We're all doomed
October 15, 2013
Taking me aside on the first day of rehearsals, a seasoned veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company imparted a piece of advice.
'First time?' they asked.
I nodded nervously, trying my hardest to remember how eyebrows worked.
'Well done. You are, unfortunately, now doomed. Wonderfully, wonderfully doomed.'
and Bring Up The Bodies, written by the kindest and most gifted people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, has begun its dramatic barrage.
Rehearsals started with a reading of the two plays in succession and three days of long enrapturing discussions about the intricacies of Tudor and European history, law, philosophy and thought. Experts in their respective fields threw ingredients into the dull matter that is the poor player's mind.
Hilary Mantel herself joined us to discuss her books, her influences and the fervent love she bears for these characters. A truly remarkable experience.
Dancing and singing
Dancing and singing have begun (which, though efforts have been valiant, are a little less remarkable) and whirling trips out to Stratford-upon-Avon and Hampton Court have brought my exhausted body and weary mind to the comfort of my bed in a heap, like the old man I am becoming.
Yet what courses through the veins and bears more sway than ever, in Hilary's novels, in Mike Poulton's plays, bleeding through the cast and creatives and inherently residing in every member of the entire company, is a palpable youthfulness of soul.
Youthfulness of soul
What the RSC does better than ever, and with more vigour than any other, is bring to light that which is old, allowing the natural luster of lives long dead to wink in the harsh light of our modern world and warm it.
Sometimes it does this with the dramatic works of playwrights writing in times we barely comprehend - Voltaire, Middleton, Shakespeare this season gone. Sometimes with characters living such varied lives, alien to us in their historic pasts - such as in the one to come.
Every line of text is engrained with an energy unhindered by the easy ribbons of history and untethered by convention.
Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies are vital books. They are full of vitality. To bring that vitality to the rehearsal room every day for the next eight-and-a-half weeks will tire us and test us and tear us and we will feel completely doomed at one point or another. But if we keep it vital, if we keep these characters as alive as they once were, in ways that still are, in a company that will ever strive to be, we'll be doomed in the most wonderful, wonderful of ways.
Here goes nothing.
by Joey Batey
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