(This blog post began life as part of the Tower Theatre Company newsletter and was first published in February 2015)
Is all our company here? Peter Quince’s opening words from Act 1, Scene 2 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream were very apt. Indeed we were; taking up the Royal Shakespeare Company’s challenge of providing a team of rude mechanicals for a touring production to be mounted in 2016.
The overall title of the project is A Play For The Nation and the RSC intends to work with a local amateur theatre company in each city or town the production visits. The amateurs will play the roles of the mechanicals and they will also be invited to perform at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon at the end of the tour. How exciting is that! Well, I for one feel very excited and indeed, having been chosen to give my Bottom (let’s get the obvious jokes out of the way) very honoured.
So there we were, as in the play itself, gathering at the house of our director (David Taylor) to discuss our approach and begin to establish characters. The other lucky participants are Adam Moulder (Flute), Peta Barker (Snug), Al Freeman (Snout), Tom Tillery (Starveling) and Maria Waters (Quince). First things first – read through all the scenes the mechanicals appear in. Discuss various approaches, contemplate the potential opposition – we’re up against other London amateur theatre groups – then concentrate on Act 1, Scene 2. We’ve been given this scene to prepare for the first workshop/audition coming up on February 21/22 at the London partner theatre – no less than the Barbican! Boosted by pizza and beverages (thanks David) in no time at all we’re on our feet and thinking about action and reaction, lines and language, movement and motivation.
The RSC are imposing no restrictions on casting or approach so we try a variety of lines of attack. At one point we even have a go at each other’s lines to develop an overall understanding of the scene. We’re certainly getting somewhere – even if we’re not totally sure yet where that somewhere is.
A couple of hours pass all too quickly and it’s time to part company and contemplate what we have learned; in my case it’s that Bottom has too much (far, far too much) to say for himself! Our next (and indeed) final rehearsal before the workshop weekend is identified and set – being the depths of February thank goodness it’s not ‘in the palace wood, a mile without the town, by moonlight’!