Whispers from the Wings

Life in the fast lane

November 29, 2012

Youssef in his dressing roomAs I write this, we are on preview number seven of Boris Godunov. We have yet to perform any scene the same way two nights in a row. Things are changing every day. This can be a little confusing.

We're currently proving wrong the theory that actors need to be nimble of mind in order to do their job. Things are definitely heavy and sluggish at the moment but that doesn't seem to be slowing us down.

There is a large human tower at the end of the play (this time made up of more than just my 6'4'' frame). Tonight for the first time, the audience joined in and chanted 'Long live Tsar….' along with us. Very cool.

Our typical day begins with the preview we did the night before if you know what I mean. The amount of physical work done during the show and our need to constantly monitor our safety means that by the time we all go home, we are completely spent.

But tomorrow is only a couple blinks away, so we try not to relax too much. For those of us understudying, we leaf through scripts, paranoid at maybe not being fully off book.

We look at our Orphan of Zhao understudy lines too - remember that one? We then go to sleep and wake up as our heads touch the pillow … it's the next morning. Did we oversleep? Shit! No. No we're fine. But there's only an hour and a quarter before we have to be out the door. Shower. Coffee. Tea. I made the fatal error of making myself breakfast once. It cost me 23 minutes. I was a couple minutes late that morning. 'Sorry' I mumbled as I ran in out of breath 'Made myself breakfast like an idiot…won't happen again.'

This is what life is like in the fast lane.

We then get notes from Michael about the preview the night before. The note sessions last from anything between two or four and a half hours. If there's time we get on stage and rework, restage, rethink and re-examine.Our guinea pigs will then be that evening's audience.

At 4.30pm we break for dinner. The canteen begins food at 5pm, so we wait. We then eat when food is served and then, bellies full, we begin the madness: warm ups: both physical, vocal. Quick once-overs of all big moments in the play: songs, fights, lifts, tower, dance etc. This is so that when we perform for the audience that evening, we don't effectively do something major for the first time that day. Flipping someone over your back in front of an audience is manageable when you've just done it once not a few hours earlier.

The incredible Lina Johansen gave us a pearl of wisdom with regards standing on another person. She warned us that when an audience is in, even the tiniest bit of adrenaline will cause a performer's legs to wobble when standing on someone. That we need to just recognize it for what it is, engage our core muscles, relax and breathe into it.

I have the privilege of being ridden nightly by the wonderful Gethin Antony, who along with Paul Hamilton, Martin Turner and Sadie Shimmin, completes our company for Boris and Galileo. Gethin is a real trooper about climbing on me. It's not an easy thing to do. A human body is surprisingly unstable below foot. His work in the play is phenomenal and he's doing an incredible job of staying in control while acting his socks off at the same time. Did I mention he's the other lead? Walking all over me he is!

Rehearsing in the Ashcroft Room

by Youssef Kerkour  |  No comments yet


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Teaching Shakespeare