Living The Dream: The Epilogue

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Curtain call     Photo by Steve Gray

(Other images in this blog post are backstage photos taken by Ruth Anthony on our final day at the Barbican)

No epilogue, I pray you, for your play needs no excuse.

Duke Theseus’s words at the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are an attempt to head Bottom off at the pass before he starts yet another self-indulgent speech. At the risk of becoming over identified with the character I think an epilogue is in order and even Shakespeare himself ignores his character’s own advice by giving a closing speech to Puck. An epilogue tends to be something solemn and with a sense of finality about it neither of which I want to particularly want to bring to bear on the project A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For The Nation because a) it has never been solemn (though it has been serious) and b) because it isn’t actually over yet.

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That said I cannot let this moment pass without reflecting on the aftermath of such an intense week as detailed in my previous half dozen posts. The “comedown” or “post show blues” is I am afraid an inevitable consequence of the highs of the shows themselves. One of the benefits that the Tower Dreamteam has had is numbering a doctor among its makeup. Maria (Quince) tells me that the effects of massive amounts of adrenaline pumping through the body is bound to have repercussions – for every action there is a reaction type of thing (just about as far as my understanding of physics stretches). Therefore tiredness combined with inability to sleep, hunger accompanied by little desire to eat and lack of concentration interspersed with moments of extreme lucidity are all to be expected. The comedown after a more run of the mill show is usually intense so multiply that by about 250 and you’ll understand where I’m coming from. I’m indebted to OnStage website editor Chris Petersen’s article Post Show Blues and how to cure them for putting things in a bit more perspective. In particular I’m reassured that having these feelings is as a direct result of enjoying the show and the company of my fellows quite so much; as he says it’s better to feel like this than being glad the whole thing is over. As it is, at least this is another shared experience – both Barry (Bradford) and Lisa (Canterbury) warned me about the aftershock last week and I’ve already forewarned Steve (Cardiff). I found writing the last blog post quite cathartic and have been touched by some of the messages of support received from others. The overwhelmingly positive reviews have also been reassuring that the team was up to the mark. Most of these reviews have been of the online blog review type and so provide a real insight into the experience of paying audience members – it’s great to see that they had such a good time.

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So gradually things are getting back to “normal” and the memories that abide remain exceptionally happy ones. My immediate colleagues were great to be with, the pros and musicians were warm and collaborative, the RSC directors, stage management and backstage staff were towers of strength, the pupils of Beam and Eastbury were a joy to work with, the Barbican was awesome to play and very welcoming to us and the audiences were just amazing. As a bonus I’m pleased to have been able to share the events of last week with so many blog readers old and new, whether they could make it to the show or not.

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It’s been a tonic to see that the show has successfully rolled on to Cardiff and is hotly anticipated in Belfast. Also it won’t be long before we start gearing up again for our encore performances at Stratford upon Avon in July (11th and 12th if you’re passing by that way). Beyond that I’ve still got the treat of watching the TV programmes “The Best Bottoms In The Land” to come – I felt it would be best to put some space between production week and viewing these. All the indications from my colleagues across the country are that here is something else of which we can all feel proud. Above all there is the very comforting feeling that we have conquered a mountain (of sorts) and that all our lives have been enriched by it.

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So no sombre epilogue here. Though Theseus denies Bottom the chance to make another speech he does encourage him and the other Mechanicals to perform the Bergomask – a dance of celebration and release – and it is that sense of joy which I would like to hold on to. To finish with another quote, this time from one of our reviews:

This RSC Dream gets the one absolutely essential thing about the play absolutely right – it quickly establishes and never forgets that this is a happy, joyous, celebratory and just plain fun play. (Theatreguidelondon.co.uk)

To read further reviews of Tower Theatre at the Barbican please click here


This week the  production is  at the New Theatre in Cardiff– click on the image below to reveal full details.

