Whispers from the Wings

Slapping in Faversham

March 10, 2014

Slapping in Faversham

Most of you reading these actory blogs will be familiar with the cries of those unused to rehearsing two plays at once. Ah those good old days of the Rep Companies – we youngsters only hear stories... Yes, it's Upstairs, Downstairs in Clapham as The Roaring Girl sits proudly on the ground floor, whilst Arden of Faversham spills blood on the 1st floor and god-knows-what goes on in the basement. Seriously, for the first 3 weeks, I saw only boys going down there and assumed it was some kind of shower room.

Listen, it's my first season and I'm still in awe of the place. You should have seen me on the company coach trip to Stratford. I bought a key ring in the RSC gift shop. I haven't bought a gift shop key ring since the school trip to Frodsham. I'm not the only newbie – there were a few of us – skulking round the plastic crowns and Tudor Rose cushions.

My role in Arden of Faversham, or to give the play its full title, The lamentable and true tragedy of master Arden of Feversham in Kent. Who was Most wickedly murdered by the means of his disloyal and wanton wife who for the love she bore to one Mosbie, hired two desperate ruffians Black Will and Shakebag to kill him. Wherein is showed the great malice and dissimulation of a Wicked woman, the unsatiable desire of filthy lust and the shameful end of all Murderers (take a breath) – is Mistress Reede, who in a nutshell, gets a hard time, doesn't murder Arden but curses him quite late on in the play. Very late on, in fact. So, aside from group rehearsal calls, I've been waiting a while to open my mouth.

Things I've done whilst waiting to play Mistress Reede:

Played 9 Square.

This is a grid-based ball game based on a system of ancient torture whereby those who are not blessed with ball skills are ritually humiliated in their inability to co-ordinate their limbs. Our director says it's important to create feelings of anxiety and competitiveness as these are paramount within the play. It is working.

Learnt my place.

We all lined up in order of status within the play. I was last. I am also told Mistress Reede works at a budget supermarket. I have to do research. I've not done this yet. I am not looking forward to my costume.

Moved boxes.

If I say any more I'll have to kill you.

Smacked myself in the face.

We have the safest fight director EVER. Seriously, I have worked with many and Brett is the best yet. Simple logic, you can't beat it. He shows us how to slap each other with no contact, hit each other from 1-8 but not to 10, fall in every direction without breaking bits and intimidate each other in imaginary corridors. I love stage fighting. Adore it. Consider myself quite good. I was very keen at drama school, I took extra lessons. I was a right suck up. We get into pairs. I fake slap with aggression. I take a fake slap with appropriate shock. Then it all comes flooding back to me. I can't nap. A 'nap' is the noise you make to cover the non-contact of the stage slap. It is usually made by the recipient of the slap (the slappee, if you will) clapping their hands together sharply as the slapper (forgive me) makes the appropriate non-contact gesture. My slapper takes aim, I position my palms, miss them altogether and slap my own face. Hard. Still, it makes the right sound.

Finally, Mistress Reede speaks. It's amazing how nervous I've been all day. She speaks sitting down at first. She may get to stand up next week. But now she has 'actions'– magic actor verbs to keep the focus on affecting our fellow actor and not disappearing up our own backsides. Now, Mistress Reede 'focuses'. She 'accuses', she 'bulldozes'. Bulldozes some of the most beautifully written verse I've ever had the privilege to learn. And it's by 'Anon'. We are rehearsing an entire play and we don't even know who's written it. Mind-blowing. There's a scene between Alice and Mosby (Sharon Small and Keir Charles) which some people think must have been written by Shakespeare as it's so damned good. But who knows? Somewhere out there, I like to think Anon is twitching in his or her grave, thinking 'those lines for Mistress Reede are damned good, who's that Scouse bird playing her?'

For those who are interested, downstairs in Clapham rehearsal rooms there are indeed showers. There is also a warren of rooms which I believe lead to Middle Earth. There is also yet another huge rehearsal room with crash mats and a climbing wall. Perhaps I'll be better at this than napping.


Image one: An image of the inspiration behind Mistress Reede's costume on the rehearsal room wall. Original image by Duane Hanson. Copyright Duane Hanson.

Image two: The timeline wall of events up to the start of the play, including the first mention of Mistress Reede's plight.

by Lizzie Hopley  |  No comments yet

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