Shakespeare's Globe

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We are in Yorkshire at the Georgian Theatre Royal. We are indoors, in a restored eighteenth-century playhouse. It is one of the smallest theatres I’ve ever been in.

Transcript of Podcast

My good sweet mouse I commend me heartily to you …

We are in Yorkshire at the Georgian Theatre Royal. We are indoors, in a restored eighteenth-century playhouse. It is one of the smallest theatres I’ve ever been in. Rather than building our stage we are using the stage that is here, though we have put up our backdrop, but we don’t have a walkway. The audience are really close. Backstage is like a little balcony at stage level and then there’s another one above it with people looking over the edges. If you go to the edge of the stage, you are standing beside people in the box seats. It is very quirky, and beautiful. Someone told us it can seat about 200 people. It is funny coming in from outside, which are sometimes massive playing areas.

The playing level had to come down because it was so intimate. The acoustics mean the slightest whisper can be heard, and we have become accustomed to throwing our voices over the distance of a field. So we had to bring the vocal level down a fair chunk without affecting the intensity of the play. It’s a tricky one, but I think that’s the nature of the beast when you’re touring you have to adjust for every venue. This was one of the biggest adjustments we have had to make, because it is like going from a football field to a phone box. Being indoors is kind of cool. It means we don’t have to worry about the weather.

The performances here are more intimate; more of the subtleties come across. It’s like the audiences had been in rehearsals with us, they just got everything. It was incredible, they are reacting to the tiniest little thing and it is very exciting. It made a difference to both the tragic and comic aspects of the play. They get the danger of the repercussions of Leontes’ jealousy.

The audience is a good mix. We had a matinee and there were a couple of school kids at it and it held them really well. The older generation seemed to be the predominant audience. When you’re outside you can see everyone, but in this venue you felt close to the people right at the back.
Lots of Autolycus’ stuff is directed to the audience, so I love it here. I can just chat to them, and be among them. Outside there are moments when I can jump off the walkway and get among them, but then you have to scramble back up onto the stage. Here I can just lean against one of the boxes and I’m virtually sitting on their knee. I am really enjoying playing with the audience, and they got a kick out of it.

The show has tightened up and got more confident, it has a slightly different performing speed and rhythm, but that happens with every show once you get running with it. My characters have developed. I hadn’t realized, in rehearsals, with Autolycus, how much is just him and the audience. There will be a bit of action with other characters and then they leave and he comments on what’s just happened, speaking directly to the audience. There’s lots of interplay. Having an audience to play with has made a huge difference. In rehearsals you’re playing to an empty room, your director might be there and the cast members might sit around as kind of a make-do audience, so you’ve eyes to play to but it makes a huge difference when you go out and you’ve got the audience, whether they have been sitting in the rain or in glorious weather, they’re happy as Larry sitting back drinking their champagne – champagne and strawberries its insane what people bring! At home, in Ireland, you wouldn’t have the vastness of the picnics that they have over here, it’s incredible. There were people at one of our gigs with a table and candles and cutlery and I kind of get in among them and take some of their food, things that you can’t plan for in rehearsals, so Autolycus has developed a lot!

… And so sweet mouse, farewell, and brook our long journey with patience,

Fergal McElherron

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