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D16 Call Tuesday 12th July

How can you sum up an experience like this? Although it was intention to try and do so in this post I really don’t think I can at the moment, especially as I’ve been struggling with it for over 36 hours and have had to publish a stopgap post in between. I think there needs to be a little distance in place first in order to fully appreciate the sheer scale of what we have been involved with and what we have achieved. Best, perhaps, to stick to an account of our last day and come back to an overview later. I say this simply so that you don’t regard what follows as a somewhat workmanlike (Mechanical!) narrative but I think if I take any other tack it will be a long while before this piece gets written. In reality, if this were being composed with pen/quill and ink the latter would be rather blotchy and probably running down the page by now. So … to the narrative

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The Tower Dreamteam with AD Kim

In theory we had a quiet time in store for us on our last day on A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For The Nation. There were no more rehearsals and it was only necessary to turn up at the theatre mid afternoon, get some notes and give our final performance. That was the theory. In reality the nervous energy and adrenaline were still in the ascendant and relaxing with the paper or a good book just wasn’t going to happen. I felt absolutely

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Pyramus & Thisbe twitter away

ravenous so after a very hearty breakfast I tried to focus by settling down to write the previous day’s blog post and started to organise some of the many (many many) photos we have acquired. Adam and I were also attempting another Twitter takeover as we had at the Barbican – this time as a Pyramus and Thisbe double act (see here). And if that wasn’t enough to be going on with the Tower Dreamteam also took the opportunity to get some important videoing done (more of this in a later post).

And then a very nice interlude. Adam and I had been invited by the RSC’s Education Department to join a small group taking part in a Q and A session about the production at King Edward VI School; this is sometimes referred to as “Shakespeare’s School” as it is almost certain that he attended there. Lucy (Puck), Mercy (Hermia) and Sophie (AD) also came along. The boys from Year 7 had seen the play the previous week and had obviously given a lot of thought to their questions.

They wanted to know how the project  worked, what our favourite moments were, were there any other Shakespearean parts that we would like to play (I said Falstaff if there are any casting directors reading this), how we learned lines and how we had all got into acting. There was a good deal of laughter as we regaled the boys with anecdotes of our time with the RSC though I’m not sure Adam should have “treated” them to a picture of me in my Pyramus “onesie”. That must have broken some law or other…or at the very least a school rule. The boys are, apparently, working on their own production of the play so hopefully what we had to tell them will be of practical use. I wonder if the youngsters are really aware of just how lucky they are to have the RSC literally just down the road from their school and what a wonderful resource they have at their disposal.

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Notes with Kim

Next it was time for our final set of notes with AD Kim – as ever so kind, so thoughtful, so encouraging. It’s fascinating that even at this (very) late stage there was a striving for absolute perfection, a desire to enhance the audience experience (and our own) just that little bit more. I was pleased to have already spotted a number of the points Kim raised about my own performance and resolved to put them into practice that very evening – a distinct case of now or never.

 

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David’s picture      Composite of photos by Topher McGrillis RSC

This session finished with a special little presentation. I think we were all conscious as a group that there we were every night up on stage, getting all the plaudits and listening to the thunderous applause and that really there should have been a seventh member of the Tower team up there with us. David, our director, did such a massively important job in getting us organised and into the project in the first place. It can’t have been easy spending eighteen months of your life “herding cats” (it has to be said that we were, sometimes, a somewhat unruly bunch) and we didn’t want the moment to pass without some recognition. So we’d organised a framed photo collage of ourselves to remind David of what a special thing he had done for all of us, for the Tower company and for the am dram world in general. He’s a project manager by profession and I hope he will look back on this experience as one of his greatest achievements – he certainly should do so.

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After a short supper break in the theatre’s Green Room café (sorry folks, only available to members of the RSC workforce) it was on to our final warm up sessions. The pro cast had held a farewell party the previous evening and there were plenty of ribald references to a “paper plate awards ceremony” which had formed part of proceedings. Then it was time for another piece of RSC tradition to be fulfilled. The pass at the back of the stage (the walkway from one side of the stage to the other) looks like a massive wall of graffiti but when you look more closely it contains the signatures of all the actors who have appeared at the theatre. In common with colleagues in all the other amateur groups we were invited to leave our monikers, so there we are enshrined for eternity or until they revamp the theatre again, whichever comes first.

