The emotional effects of a big experience shouldn’t be underestimated especially when you are recalling events through the written word. Thus I finished yesterday’s post in a bit of an emotional state. Fortunately the mood shifted fairly rapidly when David sent me some photos among which was an “interesting” snap of me in a onsie worn as part of the Pyramus outfit. As the pose struck might loosely be termed “provocative” I won’t inflict it on you – you might have recently eaten. My other discovery of the morning was that I had, apparently, broken Pyramus’ sword onstage in full view. I had absolutely zero recall of this and nobody had said anything after the show. It only came to light when I got a friend’s message asking how the breakage had been stage managed.
So it was off to the Barbican late in the morning wondering how I was going to explain myself and whether a suitable substitute was available. The Dreamteam gathered first for notes with AD Kim which, as we have come to expect were both encouraging but also thorough. For me I needed to tighten some cues and take a little more time with some other aspects. I was reminded to give the audience credit for being able to work some things out for themselves and get more enjoyment out of it whilst doing so. No mention of the sword so I bit the bullet and asked. As it turned out I was in the clear – it had actually been broken completely accidentally and not even by me. Stage management had with customary efficiency effected a repair. Phew! They were about to let me loose on the Barbican stage again after all. The professional cast had arrived by this point and were also given notes. I was struck that they were asked for their reactions to the first night performance (actually for them the 84th) rather than the other way round. Most of their concerns centred round the way they were playing the “new space”.
We were then introduced to the rather wonderful Caroline Ryan who was to be the interpreter at the British Sign Language performance that evening. I’m ashamed to say I thought this would mean someone standing at the side of the stage and being rather distracting but this was to be a semi integrated performance with Caroline actually dressed as a character (an extra fairy) and joining the action to explain the story and sign the dialogue. Hence we had another technical rehearsal to ensure that everything would run smoothly and so that Caroline could work out where she was going to be at any given point. She had already sat in the audience the previous night and had carried out similar interpretation duties at other venues on the tour so had a pretty good idea of what was what. Here you can see Caroline at work (NB – The video shows our colleagues from the Bear Pit in Stratford upon Avon)
This rehearsal lasted well into the afternoon but at least we had a chance to run through our scenes and put into practice the notes we had been given earlier. This was followed by the arrival of a new group of children from Eastbury school who needed to be drilled into the show. This gave us some time out but before the day ended everyone joined together to practice the Bergomask. Suddenly it was 5.00 pm; being inside a theatre by definition means you don’t have a view of the outside world and time can have a tendency to run away. With consummate timing our official performance photographs became available (they have to be sanctioned by Erica/RSC first) and so over supper we were able to browse through these making suitably ribald comments.
Photos by Topher McGrillis © RSC
A physical warm up with Laura (H) and a vocal warm up with Tarek told us that the performance was drawing near so time to get into costume and await “beginners”. The mood in the dressing room was a little more tranquil than the previous evening partly because we no longer had the BBC with us filming and partly because we’d come through largely unscathed the night before. That said there was still an air of anticipation.
Shortly after the performance begins Lucy appears to give us the “Puck report”. This is handy as it prewarns us about audience numbers and what we might need to do to draw the spectators in. If audience numbers were a little down on the previous evening it hardly showed – once again the warmth and the rapport came rolling back to us behind the footlights (and in this, albeit modern, production there are actual footlights). Our scenes felt strong and secure bolstered by the earlier notes and, as during the day, time seemed to whizz by. Dresser Jen and I had now got the costume changes down to a fine art. There’s an extraordinary moment when I need to get the ass head on and I have no less than three people “prepping” me while I just stand there and let it all happen. No scrambling around sorting yourself out as in amdram land and good practice for the way Bottom is pampered after the interval.
It was fascinating working with Caroline as part of the cast and I was in awe of her energy – she was, after all, onstage the whole time. I barely noticed she was there except as another character in the play; a tribute to her thorough professionalism and she deservedly received a huge round of applause at the end. This is yet another aspect of drama work that I could never have imagined being involved in without being part of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For The Nation – the gift that keeps on giving.
Post show I met up with Barry, my Bradford opposite number, who had travelled up to London to see the show. We’d arranged that he would stay with me for the night before heading back north the following day so it was great to compare notes and swap anecdotes of our experiences (a little too) late into the night. As his group have already had their turn it was also helpful to get his experience of the need to pace yourself and get some hints of what was still to come. One of the huge bonuses of the whole project has been getting to know like minded people around the country; what a truly phenomenal experience this is.
So that’s about it for Wednesday except to say that I had been following the traffic to the blog off and on through the day and was amazed to find that the number of views had shot up exponentially. It was very gratifying to see how many people were accessing the site and finding out what we were up to – you’re adding to that number right now – so thanks, folks, for taking an interest and hopefully it’s provided a bit of a window into Tower Dreamteam’s remarkable experience if you haven’t been able to get to a performance. There’s still time!
This week the production is at the Barbican in London– click on the image below to reveal full details.
Evenings at 7.30 Tuesday 17th – Saturday 21st May
Matinées at 1.00 Thursday May 19th & Saturday May 21st