Whispers from the Wings

Unleash Ann Yee

April 3, 2013

Happy Easter everybody! As you polish off the last of those eggs, the 2013 Swan Summer Season company is about to begin their fifth week of rehearsal. As a result, there's a few things to catch you up on, so I'll dive right in...

Michael Fentiman, our director for Titus Andronicus, has a really striking vision for how our production will look. Part of that vision requires us as a cast, and particularly the militaristic young men of Rome, to be in peak physical condition. When this is first discussed, we all nod in agreement that this is the way to go. 'Mmmmm, yes,' we all mumble. 'I've been meaning to get in shape', somebody offers. 'This is great!'. Positive murmurs of assent. But how is this to be achieved?

The answer? Unleash Ann Yee.

Ann, our movement director, has basically spent the last four weeks dismantling us bone by bone, muscle by muscle, and then building us back up. Her regular morning boot camps, supplemented with personal training with the meticulous Richard Reid, are unrelenting and take no prisoners.

I'm not even sure yet that Publius, the character I'm playing, is a soldier - but somehow there doesn't seem to be time to raise finer points like these whilst somebody is making you skip, run, star-jump, plank, ab-crunch, press-up and squat until failure whilst rattling your skeleton with Vampire Weekend at nose-bleed inducing volume.

It's punishing, but fantastically rewarding, and it all complements the detailed work going on in the rehearsal room brilliantly.

In A Mad World My Masters, I'm playing Lieutenant Sponger, a cohort of the ne'er-do-well trickster Dick Follywit.

You won't find Sponger on the original list of dramatis personnae - when Middleton first created the character, he was called Mawworm - but his is just one of the names that's been updated by Sean Foley and co-adapter Phil Porter to allow the audience in on the joke in their 1950s Soho setting. A 'maw-worm' is basically an intestinal parasite, so 'Sponger' gets the point across very nicely, albeit in a slightly less disgusting way (shame).

I don't want to make any sweeping, binding judgments about the character too early on, but what's emerging in rehearsals at the moment is a sarcastic, irresponsible trouble-maker who'd probably be a real danger to society if it weren't for the fact that he's also unforgivably lazy. This is, worryingly, incredibly fun to play.

Ben Deery in rehearsal for Mad WorldEarly on in rehearsals for Mad World, Sean encouraged us to spend a little time walking around the room, working out how we would relate to each other - who would know whom in this world, etc. Richard Goulding (Follywit), Harry McEntire (Oboe) and I set out to do some mischief.

Naturally (and initially just for our own amusement) a few of us began to slip into a light, early sketch of our characters. This resulted in me spending about an hour capering around the room, being the most brassy, shiftless and annoying possible version of myself. I was cheeking, hustling, greasing and bickering. I was laying bets with borrowed money and trying to persuade other people into paying off the debt. It was a right laugh.

And I wouldn't be suprised if that's the way that Follywit, Sponger and Oboe see the world. Sometimes money is a bit tight, which is a drag, and sometimes the plans they concoct to get themselves back into the pink can land them in pretty serious trouble.

But even with the Old Bill breathing down their necks and the threat of a few year's porridge over their heads... you know what? It's still a right laugh.

by Ben Deery  |  No comments yet


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