And so to the final performance. Horrible word “final” isn’t it? It’s so…well….final, really. But let’s not dwell on the down side. The performance had such drive and energy that it would be quite wrong to emphasise any negatives. There were, thankfully, no wardrobe malfunctions or side trips to The Swan to distract me as on the previous evening and I tried to bear in mind Erica and Michael Corbidge’s injunctions to savour the moment and “juice” the words.

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Thisbe, Wall & Pyramus bring the house down

As I’ve said several times now everything builds to Pyramus and Thisbe and this time round it was really something special. The words came out crisply, the moves were full of dynamic energy and the timing just seemed to hit the sweet spot that’s important for a great comedy moment. The “kiss” through the wall was an absolute riot – if only someone could capture that feeling of unrestrained joy and bottle it they would make a fortune. Minutes later as I lay “dead” on stage hearing Thisbe’s moving rendition of the eulogy over Pyramus’s body I could feel myself welling up which, of course, wouldn’t do at all.  To distract myself I ran through my last line and then stood to deliver it with as much force as I could muster. Then into the dance (fantastic), the group hug (this one was for real – I distinctly heard Maria say “We did it!”) and a race backstage to prepare for the curtain call. This capped everything that had gone before and …..well, as Bottom says when emotions get the better of his thought processes – “No more words!”

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Post warm up/pre show

As on the previous night I can’t really recall much about after the show. There seemed to be a never ending procession of positive comments, backslapping and smiling faces. A huge cheer erupted as I came through the stage door from all the parents waiting to pick up the children. I recall meeting and chatting with some of the incoming Cardiff team though think I just kept repeating how wonderful it all was. I didn’t know whether I was hot or cold, aching or physically alert, wide awake or fast asleep and dreaming. However amongst the melee one last moment of pride and pleasure occurred which is worthy of record. In the Dirty Duck, in the Snug (naturally), was a team photo of us hanging by the fireplace. The other amateur teams have been featuring there throughout the month’s run but for a brief moment it was our turn on this wall of fame just below a picture of a young Hugh Bonneville and just along from the photo of Laurence Olivier. Magic!

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Starry eyed and bleary eyed

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The Bottom’s dropped out…

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OK. So for the second time there’s been a breakdown in getting the blog post about the last night at a venue done and dusted. It’s just too hard to concentrate with all the mixed emotions jangling my nerve endings. Tomorrow….I promise. In the meantime here’s an extremely short piece of video showing us making our debut on the RST stage at Stratford

Also, “all for your delight”, here’s three photos which illustrate Erica’s point about acting sometimes meaning not hanging on to your dignity –

  1. Tom stands outside a somewhat inappropriately named shop in Stratford

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2. Peta and I get caught in the lift at the Barbican past the 90 minute cut off point                        (see here for full explanation of this obscure reference)

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3 Adam shows the world his pants

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(NB: Maria and Al maintained their dignity at all times – ahem!)


The production runs for four more days in Stratford upon Avon. Click on the image below for details

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The Bottom’s dropped out…

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D16 Call Monday 11th July

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Well that was something else, it really was. If I’m being honest I think that after appearing at the Barbican earlier this year I may have been a little blasé about our dates at Stratford. After all we’d proved that we could do it and take an audience with us, hadn’t we? The critical reception had been highly positive and the team had bonded as a real unit, hadn’t they? How could anything possibly surpass that? Well something could and it did. And that was our first night on the RST stage a place of real wonder and enchantment. What a playing space, what a wonderful set up, what a fantastic audience, what an experience.

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The day began at 9.00 with a tour of the building which I found quite confusing simply because there weren’t many windows on the outside world which, personally, I find disorientating. However there were plenty of signs showing where everything was so that would be alright, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it? We were taken to the dressing rooms which were very nicely situated overlooking the River Avon and with a balcony on which to relax.

