Sterts is the first venue we have played which is covered, or is supposed to be covered rather than an emergency run into a church or something!
Transcript of Podcast
My good sweet mouse I commend me heartily to you …
Sterts is the first venue we have played which is covered, or is supposed to be covered rather than an emergency run into a church or something! The stage area is covered with a roof like a huge tent – a bit like a small version of the dome - which is great for the acoustics, and the audience is raked. It’s kind of outdoors though because it’s only covered on top. The space has lights, which gave the show an extra boost. Normally we only have four lights, two lights on top of each or our two pillars, they are just to light the stage when it starts to get dark at night.
The raked audience means all the work we do on the ground, like the deaths at the end, is much more effective and we don’t have to focus on lifting our bodies up to be seen, which is what we have to do in other venues because of sightlines. Normally I have to be in quite an unnatural position, on my knees, vertical, and I have to pull Ellie up onto my lap so that she can be seen.
The first night was a bit funny because we were all trying to adjust to the new acoustics, but last night we had a really good show - we could whisper and be heard. The space is having a big impact on the show. We can bring everything down – you can’t project like you would outdoors because you would be shouting at the audience. And there is no wind or rain to distract us.
I like to get in amongst the audience. It is difficult in this space because the audience are on raked seating, so when I go into the audience I have to climb stairs. On the first night I hadn’t planned it very well. Usually I go off stage left, up behind the audience, and back down through them onto stage right. On the first night I’d not told stage management what I was going to do, so there was no way for me to get round the back of the audience. I had to go off stage left, up the stairs, and then I couldn’t go around, so I just sat down beside a man in the audience and chatted down for a while, and then had to came back down the way I came. I had to do it all on one plane, which wasn’t very good. I didn’t have the journey of going all the way round. Last night I asked stage management to make sure that the back two rows were clear, so I was able to go up, round, chat to people, go down kneeling and chat to them in their seats, and step over the back of the seats and talk to people on either side, and work my way back down to stage right.
Here the weather doesn’t really affect the show. However, the back stage area was a bit of a nightmare – it was really muddy - so we were treading through mud to get on stage and off again. The back stage area was outside of the tent – we had to come off stage, over a muddy bit and into a portacabin.
We had maybe two hundred and fifty odd people in the audience the last couple of nights, a nice size, not too big. The show has changed at bit. The audience is split into three sections, but almost everyone sits in the middle section. So we aren’t playing to the sides, like we usually do. Everything has to be turned out to the front, and the show isn’t blocked to be like that, we’re not used to it. Your physicality on stage changes, you move differently. Especially me, because I talk to the audience a lot.When Mercutio dies I use the three sides of the audience for my different thoughts and questions: I turn to stage left and ask: ‘did he get his mortal wounds on my behalf’, and then turn to stage right for another question. The movement is physically representative of what is going on in Romeo’s head, he can’t understand what’s happened because he’s been in such a happy place, and then his friend has been killed in front of him. So with the audience all on one side, I just picked out individual people in the audience and spread the questions between them. It had the effect of different thoughts interrupting each other, but physically I couldn’t turn and move. Though it still had the same essence, it was different.
Sterts is a really lovely theatre space, and we are having really great audiences, that are really into the show. Being in proper seats they don’t have to move around to see, or worry about getting wet, or the sun in their eyes, everyone still had blankets round them, but they aren’t as cold, and they were covered from the weather, which was good. It helps the show.
The travelling can be tough. We are staying in a caravan which is an hour’s drive from the venue, so we have to factor the travelling time into our days. It is good fun being all together on the campsite – we have three caravans between us - last night Julian and I ended up sleeping in the kitchen! It’s not very glamorous, but the weather has been brilliant. The other day I got really badly sunburnt over my whole body. We were playing Frisbee and I had my top off. The show that night was really difficult; everyone had to be really gentle when they were touching me, because I was in agony! People would grab me in the fight and I’d suddenly see a flash of recognition in their eyes going: ‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to touch your sunburn!’
It’s been lovely to see all of the responses on the blog, and to talk to people after the show. We don’t get feedback in the same way as you do at the Globe, where you can sit in the bar after the show and talk to people. The blog is the equivalent to that for us. Because we don’t get to chat to people, we don’t always know how the show has been received.
… And so sweet mouse, farewell, and brook our long journey with patience,