Cardiff

Living The Dream: The Epilogue

Living The Dream: Act 4

D16 Call Friday 20th May

I felt like I had jet lag, except I hadn’t actually been anywhere. Barry had warned me the previous day that I might experience a downturn in energy on the Friday of performance week – not because there was so much going on but, perhaps a little strangely, the reverse. Having the matinee the previous day had told my brain that meant the day was Saturday and that, therefore, Friday was Sunday – except it wasn’t. With all other normal patterns disrupted I was feeling generally disoriented and as though things were starting to unravel. Writing this blog proved a boon at this point as it gave a point of focus- especially remembering the ecstatic reception the show had received the previous day.

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Beam Primary take to the stage to rehearse

Our call time was relatively late – not until 4.30 pm in fact when it was time to run in our third and final set of fairies – pupils from Beam Primary School. Catherine, their teacher, was sitting in the auditorium looking tired but beaming with pride at what her youngsters were now experiencing; hats off to all the teachers across the nation who have devoted so much time and energy to this project. The Tower Dreamteam joined them and the pros onstage to run the Bergomask and it was great to nail this section first time – children included.

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Kim chooses her fairy scarf

The next hour or so was divided between our by now customary warm up sessions with Laura (big pumpkin/tiny prune) Harding and Tarek (Many men) Merchant, getting some food in the Barbican green room, presenting some beautiful hand made angora scarves to our wonderful RSC directors and running the Twitter “take over” which Adam and I had volunteered for. This latter meant coming up with regular tweets from backstage to interest and edify the Twitterati and give a glimpse into backstage life for those unfortunate enough not to be able to get to the show itself. To see the takeover in full please click here.

Some of our Twitter take over pics

There was a lot of extra activity on the RSC Twitter account this particular day for it was to be this evening that the “Best Bottoms In The Land” TV programmes were scheduled to be transmitted. These were the regionally based documentaries made by the BBC which followed the process from inception to completion. Our programme had only finished filming on Tuesday (first night) so Andy and his team had had to finish the edit pretty quickly. I can’t say too much more about the programme at this point because I have yet to see it and don’t intend to view it until our run of shows has finished.  I hope the rest of the teams around the country enjoyed their versions and that it provided a suitable souvenir of the project. As the start time of the show and the TV programme was the same I reflected at curtain up that there can’t be many people I know who can say they appeared on stage at the Barbican with the RSC and on primetime BBC1 television at the same time. Phenomenal.

Stage and TV

If I’m being strictly honest, and I think I should be, I felt my own performance was a little sluggish. Timing wasn’t quite right, focus wasn’t always as tight as it might have been and I generally felt somewhat off centre. At one stage I took myself into a corner and gave myself a good pep talk but perhaps I was fooling myself to think I might scale the heights of the previous day. Dresser Jen did more than she perhaps realised in bolstering confidence and I was particularly grateful for Tom’s calm and Adam’s ever cheerful demeanour and words of encouragement. The worst moment was when my brain started to tell me that I’d begun the wrong speech; I hadn’t (fortunately) but at times like this – and they do occur to most actors at some point – you just hope the stage floor will open up and swallow you. Now I don’t want to overdo the angst and these were, of course, tiny moments, in an otherwise sound evening. Fortunately, my immediate colleagues were holding things together very well so there was still plenty to enjoy and savour and, what’s most important, the audience were having a great time.

As there has been at every performance there were friends old (in both senses) and new and even complete strangers waiting to offer their congratulations at the stage door. The evening ended with a chat with a lady and three young boys who had come to see the show because the lads were appearing in their school’s version of the Dream soon. They had clearly enjoyed every minute of what they had seen and taken inspiration from what we had done; that’s what it’s really all about! So to Puck, Hermia and Starveling (sorry, didn’t get your real names) best wishes with your performance and if you get even ten percent of the joy we’ve had out of doing this play you’ll be very fortunate indeed.


This week the  production is  at the Barbican in London– click on the image below to reveal full details.

London

Evenings at 7.30 Tuesday 17th – Saturday 21st May

Matinées at 1.00 Thursday May 19th & Saturday May 21st

The Tower Theatre performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Barbican

Living The Dream: Act 4