So it’s straight onto the next one.

Tech week and our first couple of Timon of Athens previews have been and gone. Tamburlaine now feels like it ended years ago. 

We all came in for technical rehearsals last week, staggering into lights and costume, magicking away our hangovers from months of pulling chariots by dressing up in gold and going all hedonistic. There’s something joyous about going straight into another project. One of the best things about my last year of drama school was going from play to play to play, finishing a musical one week and starting a Rodney Ackland play the next, fighting off various bouts of illness and insecurity by just getting on with it. A teacher there told me that a group of actors is known as a complaint, which you might think to be true after witnessing a tech week, but I think everyone enjoys the gorgeous mess of it really. 

Without getting really flowery, it’s been cool to see how the feeling and spirit of the Swan Theatre changes just by putting a new play in there. It’s no longer a blood-soaked, guttural cry of war, but more of a dark, lyrical poem that’s being thrust into the space. It feels more intimate, less expansive, and we change with it as actors. I always love the first morning of tech when everyone comes out with their costumes on and looks at each other like we’re at a fancy dress party. And we’re being paid for it?! Ross and Ed have both shaved their beards off and genuinely look like completely different people, ones who wash a bit more. Jim Clyde is no longer walking around with a plastic mask strapped to his face, instead sporting some pretty flashy ‘wings’ on his senator’s suit. I’m also pretty chuffed with my costume: sixties glasses, an earring and a completely gold, shabby-chic suit with some jazzy shoes that I’m definitely stealing. Soutra, our designer, has nailed it. As has Michael Bruce, our composer, who’s come up with such a tight, funky Greek score.

Three men in white and gold around a gold-laden table and a gold background.
Ralph (centre) in Timon of Athens.
Photo by Simon Annand © RSC Browse and license our images

After a few days of naturally haphazard tech, we stumbled our way through a dress rehearsal which included a glorious moment when the lovely Patrick Drury as Flavius repeated the same long aside just a few lines apart. That night (Friday, I think) was our first preview. The audience members who attend these shows are really important, acting as a 19th character that sort of tells us what the play actually is. They shape it with their reactions and their energy, telling us what needs to go quicker, what needs to go completely, and what is really working. Previews are the most exciting time in many ways; we still get to work with director Simon on honing the play’s detail, mine the depth of our characters with support from the creatives and every show is often entirely different as new things are tried out. 

It’s Press Night Thursday, the last of 2018 for the Company. By that stage, the play has its form and we should just go out and enjoy it, led by Kathryn. She’s being sublime, and when you’re on a stage with her you do just want to sit and watch. But if you did that, it wouldn’t look very good...

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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