“And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain…”
So Bottom sang as Pyramus, just before he dropped dead in Pyramus and Thisbe. Well, in our version anyway. Sam, who played Bottom, came out with it one rehearsal and it just stuck. And it nearly always got a chuckle from the teachers.
But it’s true; we have faced the final metaphorical curtain on our Young Shakespeare Company tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Three weeks ago in fact. Since then I’ve had time to digest and reflect on the experience and everything I’ve learnt.
Touring is an amazing and invaluable experience for an actor. On this tour I have strengthened my resilience, seen new parts of the country, made new friends, and had the chance to perform to several thousand children, giving many of them their first taste of theatre.
Touring can also be very challenging. It’s tiring, you can spend a long time away from the comfort of home and loved ones (though on this tour we went home each weekend), you spend all your time with the same group of people, and you perform the same show many times. However, this is all part of being an actor.
I have learnt a lot about myself, both good and bad. I’ve worked with some very talented and creative people who have seen me at my best and my worst, and for whom I have developed a great deal of respect. I’ve encountered different ways of working and learnt to acknowledge that my way of doing things is by no means always the best way. I’ve had a lot of fun and made so many wonderful memories. Oh, and I got to say a bit of Shakespeare.
It’s been a busy few weeks, and we’re now almost into week five of touring A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Young Shakespeare Company. Going into rehearsals at the start of January was a great way to kick off the year. What actor wouldn’t want to start the year with a job!
The company seems to have a very collaborative style of working – obviously the director steers the ship and has the final say on artistic decisions, but our lovely director Haf encouraged our own suggestions and welcomed ideas and work that we brought to the rehearsal room. In this way I feel we all shaped the final show together. It was thrilling seeing all the ideas and personal touches my fellow cast members brought to their roles.
After two weeks of rehearsals we set off on tour, initially to schools in London but then going further afield, down to the south coast and up to the midlands. In a few weeks we’ll be heading up to my neck of the woods, Yorkshire. I’ve been to both places I know well and parts of the country that I’ve never been to before. Admittedly, when on tour there’s not that much chance to check out the local sights. Sometimes the Travelodges are in the centre of town but more often than not they’re on the outskirts. However, I’m certainly getting a lot of experience driving around the different areas. When we first set off on tour I was a little bit nervous about driving Titania (as the company calls her – she’s a Ford Galaxy Titanium), or The Beast (as I call her) – she’s a fair bit bigger than my nippy little Toyota Yaris! But as they say, practice makes… well, not quite perfect but definitely better.
So far I’ve learnt a fair bit from my first touring experience:
- Each school is slightly different, each audience is different, and therefore each individual show is different. As the students’ input is crucial to the show – some of them volunteering to play parts and all of them answering questions about how the characters might be feeling and what they might do next, and everyone joining in with sound effects and bits of Shakespearean text – they help shape the show/workshop that they are a part of. This keeps everything fresh, and also keeps us on our toes.
- Eating out most nights can soon add up and too many Dominos can take its toll on your health and fitness regime, so making cost-effective, healthy options for dinner while away is something we all need to do!
- I’m a girl who’s gotta have breakfast, and when you’re staying away and there isn’t a Greggs round the corner it’s not always easy to make sure you get this crucial start to the day. Porridge pots are the answer (if you like porridge). Travelodge rooms are equipped with kettles, so you boil, pour, stir, and ta-da! Breakfast sorted.
- Always remember your phone charger, especially if you use your phone for your alarm clock. (And be eternally grateful when you forget your charger and one of your lovely tour buddies has a spare to lend you.)
We’ve had a little breather this week for half term but will be back on the road next week – looking forward to getting back into Titania’s dress and Snug’s hard hat and hi vis!
I had my first professional audition recently, and it was a really positive experience. I met some wonderful people, got to sing a song and play my ukulele, and I got the job!
The audition was for Oxford World Theatre, a company founded by Oxford School of Drama graduate Daniel Zappi to ‘travel the world and bring people of all ages and nationalities on to the stage, in English’. The particular project I was auditioning for is three weeks in Sicily, during which I will be working with two groups of Sicilian teenagers to stage our adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – an adaptation I will be writing over the next week or so!
A group of us gathered in Hammersmith for our two-hour audition with Daniel, and instantly there was a friendly, playful feel to the session. We had great fun playing drama games in the first half, then after a quick break we went on to our songs – we’d each been asked to write a short song. With my guitar currently lacking two strings, I decided to whip out the ukulele instead, and wrote a first verse and chorus using four chords: C, G, Am and F. I wanted to keep it simple to create a catchy tune.
It was my first time ever playing the uke in front of more than one person so I can’t pretend I wasn’t a little bit nervous, but there was such a sense of support and non-competitiveness from the rest of the group that I easily relaxed into it. At several points I honestly forgot we were all auditioning, and felt instead as if we were in a workshop where we’d all come to learn and share our creativity.
The whole thing was such a positive experience; I left the audition feeling buoyant and smiling. When I then found out the next day that I’d got the job, I was over the moon. But whether I had got the gig or not, I spent two hours in the company of mostly strangers, playing games and singing songs and connecting with one another, and in what other job can you do that?