Sometime around 10pm last night, I was drawing a chariot with Jim Clyde, about to try and summon the god of the underworld to fire Jude Owusu's Tamburlaine into the lake of hell and, as a result, get my tongue cut out. It’s now 9.30am and I’m downing coffee in The Other Place, ready to start rehearsals for a lavish Greek dance that descends into a debauched frenzy, commemorating the endless bounty that Kathryn Hunter as Timon of Athens is pouring out from her supposedly vast pools of wealth. Reality and fiction are slightly mixing here, but that’s probably something to do with spending most of the day speaking in verse, as well as the mad but really fun schedule of the Swan winter season.
We’re storming into week 4 of rehearsals for Timon of Athens now. Some jaded actors stalk the rehearsal room - some of them in Tamburlaine, Tartuffe and Timon this season - but we’re being led ferociously towards a (hopefully) creative triumph by Simon Godwin. Timon of Athens depicts a lady who is endlessly giving out money, gifts and favours to her ‘friends’, only for it all to come crashing down when she runs out of cash and these friends won’t help her. It all gets quite Lear-like and Beckettian when she starts digging for gold in the wilderness, and that brings out some of Shakespeare’s best stuff as Timon sort of loses the plot.
We spent the first week or so of rehearsals exploring themes of the play, doing some pretty mad wolf improvisations to get into the mindset of the people circling Timon, and going over the text with a fine tooth comb so we all know exactly what we’re all saying. Now in week 4, we’re over halfway through physically shaping out the play - essentially figuring out where we all stand - and it’s looking really exciting, and very gold...
I’ll be giving some weekly updates on here from my Poet perspective (I’m playing the poet, I’m not really pretentious), and providing an insight into the madness.
Tamburlaine plays in the Swan Theatre until 1 December, and Timon of Athens opens on 7 December.