GBBO*: An Extra Slice

Lots has been happening recently so in keeping with a certain popular TV programme of the moment let’s have an additional little something to keep us going. This guest post comes to you courtesy of colleague and Tower director, David Taylor, who recently attended a Directors’ Day in Stratford-upon-Avon to set the ball rolling on the first stages of our involvement with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Play For The Nation project. Over to you, David!

Last Saturday directors of amateur groups from around the country were invited to Stratford-upon-Avon to learn more about the Dream 16 project. All companies were represented with people coming from as far afield as Belfast, Glasgow and Truro.

Directors' Day in Stratford upon Avon
Directors’ Day in Stratford upon Avon

The event took place at the RSC’s rehearsal room – a series of unprepossessing industrial units next to a VW showroom. The room itself was nice enough with the floor marked out to the dimensions of the Swan stage.  After coffee and introductions it was down to business with much information to be absorbed about the logistics of mounting such an ambitious project. The show will travel to 13 venues and alongside the 18 professional actors there will be 84 amateur actors and 580 children. The set has to fit through the smallest of the scene dock doors at the various venues and a whole wardrobe full of costumes made to fit all shapes and sizes. Throughout the autumn there will be tasks to be carried out together with training sessions aimed at improving our voice, movement and acting skills. Rehearsals proper start in early January.

Erica Whyman, the project director, spoke enthusiastically and intelligently about the play and gave us some hints as to the look and feel of the production.  It was clear that her style is a collaborative one and we will be required to explore many options in the development of the characters during rehearsals. Erica, together with her associate directors Kim and Sophie, directed actors from the two local Stratford teams in a scene from the play and we saw them getting the best out of the actors with the use of perceptive questioning and encouragement.

Directors' Day - Mastering the laptops
Directors’ Day – Mastering the laptops

Laptops ready loaded with relevant programmes were issued because many of the rehearsals will take place through live streaming from around the country and this equipment will be invaluable in keeping in touch with the production team and watching other groups in rehearsal.

After a short break it was off to the Swan for a performance of Ben Jonson’s Volpone. It had a terrific central performance by Henry Goodman and I was able to tell him so on the train back to London when we shared a carriage. The Trevor Nunn production had great fun with a modern setting – after all the love of money is an ever topical theme but some of us felt that overall the casting was rather uneven. Not having been to Stratford since the reconstructions, I was excited to see the RSC performing on home ground and being used to theatre-going in London it is a strange feeling to come out of the theatre into a calm and empty Stratford night. I went back to the hotel and enjoyed a glass of wine (or two) with the directors from Newcastle. And so to bed.

Altogether an exciting and stimulating day. The reality of it all has kicked in and the journey begins!

Many thanks for that, David. It sounds like a great experience and I’ll be looking to benefit from what you learned from your time in Stratford. I hope you got Henry Goodman’s autograph or at least a selfie!

* Get Bottom’s Blog Online

GBBO*: An Extra Slice

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