I played Puck in last year’s tour. I assumed that coming back to the production would be very similar, and that I would just slot back into my old part. But actually I honestly don’t think the productions could be more different, which is wonderful.
Transcript of Podcast
Hi, I’m Bethan Walker and I’m playing Puck in this revival of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I played Puck in last year’s tour. I assumed that coming back to the production would be very similar, and that I would just slot back into my old part. But actually I honestly don’t think the productions could be more different, which is wonderful: just the dynamic of a team of different actors gives us a completely new energy. I think that’s been my biggest challenge so far, trying to find the right energy level, because Raz [Shaw, the director] was obviously happy with what I did to a point, because he asked me back, so I have to remember that he liked what I did, but my new challenge is just working with the people we’ve got, and using their brilliance. They’re all so amazing in their own way, and I think it’s great because they really help you to adapt what you do. Working with Simon [Merrells, Oberon], for example, is a polar opposite to Jason [Baughan, who played Oberon in last year’s tour], which is so interesting.
It obviously really affects what I do, and has brought out a different side to how I play Puck. I’m feeling a lot more grounded this year, and I feel like my part is coming across as more settled. The part has evolved and I feel much more at one with Puck. I know that’s a bit cheesy, but it feels much more like me as a base of a character. It’s a real relief, last year it took me a good month or so when I was performing to find that point. I feel like I’ve got that already, that I can play more now, there’s more freedom to play, which makes it much more fun.
I know it sounds really strange, but Shugborough is our first touring gig. Our first two performances were at Greenwich and Shakespeare’s Globe, and we were all still living at home. This was the first time we all packed our bags and got on a train together, and every single one of us stayed in the same B&B. It was really special, because it’s a really important bonding time.
Shugborough as our first venue is just beautiful – we couldn’t have asked for more. It’s a huge stately home, and there’s a vast history behind it. I went round it on one of my days off, I get a real kick out of history, and it was so atmospheric. You can go all over the house, from the vast, beautiful rooms they used to entertain guests, to the servant quarters, which is a really special thing to do. They have people who dress up in costumes, and you’re not allowed to talk to any of them about the modern day. When I went round there were loads of school groups, and they were all in 1800s dress and absolutely loving it! It was really amazing and quite important: investing in a venue really informs your performances, it helps the venue to become unique.
We’re performing in a small garden to the left of the property. It’s quite enclosed, and we having very small audiences, which is a bit of a shock. We went from audiences of 1,700 the week before to audiences as small as 50: there’s a big gap audibly when used to hearing big, huge, raucous laughter, and then all of a sudden it’s just a little titter. It’s not that they’re not enjoying it – they obviously are – it’s just that they’re a very small percentage of the audience we’ve been used to. You have to be very on your game with precision, the speed of your delivery and coming in on cues, and just not being disheartened by the fact it’s a smaller audience.
We couldn’t have asked for more in terms of the accommodation and venue, because they were both stunning, and the weather is amazing! Amazing sunshine for three days, we were really really blessed. We’ve been joking that the first three venues we’ve had honestly couldn’t have been more different. Greenwich was just hammering it down with rain, and grey and right by the Thames and noisy, and quite difficult. Then the Globe was just a joy, with huge and really supportive audiences. Then Shugborough was just blazing sunshine for the full three days, we were just in the middle of vast, beautiful countryside and all the public were just so relaxed, it’s a very slow way of life there. In the whole village there was only one shop and two pubs! From the second night we went to the pub every evening before we went home and the owner kept giving us food! He asked if we were coming back the following night, and offered to cook a huge lasagne for us, completely free! He said we we’re bringing business to his pub, and the following night just put about 30 portions of lasagne on the table and just said “Help yourself!” It’s such a rare example of how wonderful and generous people can be, you just don’t get that very often, so it’s really, really special.
Next we’re off to Brighton and then Salisbury, but the next time you’ll hear from me will be about our time in Oslo! Very exciting!