So we started our second week of rehearsals by going on an expedition to Stratford-upon-Avon. The point of the day was to give us time to explore the stage we would be working on and to introduce us to all the people down in Stratford-upon-Avon that work at the RSC.
There is nothing quite like that feeling of turning the corner and seeing that theatre waiting for you and knowing you are not a stranger there or an audience member. You are an actor and this is going to be your home for a large part of your year. You have memories of the times you have sat in the audience but now you are going to be let loose on the stage to have a play. It’s like that Christmas morning feeling when you see all those presents under that tree - delirious glee!
We had already met, during rehearsals, our occupational therapist who would be looking after all our health issues during the year, so anything that could go wrong with our bodies or minds would be taken care of. We then were introduced to a physiotherapist who gave us ideas on how to avoid muscle problems when working on a raked stage.
Then a voice session with Kate Godfrey, the head of voice began on stage. We were split into groups and each group had a turn to be in each level of the auditorium while one group was on stage and we could hear them read out, individually, a section of a poem aptly entitled, ‘Ophelia’. We rotated so we got to experience being in the gods or closer to the stage.
That was a great exercise for those of us who had never worked there before. To see the vast space above your head and also to hear our voices in it. Just taking in it. Seeing where we might have to place our performance vocally. Also so good to be introduced to each other’s voices and have some initial feedback from Kate.
Three by three we were taken across the road to be measured for our costumes. With a measuring tape and a clipboard every inch of my body was recorded.
I have been thinking a lot about that day recently. I think it is quite fair to say that for a lot of our professional lives after drama school ends, actors are left to develop their skills by themselves without much support. And I know the reason for this is simple economics: there is not enough money in most companies to give actors time for training and development.
But when you are lucky enough to work for a big organisation like the RSC you come to appreciate how important time, training and development are. I wish that there was more of this support around. Our lives, as actors, are fraught with such indifference from an over subscribed industry. While trying to make ends meet there is also the need to pay your rent and sometimes your personal development as an artist has to take back seat to the banal demands of life. Meanwhile, companies who do brilliant, nationally renowned work, and who rely on box office to stay afloat with no funding coming their way, do not have the resources for training and development of their actors even if they would like it to be a reality.
And for the first time it feels to some degree the supported feeling I got from The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Our work doesn’t happen in a void. It requires constant care and an outside eye to guide that development. I am grateful for this support and development I am getting now because it implies an understanding that it will benefit our work in rehearsals and performance. That is the strangest, nicest feeling for an actor to feel.