During the Covid-19 pandemic, we opened the virtual doors to our rehearsal rooms so audiences could see the work behind our live performances.
With theatres closed for over a year, we had to look for different ways to bring our work to audiences. In 2021, Directors Gregory Doran and Owen Horsley took the brave step of inviting viewers into the rehearsal room of Henry VI Part 1, giving them access to livestreams of actor warm-ups, scene rehearsals and Green Room conversations, culminating in a live online run through of the full play from the Ashcroft Room in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
This is where theatre begins.
How the project worked
During the three-week rehearsal period, audiences were invited to watch three online sessions a day.
- Warm ups: Each morning, a member of the acting or creative team took the company through a range of activities to help them limber up for the day's rehearsing. Viewers were invited to join in as the company warmed up their bodies, voices and minds using popular theatre techniques and games.
- Lunchtime rehearsals: These in-depth sessions saw the acting company grapple with the text of the play and work out how to get it onto its feet. Some rehearsals focused on individual scenes, while others looked at fight choreography, exploring the language, and working within the Covid-19 protocols.
- Green Room chats: At the end of the day, members of the company came together to talk through the rehearsal process and answer questions from the public. We also had visitors from outside the acting company, including our Stage Management team, creative team members, and some of the musicians who worked on the project.
For viewers who wanted even more information, there were expert talks from Professor Stuart Hampton-Reeves of the University of Warwick, historian Lauren Johnson and Harvard University Professor Stephen Greenblatt. Talking to our Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, the experts spoke in-depth about the stage history of the Henry VI plays, the real life of Henry VI, and the relevance of the plays to our contemporary world, respectively.
Once rehearsals were complete, the company ran through the full production, with audiences tuning in to see the culmination of everyone's work.
Jamie Ballard - Talbot
Michael Balogun - York
James Cooney - Alencon
Marty Cruickshank - Reignier
Mariah Gale - Margaret
Mark Hadfield - Winchester
Amanda Harris - Exeter
Oliver Johnstone - Suffolk
Mimî M Khayisa - Somerset
Anna Leong Brophy - Burgundy
Christopher Middleton - Gloucester
Lily Nichol - Joan
Mark Quartley - Henry VI
Bridgitta Roy - Warwick
Liyah Summers - Bastard
Jamie Wilkes - Charles, the Dauphin
Directors - Gregory Doran and Owen Horsley
Music - Paul Englishby
Movement - Polly Bennett
Fights - Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown