We have just left Newby Hall in Yorkshire. It is a gorgeous mansion house and was the backdrop to our set for the first two nights.
Transcript of Podcast
My good sweet mouse, I commend me heartily to you...
We have just left Newby Hall in Yorkshire. It is a gorgeous mansion house and was the backdrop to our set for the first two nights. The audience sat in front of us, and we could look out over them and see fields of sheep and watch the sunset. Unfortunately, the ground sloped away from the stage and the audience at the back had very restricted views. After two nights, we swapped the stage around so that the audience were facing the fields and the actors were facing the house. This meant that on the third day we had to rework the space with the stage in the new position. It was tough vocally as we were now exposed to the elements. On tour, the first night anywhere we have to readjust ourselves to the new space, it’s something we are used to. It took about double the vocal energy to connect to the same amount of space with the stage in the new position. The audience was now on two tiers, there was a raised level close to the house, and some of the audience were hidden behind hedges making it difficult to make sure that they could always see and hear us.
The weather, the first night was very good, the second night was a bit worse and the last night was particularly bad. It didn’t rain much during the show but it had been raining all day. Over the tour the stage has buckled, because of the weather – rain followed by sun. There are dips in which the water sits. If you fall to your knees or crouch on the ground, you’re always in a puddle. The stage is swept before we start, but the water runs back into its puddles. The water makes things difficult. When I am supposed to fall over, half my hair and body gets soaked. On the last night at Newby Hall, towards the end of the play, I had to run across the stage with a flaming torch and run round a pillar. I fell over in a puddle, dropped the torch, and smacked my elbow on the ground. I just had to pick up the torch and carry on. The actors stopped on stage because they didn’t know how badly I’d hurt myself and the audience all gasped wondering what I would do. The stage has lost any treatment that it had when we first started. It turns into an ice-rink when it rains. But it keeps you on your toes. You have to be aware of your movement and the other actors onstage. You have to be careful not to throw anyone too roughly or move them too far across the stage because you’ll slip.
I fall over all the time, thanks to our wonderful director, because every entrance to every scene and every exit, Romeo has to run. The play happens over three days in which Romeo is in love with someone, falls out of love, falls in true love with Juliet, marries her, kills Tybalt, runs away, kills Paris, find’s his girl dead and then kills himself, everything happens so quickly! Romeo has a sense of urgency about his character; he needs to move about as quickly as possible.
When it rains it makes the swordfights a real pain. My swordfight’s controlled in a physical way because I grab the other actor; I throw the other actor’s head against the van. The fight between Mercutio and Tybalt, involves a lot of delicately placed foot movements and wrist movements to get the swords right, and when it’s slippy, the sword slips, it changes things and they have to stop, reposition and then carry on. Now if someone falls over, the other actor laughs, very deliberately, as if the fall is choreographed. If Julian has fallen over and Mark has laughed at him, it makes Tybalt look rash and incompetent, now, even when it’s dry, Julian can very delicately act a fall which keeps the audience members who don’t know the play wondering who is going to get killed, Tybalt or Mercutio. Mercutio’s laughter provokes Tybalt.
The audiences in Newby Hall were great. You could sense that the audience were listening and they were actively involved in it. It seemed like mostly a local audience. We got tickets for the people at our Bed and Breakfast and they came along and saw it. I spoke to a man who had travelled an hour and a half to get there to see the show, which was a great compliment.
The journey to Newby Hall was a nightmare. We left the Globe at noon expecting the journey to take four hours, but the traffic was terrible! It took us seven hours to get from the Globe to the venue. The show was due to start at seven and we arrived at a quarter to. We were in the minivan with all the costumes and props, so stage management who had arrived the night before couldn’t do anything. On that first night no one had had a vocal warm-up, and we’d been in the car for 7-8 hours so our bodies were stiff. We delayed the opening for 15 minutes, but we couldn’t run through the fights on the stage because the audience were all in. It was difficult for the six of us who had been in the back of the van, but Tas and Julian had been driving all day and were exhausted. To top the madness off, Julian, Ellie, Tyne and Woody were all camping! But despite these moments, we are loving doing the show.
… And so sweet mouse, farewell, and brook our long journey with patience,