjusting, not just to the new dynamic, but also to the fact that there was no Shakespeare in sight.
It took some time too, to adjust to the fact that I was back to be funny – I mean fall-down-drunk, Fawlty Towers big-isn’t-big-enough, funny. This is the feel of Vice Versa. And has been the joy in rehearsals from the off. We have laughed a lot. We started on the first days of rehearsals with an uncluttered space. This was soon to change. As has been reported by the RSC a few weeks ago we have something like 217 props to work with on Vice Versa. But that was a few weeks ago. I am sure that by now we have added to that number! One day I looked across at the props table and thought how indicative it was of the show itself.
And then we move upstairs to Salomé rehearsals. This show couldn’t be more different to Vice Versa. This has made rehearsals such an interesting challenge. It’s enlivening moving between two extremes. In rehearsals, under the guidance of the director, Owen Horsley, we are doing a lot of work suppressing what we feel and hiding this seething mess of emotions under a mask of surface action before erupting in the climax of the show. One day in rehearsals I noticed the props table in comparison to Vice Versa and I burst out laughing.
On the one hand, there is only one props table in Salomé, sparsely covered in props. We only have a few things representative of a banquet that Herod is having at the beginning of the play. Otherwise, nothing. On the other hand, in Vice Versa, we have three or four tables with every surface inch covered in props. But it’s not just a question of quantity. On the Salomé props table, there is the usual bottles, cups, flowers, a garland oh and possibly a head or two; on the Vice Versa props table is an even stranger collection - a stuffed roast duck stuffed inside a turkey inside a chicken sprouting peacock feathers that turn into pen quills, a pink flamingo, a lampshade, a full-sized cannon, 15 types of comedy hooters and a box of kazoos. And that’s just a small flavour of weird fun you might see in the show.
Our amazing stage management teams on both shows have been dealing brilliantly with all the changes that come their way on a normal day of rehearsals. With a new piece of writing there are always adjustments to make and Phil Porter has been incredible in honing the script. However, one little suggestion from an actor can send them off on a new adventure to find just that right type of plastic kazoo, or just the right kind of dry biscuit that might be good for showering your fellow actors with crumbs. And every time something changes they are adding to the props tables.
This tale of two tables is so indicative of the two very different shows that we are going to share with you. I cannot wait! It’s so good to be back, to be working and to be in two very different shows. I am also looking forward to spending the summer in Stratford-upon-Avon with a great bunch of actors. It’s going to be hard work moving between these extremes but this is why we do this crazy job. It’s never boring!