Whispers from the Wings

The big move

April 29, 2014

Stratford-upon-Avon. Is this the most exciting town in the UNIVERSE? My first ever visit was when I was in school and I remember nothing about the play but the gift shop was ace.

This is the first time I have come to Stratford to work. And I don't care if I say it but it's been a dream of mine to work for the RSC since I can remember (that and to be Han Solo in Star Wars).

View from digs window

My digs are LITERALLY across the street. It takes less than a minute to reach the stage door. I can see into the theatre from my bedroom (I'm sure that's wrong somehow) and I am seconds from the gift shop. If there were no walls, the gift shop would be almost reachable from my bed. My car is parked alongside the Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried. Can you tell I'm excited to be here?

The Hound of Digsville

For anyone unfamiliar to thesp-land, 'digs' is the word we actors use for the accommodation we stay in when working away from home. This can be a blessed escape, a literal holiday if working abroad or hell on earth - depending on many factors…

Tudor World StratfordDigs hunting has improved since I first left drama school. It's gone electronic for a start - you can see photos of your room/location online for example and read reviews. Theatres are also usually much hotter on updating their entries. And thank god. The first digs I ever stayed in on my very first job as a Greenhorn thesp was booked over the phone.

When I arrived, I found the Hound of the Baskervilles living there with a little old lady who had clearly never said the word 'sit' in her life. The beast barked from the minute I rang the bell, beat me up the stairs to my room to jump on my pillow and broke through a locked door to mount me on the toilet. It didn't stop barking til I got in the taxi with my unpacked case to make my escape.

There are some splendidly famous digs out there however - some landlords and ladies clearly adore thesps and create wondrous themed rooms for us to stay in - Tudor bedrooms, Chinese boudoirs - but if you're not staying in self-contained quarters, sharing with a family can be cake-bakingly rewarding and gain you lifelong friends or hideously style-cramping with rules and curfews and no-one knowing their boundaries.

As far as I can gather, the RSC own most of Stratford and the options are myriad from house-shares and self-contained cottages to whole houses out of town. Hell, I'm sure you could stay in a Tudor tent somewhere if you really wanted. In TUDOR WORLD.

Ye Olde Shakespeare Starbucks…

I've lost count of the amount of Bard-y-named shops: 'Hathaway Tea Rooms', 'The Food of Love', 'Cordelia,' 'Hamlet's Knickers' (I made the last one up). And I'm hoping Tudor World is Legoland in tights.

Exciting things I've learned about Stratford so far:

There are different lamp posts dotted about, each donated by a different City. Yes, England loves Stratford-upon-Avon so much, they've lit up a bit of it! I'm Scouse so the grey one from Liverpool is obviously the best.

There's a butterfly farm with the largest moths I've ever seen. My mum is so happy to have discovered this and can disappear into the undergrowth there for days. She is responsible for the photo of the see-through one - if anyone would like one of her butterfly cards - seriously - let me know.


There are genuine Thomas Crapper toilets in The Vintner on Sheep Street. They are very proud of them.

The real name of the Dirty Duck pub is The Black Swan. I have been so many times and have never noticed the original sign.

The chain ferry across the Avon is the size of an oven tray but it's still cool.

Each rowing boat is named after a Shakespearean character. Don't take the Ophelia one.

Bardolatry is an actual word. It means the worship, often considered excessive, of Billy Shakespeare and one who idolises him is known as a Bardolator. Coined by George Bernard Shaw. Who must have been jealous.

There is a pole dancing club. Apparently this is more than a cast rumour. I have no idea if that too has been Bardolatrized (coined by me) but I shall report back…

Exciting Things That Have Happened to me:

I met Greg Wallace in the Dirty Duck. Don't judge me. I've a bit of a crush on the Masterchef host. He hugged me and I came over all tingly.

I passed Antony Sher on my way to the wig department. I stared at him like a loon. He didn't hug me.

I was the only cast member to get a sneak preview of the Roaring Girl set in the RSC workshop. Our bookcases are the best prop I have ever had. Seriously.

The craftsmanship in this company is awesome. The engineering, the ingenuity, the artistry, the sheer detail. I'm aggrieved audiences will miss much of this detail but if you're in the house and look carefully, you may just catch a few of the labels in the Gallipot apothecary: 'Sperm Oil', 'Oil of Wasp', 'Cancer Relief'. Even the tiniest writing is proper Latin or Victorian medical case study - you know, rather than cut from the back of a cereal packet.

Cancer relief prop

I am a huge admirer of craftsmanship. I love standing, open-mouthed, at what people can make. All hail the set building team and our designer Naomi Dawson and all hail the intern whose job it was to research and stock the apothecary shelves for he is a geeeenius.

Which brings me to the wig department. Oh vanity, thy name is actor. It's always a scary day when you're called for a wig fitting. That's the day when you find out you've got a bald cap, a Chelsea face lift or will look like Mick Hucknall. Phew. I don't.

The magical women in RSC Wigland have made me very happy. They, too, are geniuses. Perhaps very soon, I shall come across someone in this company who is truly pants and can't create a bad smell in a beans factory.  Don't they say 'if there's no nightmare in a company - it must be you'?

by Lizzie Hopley  |  2 comments

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May 1, 7:40pm
David Stevens

Great blog about a great town. And highly recommend everybody to go and see the writer as she performs brilliantly in The Roaring Girl and the outstanding Arden of Faversham at the Swan.

Jul 31, 5:35pm

I agree with David, above. A great turn in Arden and dazzling as Mrs Gallipot in RG. Hilaire...

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Teaching Shakespeare