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Then it was down to the stage to get on with the day’s work with directing supremo Erica. There was masses to do as the thrust staging meant reconfiguring much of what we had been used to. But of course the RSC is a very well-oiled machine and had already put eleven other teams through their paces earlier in the run so all we had to do was listen carefully and put into practice what they had already established would work. There was also the opportunity to do some last minute refining of the way scenes were played which would, inevitably, help to keep the production and our performances sharp and focused.

Next the pro cast started arriving which led to some emotional moments of reunion and there was a new troupe of schoolchildren to welcome – this time from Christ Church Primary. We spent some time on the last ten minutes of the play and I was instantly reminded what a joyous finale it is. A brief break and it was back on stage for our warm up vocal and physical work with the stunningly good Michael Corbidge and Polly Bennett. Eventually the rest of the cast appeared for the full company warm up with exercises from the “old favourites “ box and then it was time to get changed and await the big moment.

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As I had at the Barbican, I felt quite surprisingly relaxed before going on – this turned out to be misplaced. On my second line I went to move forward only to find my ankles hobbled by my workman’s apron which had somehow come adrift and fallen to the ground. Great – my first time on the Stratford stage and I was the victim of a wardrobe malfunction! Nothing daunted I hauled it back into place and went through the rest of the scene with one hand firmly clamped on the offending clothing and hoping that nobody in the 1,000 strong audience had noticed – fat chance! Strangely enough the incident sharpened me up mentally and made my delivery more focused and crisper than it had possibly ever been. I knew I only had two chances at this and wanted to make them count.

However that was not an end to the potential horrors that awaited. There had been a significant number of changes with regards to entrance and exits, particularly for me. After the apron business I didn’t want anything else to go wrong.  So I immediately started to think ahead to where I was next going to appear. Having experienced some disorientation earlier I thought I’d actually better make my way physically to the vom entrance to assure myself I knew where it was and where I would be going twenty minutes hence. There’s a plethora of signs backstage “Stage Left” “Stage Right etc. One pointed to “the Voms” and so I followed the arrows, through a couple of pass doors until I could hear actor’s voices. The problem is they weren’t saying anything I recognised as A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Then I heard the word Mephistopheles….but that’s a character in Dr Faustus…..which the RSC are doing in the Swan Theatre! Somehow I’d wandered into the backstage area of the second RSC stage and was in imminent danger of making an unscheduled appearance in two different productions on the same night. Fortunately I was able to retrace my steps to where I’d started without further incident. When I ‘fessed up later to Erica and Kim, I’m not sure whether they felt like laughing or crying but it did make for another memorable moment in this amazing project.

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Very nearly appeared in this too!

Fortunately, after this, things went an upward curve as I motored through the scenes with Ayesha and the fairies – indeed the bower scene seemed to go down better than ever before. And then of course the comic highlight that is Pyramus and Thisbe which, as we have always found, went down a storm. Erica had made some minor adjustments to the actual playing which helped to build the laughs and the Bergomask was a joy. You can really see everyone in the RST audience (no seat is more than 15 metres from the playing area) and it was a real thrill to see the looks of pleasure on so many smiling faces.

The aftershow was a bit of a whirl with a drinks reception in the Swan bar. A number of old and dear friends had travelled to Stratford and I was touched by their enthusiasm and positive comments. Leanne from the Barbican had come up to see the show so it was lovely to see her again. Sam Redford’s father, himself a professional actor, paid us some very sincere compliments. Producers Ian and Claire were full of justified pride at the theatrical coup they had pulled off. To be honest it all became a bit too much and I had to step aside for a few minutes to regain my composure.

So one more show to go. One more last thrilling moment before it’s finally time to wake up. Let’s make it the best Dream ever!

