Al and I left Eastbourne bright and early on the Sunday morning. 'OM 2' (the Cuckoo's wonder touring car, which should have packed up and died long ago) sat ready and raring for the first journey of the tour and we packed her up with a fleet's worth of luggage.
Cuckoo stopped at a garage to get some petrol, but more importantly, his first 'V' drink in six weeks. For those of you that don't know - and I wouldn't blame you - 'V' is an energy drink that is kept in business by one, Alastair Whatley. It is his oxygen; the starch in his shirt and the lead in his pencil. So to speak...
Our destination was Basingstoke, on a trip to see some very dear friends.
I first met Guy and Bridget Mainwaring-Burton on the Journey's End tour, whilst working with their son, Hubert (now enrolled at her majesties drama school) who was ASM with us at the time. We were lucky enough to stay at their beautiful home over the course of the tour and have since revisited over the years. They are without a doubt the most generous hosts I've ever met and two of the kindest people too, all qualities, I may add that are reflected in their Son, who once finishing his training will be an acting force to be reckoned with.
|Cuckoo, Guy and Hubert|
Guy has also recently joined the company as an Executive Producer and Head of Development (Bridget secretly working alongside him). Al and he discussed the latest strand of the Company's endeavours, the 'Friends of the Original Theatre'.
The service ranges anything from annual tickets to private dinners so if you're interested, please get in touch Guy at firstname.lastname@example.org
When they had finished talking numbers and plans, Al showed me the blog activity that we'd had so far. I was quite astonished at the size of the follower base and how far the audience stretches; The UK, USA, Jersey, Ireland, France, Australia, Germany, Russia, Canada and New Zealand.
A very big hello to you all and thanks for reading!
In the late afternoon, Guy, Al, Hubert and I played boules and later in the evening, Bridget cooked us the most amazing meal. We drank wine, reminisced and caught up on the past year since we saw each other last.
I don't think I can think of many better ways to spend a Sunday.
Monday morning, Cuckoo arrived downstairs quarter of an hour late looking even more goggle-eyed than usual and ushered me out of the house before I'd taken a sip of my tea.
We talked on the way to South Hill Park Arts Centre, of character ideas and where we both thought Andrew currently sat - the things that worked and those that needed tweaking. Thankfully we seem to be on the same page - his voice needs heightening and his posture, straightened - but those are both things that shouldn't be too difficult to amend.
When we arrived in Bracknell, it felt as if I had never left. Amazing really when I think that it's been over a year since I was last here but such is the way of life.
We spent the day re-tracking Acts one and two.
At lunch, I left South Hill, to go and find the digs that Ducky and I would be staying in. I was very pleasantly surprised and Joanne and Lee (the landlords) made us feel instantly welcomed.
Working later into the afternoon, things became tense in rehearsals. Everyone started to give acting suggestions to one another, but, in honesty, it was probably a case of too many cooks.
In the evening - wanting to release our various tensions - Ducky, Arthur and I, met at the Park's Atrium Bar, for a few bottles of wine and dinner. We talked about the trials and tribulations of producing and directing a show. Arthur enlightened us with his favourite note, which he used to give to his casts, "Go on, get on with it and get off. But mostly, get off."
The beauty of Bostrom.
On Tuesday, we started with the dreaded 'Box Tree' scene. It actually went a lot better than I'd feared it would. We now have the most conclusive set of choreographed movements that we've had so far, so can now progress with those to secure the scene in its entirety. The next thing that we have to polish is marrying the movement with the intentions. Acting as opposed to doing.
The rest of the day, we rehearsed the third act. It wasn't easy. Some scenes, we'd only rehearsed once before, so it didn't come as a surprise that we had a fair amount of work to do. At times, things went very slowly. At times, things were very pressured. The thing that got us through the day, was that we knew that we had got a mountain of work done. We always knew that our time on Twelfth Night would be tight, but the thing that pushes past that obstacle, is remembering the strength of the production and cast.
Allison (our fight director) was also back with us to work on the problem pieces of the play. I don't remember being so useless at stage combat. In fact, I remember being pretty good at stage combat; since starting this job, I'm not so sure any more! We got through all the pieces in the end, but I was a shell of the man I was before I started the session.
|Craig running lines|
It was another tough day, and one that needed a session of unwinding. Leo, Shiv, Ducky and myself had a drink in the Bar and then (with Cuckoo joining us) went to the vaguely local cafe Rouge for a great meal and drinks.
We began Wednesday an awful lot calmer. Everyone came in feeling the benefits of having been well rested. All but Shiv and Ducky who were both feeling the effects of the wine of the night before. We rehearsed Act III Scenes I and II.
It all went rather smoothly which was a nice change from yesterday. We stopped and started at the tricky points, but used the time as we would do an ordinary rehearsal. We then ran the act, which again seemed to go quite fluidly. Rachel later commented to me how strange she felt at the end of it, "Doing the scenes on the stage like this, without costumes and lighting, reminds me of an actors nightmare."
Al gave us notes when we'd finished and reiterated just how much good work we've done. "The progress may feel slow and days long, but we are getting there and there is some lovely moments coming out. We have an amazing company here and I need you all to remember that and trust one another. Listen and be bold."
|We're missing C and A|
The costumes for the show are starting to be fitted too. Seb has a wonderful Indian frock for Sir Toby and Leo is decked out in a timeless end-of-the-pier medley.
I'm yet to see my Sir Andrew, as it's being couriered from the RSC's costume vaults. I have seen pictures though; it's yellow, checked and double-breasted. Perfect.
