Originally posted here.
Well, well, well. That is a wrap on phase one of rehearsals. Having thoroughly blocked and practiced the play indoors, at just the point at which we felt we had done all we could with the limited enclosed space, we have made the exciting transition outside, in the open air! The play is coming along exceedingly well and the indoor rehearsals have been delightfully warm, but now comes the true test of our mettle.
Outdoor rehearsals throw a number of new challenges into the mix: firstly, projection. It’s all very well being able to fill a small room with just your voice, but the open air is a whole different ball game. There are no walls to bounce and resonate the sound off, and vastly more space to fill. On Monday – our first outdoor rehearsal, we had a visit from Marie Bushell, who gave us the pleasure of a great vocal warm-up to begin to get us used to the wider space.
The second challenge is the weather and light. Inside, one can be fairly confident of consistent warmth and lighting; not so much without cover or electricity! But since we may well be performing in wind and rain, it’s good to get used to that now, rather than later.
Finally, the added space introduces some timing challenges, entrances that had been smooth and seamless, now leave gaps of “dead air” as people take longer to get off and enter the stage. Despite the teething challenges in the new space, the cast seem to be taking it all into their strides, and enjoying the extra stage space and fresh air. Plus, it’s always nice to have visits from the local wildlife coming to say hello!
But contrary to what our egos tell us, it’s not all about the actors! Set build is going very well, and looking amazing. Helping out gives the cast a chance to see and walk about in the performance space, as well as a physical work which is good for the soul. In just a few weeks, the set has gone from being some bits of wood in a shed, to being a proper structure, almost ready to be decorated and lit beautifully.
The costumes are also looking stunning. Some of us lucky cast members have already had the privilege of trying them on, and they are fabulous. It is a delight to wear some proper, Elizabethan style costumes. The costume department are working hard and fast to make sure they all fit perfectly and have all the bells and whistles that Brian wants.
And that just about brings us up to speed. I’d like to end with a few notes about the play itself, or rather the context of the play, in what I’m calling the Twelfth Night Fact File. Hopefully it’ll give you a tiny glimpse of the world Shakespeare was writing in:
Did You Know?
- The event known as Twelfth Night is not actually the time of year that the play takes place, but seems more to indicate at the themes of madness and role-reversals. Twelfth Night (5/6th January) was a festival in which the poor had a chance to rule, and the rich became peasants for a brief celebration.
- Illyria is/was a real place, in modern day Croatia, on the Dalmatian coast. Though the references and text of the play indicate that Illyria is closer to the cultural location of England at the time.
- The plot of a twin being bereaved being the main thread of the play is likely Shakespeare drawing from his own family life. He himself had twins: Judith and Hamnet. Sadly, Hamnet died aged only 11 years old. Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night some years after his death, and some consider it in some part an apology to Judith that he had wallowed in Hamnet’s death, and seemed to ignore the other, living twin. In fact, he wrote most of his tragedies, including Hamlet in the few years after Hamnet’s death.
Thank you for joining us again on this journey into Illyria and onto Brownsea, and we all look forward to seeing you in just a few short months!