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                     The Tower Theatre performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company                                at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon

Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th July at 7.15

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Methinks once more

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Now that’s a year which everyone of a certain age tends to remember as rather momentous. The BBC first broadcast in colour, the first credit card was launched in the UK, the Aberfan disaster happened, Henry Cooper managed the seemingly impossible by flooring Muhammud Ali and, of course, England won the World Cup (those were the days). I remember 1966 for another particular  reason – it was the year I took my first steps on the amateur stage at a local church hall with a group called the St Mary’s Players. It was in a somewhat creaky old farce called Caught Napping by Geoffrey Lumsden who later regularly appeared in Dad’s Army as Mainwaring’s rival Captain Square. By a strange quirk of fate he also played Egeus in a 1981 TV version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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I can’t really recall much about Caught Napping but according to www.doollee.com/ it is set in a boys’ school at the beginning of the Easter holidays, when all the pupils should have departed for the vacation. But one remains behind surreptitiously for the sake of a racehorse called Gwendoline. In no time at all his housemaster’s home is brought to a state of upheaval, made even more complicated by the fact that an effigy of the headmaster has been found in the square, seated in a bath subsequently discovered missing from a bathroom in another teacher, Mr. Potts’s house. Well, it was one of those farces! Somebody definitely lost their trousers en route though I don’t recall any feather dusting maids or doddery vicars; there were, however, definitely french windows! I played the aforementioned schoolboy who rejoiced in the name of Laker-Hopp – not a great stretch of my nascent acting abilities at the time (though I did have to try and be posh). His big scene was to pretend that a rare illness he had contracted caused him to bound about the stage croaking like a Greek frog (brekke-ke-kex, ko-ax, ko-ax!) My only other real memory was thinking I knew what I was doing with stage makeup and producing something that was a cross between  a circus clown and Frankenstein’s Creature. And now here I am 50 years later in Stratford-upon-Avon…and what a way to celebrate that particular anniversary!

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Falcon hotel

As I sit here in the Falcon Hotel (where all the amateurs are being put up) I can reflect on what a long road I’ve travelled. Nearly 150 productions working with groups such as Actors Anonymous, Mark II, most particularly and fondly with the Redbridge Stage Company (the other RSC) and more latterly with Tower Theatre and SEDOS. Highlights abound such as playing Hector in The History Boys, appearing at the Minack as Mr Micawber in David Copperfield, being in the amateur premiere of Noises Off, directing 30 productions including some cracking school plays (Lord of the Flies a particular favourite) and best of all getting to work with scores, even hundreds of other like-minded performers, directors, technicians and theatre folk; it has been a constant thread in my life.

I’m just about to set off for a day’s rehearsal and performance with the world renowned Royal Shakespeare Company on their home territory at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d be writing). It’s only taken 50 years to get here. Has it been worth it? Methinks it most definitely hath!

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I knew that gesture would come in handy again sometime!

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                     The Tower Theatre performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company                                at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon

Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th July at 7.15

Methinks once more

Getting back on the hor.. donkey

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It’s a funny thing that despite many years spent in the world of am dram I have only very rarely been involved with the same play on more than one occasion; in fact looking back I could only find six examples. And in just four instances have I returned to the same role. So it is with no particular form in the field that after a two month lay off I find myself returning to dust off my Bottom (hooray, finally a new angle on an old favourite) and revive our work for the good people and tourists of Stratford-upon-Avon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For The Nation.

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Checking the words?   Photo by Topher McGrillis RSC

Of course, Bottom’s never really taken a back seat (hmm, doesn’t quite work that one) as the production has formed a constant underscoring to the rest of daily life as it made its way to Cardiff, Belfast and then back to Warwickshire. At this point each of the 14 teams around the country went to Stratford to play there for two days. It has been quite exciting to follow the progress of my colleagues in their teams as one by one they pick up the baton in this theatrical relay race and get to perform on the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

A couple of weeks ago we in the Tower team met up for our first rehearsal for some time but, it has to be said, this was more an excuse for a meal (Greek, naturally) than an attempt to get down to serious business. Our Maria was unfortunately poorly but nothing daunted we used what we had learned from the RSC and employed video technology (i.e. Skype) to hook up with her and have a line run. Then during the last

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Tom’s props go back to basics!

week the Tower Team reconvened properly to reacquaint ourselves with characters we are playing and get to grips with their dialogue. The main concern was that, in the interim, the words might have disappeared into the ether but I’m happy to report that our muscle memories do not seem to have become flabby just yet – certainly, after all the earlier work and training that went in, that’s a massive relief. Words, intonations, actions, reactions and interactions seemed to flow with relative ease. It’s all a bit like riding a horse donkey – once done it’s not easily forgotten.

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David puts us through our paces

What will be principally different is the staging. As noted in a recent post the RST has a thrust stage and it’s difficult to recreate this in the small rehearsal space at our disposal – no longer do we have the luxury of being spoiled by the vast expanses available at the RSC rehearsal rooms in Clapham or at the Barbican. However, it’s home and with a bit of imagination we were able to manage. It was strange, now, working without costume and props (or indeed the other actors) but it all seemed to fall back into place reasonably easily. Our understanding is that we will be exploring the stage space throughout most of our Monday rehearsal time in Stratford ahead of our first performance in the evening so we will need to be on the ball in order to get it right just a few hours later.

So now our (second) big moment is nearly upon us as we begin the final section of our awfully big adventure. Time to pack a bag and head off to Stratford trying to fit in and around the finals at Wimbledon and Saint Denis (you’d have thought they would have had more consideration really!) We’ve got our own final to concentrate on; I think it’s going to be somewhat emotional.


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                     The Tower Theatre performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company                                at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon

Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th July at 7.15

Getting back on the hor.. donkey

Make It Two More

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What could be better than a journey to Stratford-upon-Avon to see a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream? How about a journey to Stratford-upon-Avon to see two productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream?  Given that it would soon be our turn to perform on the RSC’s home turf and that we’ve had the best part of six weeks off this seemed an ideal way to reboot and to get prepared for the final push. I wanted to visit one of the midweek matinees in the third or fourth week which meant seeing either the Leeds/Bradford mechanicals or those from Nottingham. Actually I really wanted to see both as I’d so enjoyed what both my fellow Bottoms (Barry and Becky respectively) had brought to the part in rehearsal but a choice, unfortunately, had to be made. Resorting to the well-worn tradition of the coin toss, fate chose Leeds/Bradford. Sorry Nottingham but I promise I did watch your version of the Best Bottoms TV programme and it certainly looked like you were having a ball.

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Six characters (and three directors) in search on an author: the Leeds/Bradford team

The journey up on the train was uneventful and Stratford looked delightful in some rare midsummer sunshine. Shortly after 1pm I took my seat in a packed RST auditorium for the Play For A Nation version. On this occasion I had deliberately chosen to opt for a seat in the Circle as I wanted to get a feel for the view from that position. The RST’s auditorium is steep and it also has a thrust stage (as opposed to the more traditional proscenium stage at the Barbiacan) so we will need to give some thought to our blocking and the techniques which will need to be employed to ensure all members of the audience feel included. I caught the eye of the lady sitting two seats along from me who nodded, leant forward and said “I think you were the Bottom in London”. I was slightly taken aback but said that I indeed was and asked how she knew. It turned out that she had seen the production at the Barbican and was so impressed with it that she thought she would bring her mother to see it at Stratford. There were murmurings/pointings from others around us who had obviously overheard  but at that point Tarek and Lucy appeared on stage, the lights dimmed, the play began and I was able to sink back into anonymity.

The performance was a captioned one; it was quite tempting to keep checking the screen to ensure there had been no paraphrasing but of course there wasn’t. We’re talking about professionals here – even the amateurs are professional in their approach. There was a sense of comfort about the production by now; rather like putting on a favourite cardigan though of course for the majority of the audience this was unfamiliar territory and it was great to hear them react on cue to things that I knew were about to happen (Ben Goffe’s sudden appearance towards the end of Act 1 still brings the house down).

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The RST thrust stage and auditorium (with voms clearly visible)

I made mental notes as the play proceeded as to exits and entrances. A lot of these were along the walkways through the stalls audience known as voms – short for vomitoria, though this has nothing to do with being sick. Everything was just slightly different on the thrust stage itself; the main technique seemed to be to play on a diagonal line – somewhat similar to the positioning used for “in the round” staging. At the same time I enjoyed the performances of my fellow Mechanicals and loved some of the new ideas (to me anyway) they brought to the roles. As we have constantly found there are a number of ways but no single right way to interpret these Shakespearean characters.