The wig is another thing that I haven't seen yet. He is described as having hair like 'flax on a distaff', which basically means, yellow and straight. Mid-way through typing this sentence, Jo (Hair and Make-up) walked into the dressing room and presented me with the wig. It very close to what Alastair and I had had in mind, a little glossy though, which we can hopefully do something with. It's also a little bit too long, so Jo is on the case to order in a replacement that should arrive tomorrow.
In the meantime I watched - with great amusement - Chris and Pete trying out different formulas to tie up Arthur as Malvolio in the St Topaz scene. Either that or they were both just reliving a wonderful weekend away together.
We worked our way through the Fourth Act, but didn't run it like the others as we started to run out of time and badly wanted to see our way through to the end of the play. Act V was polished off quite nicely. Again, we didn't get a chance to run it all through in one, but we did some really nice, thorough work and worked far more productively in answering questions than forcing ourselves through the act quickly, just in order to run it.
Ducky and I hung about after we were broken for me to have my hair cut by Jo and ate our dinner (remember - we're not aloud to cook in our digs...). We make-shifted a little table into a dining spot in the upstairs of the theatre foyer and actually had a nice improvised meal, followed by a film back at the digs to finish off the day.
Our call for Thursday was later than expected, so we took advantage and made sure we were well rested for what would surely be a very busy few days ahead of us.
On personal reflection, it's so easy to become stressed, negative and frustrated when things, professionally fail to go the way we'd hoped. In the case of Twelfth Night, we don't have the time that we would have liked to rehearse. Unfortunately that is just the way it has to be. Rather than wallow in pessimism, why not blossom in the challenge of it?
To quote DOIG, a play that I premiered in a couple of years ago, "suck in the positivism".
Thursday was the beginning of our tech session. It was a tech. A classic tech. Nothing really to be said other than that. Slow at times, fast at others.
Strangely, I like them though. Getting a chance to repeat bits over and over gets it into your body.
The show is looking very pretty too.
Jo has found another wig - one with real hair. I'm the cat that got the cream, As far as I'm concerned, Andrew is perfect now. Perfect. Reviewers may disagree, but all criticisms will now have to be screened by the wig.
The wig is God.
I = Wig.
In fact, just chuck the wig and costume onstage and I'll do the lines in the wings.
We had a well-deserved drink in the evening.
I had a couple of rounds of toast when I got back to my digs.
I'm so rock'n'roll.
On Friday I woke late and took full advantage of our inclusive breakfast and had everything that I could cram onto a plate.
When I collected all my things together from my room, to head in for the second day of tech, I heard a low moan coming from Ducky's bedroom. She was not well. A migraine that had plagued her from the previous day had not shifted and she felt even worse. After talking to Pete, she was told not to come in until 3:00pm, giving her time to hopefully recover a little. She did... A bit.
We all plodded our way through the rest of the tech. The 'trucks' that are used and moved about the stage (to depict the different locations) were noticed as definitely being the most time-sapping obstacle, but - when combined by Will's projection sequences - are well worth the time spent.
Pam spent the day tweaking and adjusting the various costumes. Most of mine is done now, all bar a little 'bringing in' of the suit that she says she'll be doing later in the evening.
On Saturday Morning, the cast arrived in the green room with a collection of smiling faces ready for our movement session with Lucy Pankhurst. I had arrived a little later than everyone else and couldn't for the life of me work out why everyone was grinning so. Arthur broke the news, "Lucy is on time and ready to rehearse, but she happens to be in Eastbourne."
Poor, poor, poor, poor, poor, poor Lucy. Darling, you were missed and we hope that you got your way back home ok.
So, with Lucy unattainable, Alastair stepped in (...) to fill the gap and tweak the various movement pieces. The opening sequence, in which we all enter the stage and strip it of strewn suitcases and cloths, proved most taxing. It's unbelievable how maths dumbfounds actors. There were 18 cases, in the sequence, we took them all off, "OK, lets reset guys, everything back where you took it from." Only 15 cases returned.
After the movement session, we broke for lunch. I volunteered my services to help re-mark the stage with Jess and Garreth, for the looming Dress Rehearsal. We were going to need all the help we could get and as Al put it, "Be realistic, set your hopes low - this is the first Dress and not only that, the first time that we've run the play through in its entirety."
So we did.
We got into costume, preset our props and quick-change outfits and stood at the ready for the gun to fire.
Well, things definitely did go wrong (particularly in the second half) and I cannot speak of our acting merits, but... We got through it!!!
Not only did we get through it, but also we remembered nearly all of the changes that we'd done just the day before. Not only did we get through it, but each half ran at a staggeringly modest 1:10 minutes???!!! None of us could quite believe that.
Moral levels were at a high and we broke for dinner.
When we returned (still amazed by the success of the run) the evening dress rehearsal had been scrapped, in replace of a cue to cue of the second half, followed by a run of the second half of the show.
|Pam and Alan our un-sung heros|
The cue to cue was not fun. We seemed to forget all of the truck movements that we'd previously rehearsed and along with voices piling up on top of one another, things ground to a halt. Everyone (including and especially myself) got very tense, tetchy and above all, tired. It's been a long week and things certainly got on top of us.
As we ran out of time, for a full run of the second half, we scaled down our ambitions to a run of Act 3 Scene 4 - the Fourth Act.
By the end - and I think I can speak on behalf of everyone - we were fucking knackered.
Those of us that weren't venturing home for the weekend decided to stay in the Atrium Bar until they kicked us out and gave ourselves a very big pat on the back after what has been a very big and very busy week.