As one show ends, another begins

There is a phenomenon commonly known as the post-show blues that possibly all actors experience. It creeps over you as the final applause lingers in your mind and you face the daunting prospect of empty evening after empty evening and not a rehearsal in sight.

With the final performance of The Comedy of Errors past us, I managed to avoid the blues by cracking straight on with the next show and heading to Fuerteventura with fellow Comedy cast members Leigh and Amy for a girly week in the sun. Leigh and I even took our scripts for the next show to make a start on those lines. We’re both in Pride and Prejudice with One Off Productions at the Kings Theatre next March.

Sun, sea and sangria in Fuerteventura

Sun, sea and sangria in Fuerteventura

Having spent so much time together as a group, spending a week with the girls made it feel like the show wasn’t really over. We could go on pretending, each playing our beloved roles – Leigh as the fiery Adriana, Amy both a whisky-swigging nun and a crazy soothsayer, and me as a sultry courtesan.

Once back in Portsmouth Leigh and I were straight back into rehearsals for Pride and Prejudice. Naturally the step from prostitute to pious was a considerable leap, but the more I delved into Lizzie’s character, using both the script and the novel as my source material, the more I realised the two share several significant qualities.

Like the courtesan, Lizzie is strong-willed, clever, and a force to be reckoned with if she has her mind set on something. Of course, Shakespeare’s text didn’t set all of this out for the courtesan’s character, but the courtesan I created on stage exhibited these characteristics as she took on her own life off the page.

With a new script, a different setting and a cast made up of several familiar faces but mostly new friends, the exciting creative process can start all over again. Though I miss the courtesan and her swishy-hipped confidence, I’m falling head over heels for Lizzie all over again, just like I did the first time I read the novel. I can’t wait to step firmly into her shoes. And if I’m missing the Comedy cast too much, there’s always the pub just down the road for a natter over a rum and coke!

Be more cat-like…

Comedy of Errors opens (and closes) this week. During rehearsals recently, the director gave me the following note: be more cat-like.

Now, I have a healthy respect for cats. I’ve certainly never been a ‘cat person’ and would much rather own a dog any day, but I can observe our feline friends with something bordering on admiration. With an air of independence they roam the streets freely at night, a freedom pet dogs will never know. They fight other cats in the neighbourhood for their territory, and strut about with an air of unadulterated arrogance. Not that I think arrogance is a trait to be commended – it isn’t – but to have that much confidence in oneself is something to be desired.

Tom cat

I realised the director’s note made perfect sense. The Courtesan, with her sultry looks, fluid movement and self-serving character is feline personified. So I set to doing a spot of cat-watching. This turned out to be a lot easier than I had expected, as it seems cats like to have an audience. They may spring away if you get too close, but watch from afar and they will bask in the attention, preening themselves on display, or tiptoeing along a narrow wall like a furry tightrope walker before leaping onto a nearby rooftop in an impressive display of acrobatics.

The cats I observed all had one thing in common – their movement possessed a fluid quality, something I was already trying to adopt in my movement as the Courtesan. Now I had to use this in my voice. Unfortunately I am prone to mumbling, a very unfortunate habit for an actor, so in rehearsals I try to focus on really hitting the consonants. This would be perfect for some characters, but isn’t right for the Courtesan, for whom everything should be smooth and silky. So I thought of how the cat purrs and tried to adopt that smooth, low resonance while maintaining clarity. Ensuring the breath comes from the abdomen and tummy rather than high up in the chest is important for any actor on stage, and for the Courtesan I have to focus even lower. Not meaning to be crude, I have to find my ‘vagina voice’. The Courtesan’s voice should be rich, smooth and velvety but with a certain breathy quality. I feel my voice is my weak point as an actor, and one that would greatly benefit from the training I hope to soon undertake.

Hopefully, with a good warm-up and a warm drink or two I will be ready to hit the stage this evening and project to the back row and beyond. Now I think there’s just time for a bit more cat-watching…

For more Comedy of Errors rehearsal antics, read the SSA blog.

Comedy of Errors, performed by the Southsea Shakespeare Actors, runs from 13-16 November  at the Station Theatre, Hayling Island, 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Book tickets online on the Station Theatre website.

A comedy read-through

The show was cast and the agonising task of putting together the rehearsal schedule was done, so that could mean only one thing: the dreaded read-through.

I say dreaded because, for most actors, the read-through is a necessary evil. For others it is an unnecessary tradition. For our director of the Comedy of Errors, Vin, it’s somewhere in between. A tradition that no show would feel properly started without, a chance to formally kick off the rehearsal process, and an important opportunity for the whole cast to get together. For some of us, this will be the only time we see certain members of the cast until the first full run-through, particularly if we don’t have any scenes together.

Comedy of Errors

Many actors dread the read-through because that’s just what it is: reading. Sight-reading is a far cry from actually acting, and requires many different skills altogether. I have seen actors who can deliver the most commanding performance on stage being reduced to a gibbering wreck in a read-through, tripping over their words until they end up lying in a heap of jumbled letters.

Although everyone did admirably well last night, we did have a few giggles here and there. Accidentally substituting prostrate with prostate got a good laugh.

The read-through also has another very important function. It gives everyone an overall flavour of the play, which can be difficult to get from individual rehearsals. Even if we don’t meet your character until the third act, it is important that they have a backstory, and what happens and is said in the previous two acts can inform this backstory.

It is also important that each actor’s interpretation of their character fits in to the journey of the play, rather than being a standalone element, so having the chance to hear the whole play read through in this way gives each actor that sense of how their character fits in.

I’m playing the Courtesan, who doesn’t make an appearance until the second half of the play, but is mentioned by other characters earlier on. Despite her limited stage time, she is a strong character and hopefully, in our version at least, a memorable one, so getting a feel for the world of the play in which she exists will help me bring to the stage a fuller and more rounded performance rather than something flat which exists solely in that moment on stage.

Rehearsals start this week, where we’ll be working on a big ensemble scene. With plentiful laughs in this wonderful Shakespearean farce, it promises to be a lot of fun.

The Comedy of Errors, performed by the Southsea Shakespeare Actors, runs from 13 to 16 November 2013 at the Station Theatre, Hayling Island.