At half time I went outside to stretch my legs and had a wander around the grounds and gardens. One thing that caught my eye was the Stratfords of the World Friendship Flowerbed which featured beautiful willow sculptures of Bottom and Titania by artist Emma Stothard.  Suddenly I spotted most of the Canterbury team who had just arrived in order to pick up the baton the following day. They were evidently excited at the prospect of appearing in Stratford (who wouldn’t be?) but just a little bit sad that their Flute (Adam) was going to be unable to perform due to ill health. Though hardly the same, I am sure he was with the team in spirit; get better soon, Adam.

The second half of the play fairly flew by and my resolve to keep a mental note of the exits and entrances rapidly went out of the window as I got caught up in the action of the play generally and the play within a play more specifically. Again some very different choices from our own made for a highly diverting 20 minutes or so (it’s easy to forget how long the last scene actually runs). Then we were into the Bergomask, the children’s big moment in the blessing and finally Puck’s farewell.

I took myself round to the stage door – reminding myself that very soon we would be going through it as performers – where I met up with several of the cast. Ken (the Leeds amateur director) was particularly enlightening as to what to expect during the first day of intense rehearsal and Barry was, as ever, on good form. AD Kim was also there and she gave me a quick briefing on what our team should be doing to prepare for our performances. Despite being the last day of June the weather was quite chilly so a brisk walk beside the Avon was called for and this took me in the right direction for my next destination. My theatrical main course at the RST had been well and truly digested and it was now time for dessert – interestingly this was to be made out of the same ingredients.

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The Other Place studio theatre

I was heading for The Other Place, the RSC’s studio theatre, which was hosting the Playmaking Festival. Schools local and national had put in a bid to perform a specially commissioned half hour Dream and the fifty chosen ( Playmaking Festival Programme) were performing across two weeks. I had booked to see Stratford College’s version (simply because this was conducive to my timings) but there were five different schools performing throughout that day. What a great experience for the young performers and the group I saw were evidently relishing what they were doing.

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Children’s work being displayed in the foyer

They were Post 16 students on a BTEC Performing Arts course and contained some highly promising performers; they’ll have to forgive me if I refer to character rather than actual names but I’ve no way of knowing the latter. Oberon had a very strong speaking voice and Puck was a good foil to his scheming. The four lovers were well cast and the girls, particularly, came across well. Perhaps I’m slightly biased but I was most impressed by the Mechanicals who had a good sense of comedy both verbal and physical and threw themselves into what they were doing with abandon. Top turns came from Bottom and Flute and I was pleased to be able to tell them so afterwards.

I wished I could have stayed to watch the primary school that were to perform in the next slot but time and the rail system wait for no man. So I headed back to the station reflecting that the next time I would be in Stratford it would be to appear at the top Shakespearean venue in the country (the world?). Time to start getting serious again!


The production runs for two more weeks in Stratford upon Avon. Click on the image below for details

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                     The Tower Theatre performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company                                at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon

Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th July at 7.15

Make It Two More

Midsummer @ Midsummer (Part The Second)

It was Midsummer last week so there was a lot going on. As the previous post threatened to grow to unmanageable proportions bisection was the obvious answer. For continuity purposes you might like to read Part The First, first!

Right, all caught up? Then off we go!

Not content with offering 84 adults the opportunity to work on the professional stage through its flagship 2016 production A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For The Nation, the RSC has also been extremely busy ensuring that the next generation engage with this most popular of Shakespeare plays. Regular readers will be aware that bands of fairies up and down the country have been drafted into the production and received excellent coaching from the RSC mentors (click here). The Education Department has also produced first rate supportive materials to encourage teachers to explore the play with their pupils in their own schools (click here).

ClyhVoGWYAANjq8Last week another family oriented experience took place on the banks of the Avon namely the Fairy Portal Camp – click here. This was devised and led by Slung Low theatre company assisted by The School Of Night and RashDash. The camp’s aim was “to reopen the connection between us and the spirit world” and was loosely based on Shakespeare generally and some of the themes in The Dream. During the week visiting participants could simply drop in and take part in free activities including willow-work, poetry classes, improvisation, cooking, costume making, singing, dance classes and writing workshops. Each evening a silent disco ‘fairy rave’ took place around a bonfire, dinner featuring vegan food was served and performances of song, dance, drama and poetry took place under the trees. Celebrations culminated on Saturday 25th  June with the attempt to ‘open the portal’ between the two worlds through a theatrical immersive ceremony of feast, fire and song – complete with mechanical dolphins travelling down the River Avon.

Sounds irresistible and so it proved to one of the Tower team. Having already seen a performance at the RST earlier in the week our trusty man of action Al, (“one Snout by name”) took the long road back to Stratford.

 Dream 2016 producer Ian Wainwright had put out a call for participants for a flash mob which would suddenly appear and do the main production’s Bergomask dance in the Fairy Portal Camp, a collection of tipis up near Holy Trinity Church (presumably so that Will could keep an eye on things). I thought twice about going (and Ian clearly thought I was mad to turn up), but the journey free of weekday traffic early on Saturday was smooth, and I was spurred on by the hope of getting a day ticket for the evening ceremony in order to make a day of it.

 I was first in the queue at the theatre, only to find, when they opened at 10.00am, that the Fairy Portal tickets were down at The Other Place, to which place I duly ran, arriving to find myself about sixth in the queue. Worse was to follow: there were no day tickets at all!  But Matthew from The Other Place took my phone number, and during the morning he called me to let me know that a ticket had become available.

 

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Flashflood

This was as I was coming away from the aforementioned flash mob performance of the Bergomask. This actually got close to being a flash flood as the heavens opened just as Ian was deciding where (and  even if) we should perform. After a few minutes under umbrellas, it got so bad that we had to take refuge in a tipi where we were made welcome until the rain stopped. After that, the Bergomask went ahead led by Glasgow’s Bottom, Martin Turner. The mob was a motley crew, including the Glasgow Citizens Dream team who were

 

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Flashmob

currently playing the Mechanicals, members of the main company including stage management and production, other assorted Mechanicals like me, and director Erica who, fittingly, knew all the dance moves. The opening of the Fairy Portal, later, was a magical evening of storytelling, songs, dancing, eating, and transformation leading up to the final summoning ceremony.

 In between these two events I went to the newly refurbished and reopened Other Place for a coffee and found myself taking the tour of the building (recommended). It was a particular pleasure to see a picture displayed of the first read-through of our Dream production at Clapham; this was outside the top floor rehearsal room on a revolving slide show screen (if you see what I mean). Long may it stay there! And there I was in the picture, and there were all of the Tower cast with the main company. Ian Wainwright had said after that read-through, that there was a big sigh of relief when it became clear that this Dream bird was going to fly. And we are soon flying up to Stratford for our two nights onstage on the 11th and 12th July, not by private helicopter, but hey, are we looking forward to it…………!

 With you on that one, Al and thanks for your report.

Playmaking Festival

As you’ll have gathered by now the RSC is VERY big on A Midsummer Night’s Dream this year and the next addition to the growing roster of events is the Dream Team Playmaking Festival. Last year schools were invited to put together a production of a specially commissioned half hour adaptation of the play and now over 50 schools (and 1,600 children) have been invited to Stratford to give a performance of their version at either The Other Place or The Dell, the open air performance space which had hosted the Fairy Portal Camp. Another great feat of logistics by the backroom boys and girls of the RSC but one that really shows their commitment to inclusivity.  I’ll have more to say on all this in my next post as I’m going to sample one of these performances alongside a visit to the main house production and, now that I’ve seen Al’s report, I’ll hopefully fit in a tour round The Other Place exhibition. It’s all go, isn’t it?

Meanwhile (and talking of impressive logistics) let’s wrap up this post with some of the statistics which have characterised the touring production:

Numbers


The production runs for two more weeks in Stratford upon Avon. Click on the image below for details

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                     The Tower Theatre will be performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company                                at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon

               Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th July at 7.15

Midsummer @ Midsummer (Part The Second)