Taming of the Shrew was always going to be a challenging show to put on but we were fortunate to have a great team to do it with. Our leading protagonists were fantastic, our technical team likewise. The cast were all enthusiastic and involved, and the costumes were amazing.
We were fortunate too, to have a professional actor come and run some acting workshops with us including working on specific scenes.
As a servant (Curtis) I had little to do other than one gloriously slapstick scene however any thoughts of putting my feet up in the dressing room for the rest of the night were scuppered when (to my delight) I was asked to help with scene changes along with another of the servants (Biondello).
The set was minimal, although one set of those of shutters actually opens. My job was largely to move chairs, tables and the occasional signpost (which way is Pisa)?
Thus my evenings were full from walking on in the opening number to the final bows.
Yes, I did say “opening number”. To replace the original framing which sets the piece as a play within a play we opened with “Another Op’nin’ Another Show” from Kiss Me Kate. Thus as a troupe of travelling players we put on a show.
Singing, dancing, acting, crewing; I had a little bit of everything to do and what fun it was.
©James McCann (@MovingScenes)
I’ve just got a part in my next show. It’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.
Now before I go on, I should point out that the last Shakespeare play I was in, I played the part of a servant. Then of course there was my role in the pantomime where apart from the joys of being a dragon I was also, yes, yet another servant; this time a boy. Well it was pantomime after all.
So here I am, fresh from audition, cast as…yes, a servant and (this being Shakespeare) a male one at that.
Now, I’m actually quite happy about this. It’s going to be a lot of fun to do and I intend to enjoy every second; but it does tend to make one wonder.
At what point do I start to question why directors look at me and think ‘servant’ and even more interestingly ‘boy’. I did, admittedly, want to be a boy when I was eleven but nature made it quite clear that I didn’t have the genes for that; or, it turns out, the singing voice, although I guess an alto isn’t the ‘girliest’ of voices either.
Indeed what with my geeky tendencies, short hair, lack of makeup and general failure to wear dresses (unless they are ball gowns) maybe I fit the ‘boy’ mould better than I thought.
Hmmm, maybe I should worry more about ‘servant‘!
While as a theatre company we are temporarily homeless (while the theatre is refurbished) we have made the most of it by putting on an outdoor production of Much Ado About Nothing.
© David Bright
We’ve certainly had fun with it. The director chose to play up the physical humour of it, leading to my best moment as the servant (a minor part cobbled together from odd lines from the boy, messenger and Ursula) having been sent in search of a book which Shakespeare seems to have forgotten to mention again. In our version I returned with it and attempted to give the book to Benedick while he was hiding and he mouthed something quite rude at me in response. Proving that a reasonable number of people in the audience can lip read swear words! In case you’re wondering, the book in question is a ‘Complete Works of Shakespeare’, what else?
Mine was not the only character playing up the humour though and the resultant effect was to get laughs throughout, as well as boos for Don John (the villain) and some lovely ‘ahs’ for the main protagonists’ kisses.
Surprisingly the rain held off the performances (more important to the actors who would have got wet than to the audience under cover) and the weather was kind. Although it is still, I point out, possible to get very cold while standing around outside in the dark waiting to go on.
The audiences were kind, appreciative and plentiful. The crew were amazing, given the extra effort required to build seating and cable up a huge area from generators to lights and sound plus the extra demands on front of house when it is suddenly several hundred yards from the entrance to the auditorium. The director was wonderful and much appreciated.
It was an amazing thing to be part of. I’d got involved because I’d never ‘done’ Shakespeare and I wanted to give it a go. Having had an amazing time I’d definitely do it again, even outdoors, or possibly especially outdoors.
Curtain call photo © elmspetition.org.uk
I always enjoyed doing exams. There’s something tangible to aim for, a time to perform to the best of your ability and then it is over and you can relax.
Exams seem to bring out the best in me, to the extent that I recall being returned one of my marked exam papers in middle school and reading through the neatly written, and ticked as correct, answer to one question and thinking “but I don’t even know that”.
It occurs to me that drama is very similar.
For each play you work, learn and revise but in the end there is one chance to get it right (even where that chance also occurred yesterday and will occur again tomorrow). There is one moment to entertain that audience, many of whom will see only that performance, and what matters is that you give them the best show you can.
There’s also a similar pressure to auditioning. I recently auditioned for some Shakespeare. I’d prepared for the audition, pored over the script, and went in keyed up, wanting to do my very best.
After the audition was over I felt such a wonderful sense of happiness and calm. I’d done my part, and I felt I did myself justice, but now it was down to the director.
So I waited to hear, as I have waited for exam results over the years, untroubled but hopeful.
As it happens, I have in fact been given a ‘bit part’, so that’s another chance to perform under (a little bit of) pressure to come.