"Meet heaven and earth, and here let all things end."

When Salman was saying this for the last time at the end of Tamburlaine on Saturday night, it rang really bloody true. All things Tamburlaine were ending, and it was so difficult to say goodbye to it. 

Last performances are always charged with something special, because as actors we no longer have to pretend that this is the last time we will say what we are saying. Various moments in the play were filled with more life and heart than ever before. When I was looking at Rosy suspended above the stage giving her rousing speech to the resistance army, I was willing her to hold it together. I watched Debbie Korley’s gargantuan task and effort playing the scene where her husband has brained himself against the cage; her cries of "Tamburlaine" were filled with more fire than I’d ever seen, and it gave me chills. And Jude’s beautiful rage against Zenocrate’s death that froze the company back in the rehearsal room in June was as moving as ever.

As the company received and gave a standing ovation at the curtain call, it all became quite overwhelming.

Members of the Tamburlaine cast in full costume.
Members of the Tamburlaine company on stage.
Photo by Ellie Kurttz © RSC Browse and license our images

If I’m honest, I thought that saying goodbye to Tamburlaine would be okay, as we’ve got Timon to mount in the Swan and there’s plenty of poetry and Greek dance to think about there. I was wrong. I only came out of drama school a year and a half ago, but speaking to various members of the cast most of them seemed to agree that this had been a really special company. I think that has something to do with the size and weight of such a visceral text and what that demands, and definitely something to do with Michael Boyd and the ensemble he has led. Everyone has been as important as each other, and the bloody, hairy, sprawling animal that we have spat out onto the banks of the Avon over the past few months has been a collective spit. That’s a really disgusting sentence, but it seems apt. 

We’ve also said goodbye to four huge players: Jimmy Tucker, Jude Owusu, David Rubin and Mark Hadfield. I’d like to call Jimmy 'Uncle Jimmy' because he’s so loving and generous and everyone feels very safe around him, but I’m not sure it sounds right. Jude has led the company with grace, humour and thousands and thousands of words without complaint, and has been exemplary and gorgeous in doing so. Rubin has been so much fun to be onstage with, especially when he karate chopped Sagar as Bajazeth to the floor after accidentally throwing his weapon across the stage. And Hadfield the veteran has been full of humour and stories right from the start, especially down the pub. 

Anyway, after lots of blubbing in the wings followed by celebrating until the early hours at Rubin and Riad’s house, we’ve got a job to do. It’s very different; far more quirky but hopefully just as moving. We’ll be figuring out how the play properly breathes over the next couple of weeks. And I’ll be writing some of it down. We’re all a bit mashed, but here goes. 

Ralph Davis

Ralph Davis

Hello! I’m Ralph and I’m part of the Swan Winter company. I’m playing the Poet in Timon of Athens and various furious kings in Tamburlaine. I’ll be unleashing some nonsense and offence on this blog over the next few weeks to give you guys a look in on how rehearsals and shows are going. Apologies in advance.

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