My good sweet mouse I commend me heartily to you …
Transcript of Podcast
My good sweet mouse I commend me heartily to you …
I haven’t really slept, to be honest. We are staying in halls, and there are students here who like banging their doors all night, so it’s been a sleepless night, which isn’t fun.
We’re at Williamson Park, by Ashton Memorial, in Lancaster. It is a stunningly beautiful park. The memorial is built in a really grandiose way from white stone. It looks like a temple on the top of a hill. It’s got huge steps leading down and the memorial faces out into Morecombe bay. We’re at the back of the memorial; our stage is between that and the butterfly house, which is a nineteenth century glass house. The stage is on top of this beautiful stone mosaic. It’s quite grand.
I’ve got a stinking cold. It’s absolutely Baltic and only wearing a bikini doesn’t help. The audience are amazing, they’re sticking it out, but they’re wrapped up as if they’re in the Antarctic. The sun has been out, but it is windy. We are really fighting the elements. I have to say the last couple of days have not been particularly enjoyable, but I think that’s probably because our costumes are not sufficient for the weather. My costume is mainly undergarments, not only modern ones, but my main costume is the Elizabethan undergarment, so I’m just wearing cotton. It’s absolutely freezing. Although perhaps the bikini is the wisest costume, the Elizabethan clothing is heavy when it’s wet and doesn’t dry quickly. My cold came from being in the rain, in Glasgow, in ballet shoes. No matter how much Echinacea you take you just can’t really fight against the elements.
Vocally we have to really fight against the wind it, which means a lot of projection. Unlike Glasgow, where we got acoustic feedback from the quad walls, here your voice just gets blown away. Apparently we can be heard, but we can’t feel it. We feel like we’re gods, fighting against the elements, shouting in the wilderness! It’s not been easy.
The audience has been massive. There have been about three hundred a show. The shape of the courtyard is much longer than we’ve previously played. It’s a bit of a wind tunnel. People are sitting right up close, almost on the stage. Yesterday we had a group of rowdy school kids in the audience; we were playing against them and trying to remember that there are people two hundred yards away at the back. It’s hard.
I think our characters are all becoming a lot livelier. The drama of the wind and the rain, and feeling like you’re dying in that sort of weather, makes you feel the dramatic stakes are much higher. It’s almost impossible in this kind of space to do small acting, filmic acting. In the balcony scene, feels so different outside, because with any monologue it’s not just between you and the audience, it feels like it’s between you, the audience, the trees and the sky, and actually that’s quite wonderful.
Because we can’t sense the audience, because the wind gets between them and you, you lose that sense of subtle connection, but at the end of the show we’ve had standing ovations and people crying, then you think: ‘Oh, we have done it!’ A middle-aged man was in floods of tears last night, which was very moving. The audience participation is very different it feels almost medieval. Everything’s in much bolder colours.
The show is changing all the time. It is getting shorter, we’ve lost about half an hour. It’s becoming much livelier too. Initially we created a sparse world and we focused on the text and the dramatic stakes. Now we’re trying to find the reality of being in these relationships and being in this world, and in the house, and in the garden much more than we did before.
We’ve got two stage managers, Kelly and James, who arrive on site and they set up the set. We help them move the van and help with costumes, we also help with the get out, which is tiring, but we’re going to need to start helping with the get in soon. We are still rehearsing during the day. We haven’t had a break yet.
Unfortunately I think the possibility of terrible weather wasn’t considered in the design of the show. We’ve been trying to correct that, but it’s been a struggle. Kelly has been amazing and got us all thermals. Yesterday I wore a pair of men’s thermal boxer-shorts underneath my costume! It feels a bit wrong. I wore a pair of bright pink stripy football socks, and I just felt like a completely different character, Juliet was very vivacious and really quite cocky! I feel really sensitive to clothing. When you’ve been rehearsing in clothing in order to maintain your physicality and establish your gravity, it has an effect when you go and change all that. So that’s definitely a challenge. I think if I was deciding things, I probably would have erected a canopy or something over the playing space, because you can still get the feeling of the elements outside without having to be bombarded by them! It is only the day after that you realise the impact of being drenched all evening. These last couple of days have taken their toll on cast morale. I’m being a bit ‘bossy mother’ with the group really, making sure that we get food stops and things. People are very silent and patient about the cold weather, I’m for sharing and tearing to get through it.
I’m just looking out at some black thunderous clouds, which does not look very hopeful.
… And so sweet mouse, farewell, and brook our long journey with patience,