Whispers from the Wings

'He's so good, he's a damn bit frightening.'

April 12, 2012

We are currently two weeks into Julius Caesar rehearsals at the Clapham studios in balmy South London and things are moving on apace.

Costumes are starting to be placed and we have seen a model of the set. (All closely guarded secrets, I'm afraid. I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you!) I will just say that it is quite a lovely company to work for. Still time for that to change, though! Lots of laughter and helpful ideas.

We examined the play in some detail in the first week. So much bouncing around the room. It is perhaps my favourite time during the whole process. When so little is set in stone. When all the possibilities are laid out before us. Maybe villains are simply misunderstood. Maybe heroes are fools. Maybe.

Working for the RSC, you realise yet again how many people work so hard to get the show on. And everyone cares. I think people forget that there are far more secure lifestyles. Far more careers that are more conducive to happy relationships and fatter bank accounts. Most do not do it for fame. Indeed, I have not yet met a stage manager, or costume designer who expected the next show to make them household names. They do it because they love it. Love to create and enable. Which is quite humbling, really. But make no mistake: the RSC is big time. There have been, in the rehearsal room IN TWO WEEKS this many voice/movement creatives:

1 fight director
1 movement director
1 head of movement
2 text/voice coaches advisers
1 accent coach
1 voice adviser
and, last but by no means least, the legendary...
John Barton!

No excuses for not being heard or understood, then! This, you understand does not include lighting, sound, stage management, directing, design, costume. The RSC really do mean business!

I had an awful day last week. Which I think is necessary. I think to create you have to go past a point where you admit you do not know anything. Come face to face with your fear and embrace it. But it is horrible.

One wants to be perfect in front of one's peers. Perfect and pristine. Words and action in wonderful harmony. At one point, I spoke to the wrong person and called them by the wrong name. My brain went into deep freeze and all I wanted to do was drop to the floor and confess to all onlookers that I was a fraud and very, very tired.

But actually, it was not that bad. And I really learnt something: don't forget to breathe. Amazing how often that one slips by. But Shakespeare helps, if you let him. The quotation that started this inaugural blog was not about me (amazingly) but was said in the rehearsal room about Shakespeare.

Each and every time I come across his work I am blown away by the humanity of it all. The keen sense of drama. If you do not believe me, pick up any play of his (except, maybe Merry Wives of Windsor) and turn to any page.

There will be a line that most writers would kill to have written. A moment of drama, or levity and truth. He really could write. But I suspect he couldn't act very well. God doesn't give with both hands.

Am eating tons without putting on weight. This is called the 'thank God, I am employed diet' where your body is in such delighted shock at working every day, that it's metabolism speeds up and you can basically eat a small horse with little or no consequence.

I will have to start learning my understudy part soon (Cassius). Which brings with it a whole new set of challenges. Will let you know how I get on.

Until then,

Forever and forever farewell.
If we do meet again, why, we shall smile.
If not, why then this parting was well made.

Andrew French

by Andrew French  |  1 comment


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Comments

May 5, 9:24am
Adela Stephenson

Looking forward to your tour coming to our lovely Alambra Theatre in Bradford, (my second home)as one of the dressers the first job dressing was RSC Robert Lindsay in Richard 111, that was back in 1998 i think and I was hooked, recently returned after doing a normal job, you will find that our Alhambra has a brilliant staff team, who will hopefully make your stay a welcome one. Good Luck for the rest of your tour.

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Teaching Shakespeare