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Our venue is, Lincoln’s Inn - one of the Inns of Court. I was surprised that my drama school is only ten minutes down the road, and I didn’t know this was here, beautiful architecture and a lovely park, tucked away in the middle of London.

Transcript of Podcast

My good sweet mouse I commend me heartily to you …

Our venue is, Lincoln’s Inn - one of the Inns of Court. I was surprised that my drama school is only ten minutes down the road, and I didn’t know this was here, beautiful architecture and a lovely park, tucked away in the middle of London. Our stage was on one of the lawns. We have a backdrop of trees in front of these impressive old buildings.

We’ve decided to rope off the end of the walkway to keep the entrances and exits clear, and so the audience sit in the right place. People get a better view if they sit on the sides of the stage because we use the walkway so much.

Doing Shakespeare in the open air is hard work. You can feel all your muscles working. You really have to make sure you’re using your voice properly. I’ve never done open air theatre before. I was at the Globe last season, which is a halfway house because it doesn’t have a roof, but, it does have walls surrounding it and seating.

A modern, naturalistic, kitchen sink drama, would really struggle in the open air. I think that there’s something inherent in Shakespeare’s text which allows it to work outside.

Lincoln’s Inn is our first performance with an audience. The stage is facing a large building, and, sound bounces back, when you speak in that direction. If you are projecting out to the sides or upstage the sound doesn’t come back in the same way. We constantly have to be aware of these different sound qualities and the way we are facing. Florizel, my main part, comes on in the second half. In the first half I play a couple of smaller parts. I spend quite a lot of time on stage listening to what’s going on. When it gets to the second half, I’ve had a chance to settle in a little bit and have a sense of how the space works

The environment has an impact on the world of the play. Much of the play happens outdoors, and many of the other scenes that could take place indoors don’t necessarily have to. The Inns of Court have an imposing architecture, and that affects the picture of Leontes’ court. The world of the play will always take something from wherever we pitch the stage. It’s the same for the audience, put someone in the Inns of Court, and they automatically behave slightly differently to if they’re in a park, or in a theatre.

The weather has been generally good. The dress rehearsal was a baptism of fire. We did it in the car park of The Globe on the Tuesday night. It absolutely sheeted down with rain from beginning to end. Nothing could come as a shock to us after that, bar lightening hitting the stage! We’ve had a few showers at Lincoln’s Inn but otherwise it’s fairly clear. When you’re performing, the relationship between the actors and the audience is very important. But when you’re outside, particularly in British weather which is inconsistent, that relationship becomes almost a ménage à trois between the actors, the audience and the conditions. The weather definitely influences the performance and the audience. If it’s bright, still and clear, that gives you a blank canvas to paint on. When it’s raining there’s no point in pretending that it’s not raining. Heavy showers are better than constant drizzle, because at least they’re dramatic. The rain adds something to a scene, the stakes go up. It’s easy to say ‘I love you’ when the sun’s shining and it’s all very pleasant, as many holiday romances show. The only performance we’ve done where the weather has been really bad was in the car park. The play became very romantic. I find I automatically work harder in the rain because there’s something very real and immediate to be fighting against. I think that’s great. If the audience have got the guts to stick it out, everyone’s very much in it together. That’s a very different experience than if you come and have a very pleasant picnic in the sunshine, which is equally great, but in a different way.

The audiences at Lincoln’s Inn have been a decent-size, a little smaller for the matinée. They have been warm and responsive. I think there is something about open air theatre, particularly somewhere like that, which will attract certain types of people more than others, quite well to-do here. Mike [Benz, Paulina] and I, added to the numbers of young people in the audience because we’re both graduates from drama schools in London and quite a few of our friends came to see us, so we boosted the twenty-something demographic. It would be nice to think that people who find the idea of going to the theatre slightly dry might be more likely to come if it is outdoors and they can have some food and a beer or a glass of champagne. People might feel a bit freer to turn up and if they don’t feel they need to put on smart clothes in the way they would do if they were going to see something in the West End.

To begin with, our major concern has been getting used to being outside. For most of us it is the first time we’ve done outdoor theatre. You’re aware of wanting to be clear, and telling the story. Over these first few shows I’ve felt that the Florizel–Perdita relationship has begun to get more specific. Florizel’s character is developing. The tricky thing with a part like Florizel is that he’s talked about earlier in the play, as a young child, but we only see him dealing with one very big situation, centred around his relationship with Perdita, but I’m finding out more and more who this human being is.

We have a day off after Lincoln’s Inn, most of us are going by train to Richmond for the next show.

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

Benjamin Askew

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