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RSC Diaries: Rosie and Dan answer your Twitter questions

Posted on 20 April 2013 by Daniel Easton and Rosie Hilal

RSC diaries

We asked AYT readers what they’d like to ask our RSC diarists…

Q: “I’d love to know how rigorous the rehearsal period is; time-wise and the level of depth with textual analysis.”

Rosie: Well, it varies according to the director’s process and the parts you play. In Hamlet, we spent the first few weeks going through each scene in detail and discussing it, then slowly putting it on its feet before we moved on to the next scene, and after an initial read through we were only called for the scenes we were in which we explored bit by bit. But in As You Like It we were all called for a two week movement workshop which had no text at all, before we even read the script around a table together. The workshop had us dripping in sweat for eight hours a day pretty much, whilst the read through was a week long and at times it could lead to hours of discussion on one scene.

As for parts, I thought that as a newbie cast in small parts I wouldn’t be called that much, but both David Farr and Maria Aberg had us in for group scenes again and again (they can be very choreographed and technical), as well as song, dance, movement and voice calls.

So I’ve done 12 hour days, five to six days a week for the last two and a half months, and what with the understudy runs and All’s Well That Ends Well coming up, that doesn’t look set to change until the 7th August. It’s amazing, but exhausting.

Dan: Rehearsals at the RSC are very in depth. We’re lucky enough to get ten weeks to explore each play. Both processes included a great deal of textual analysis and table work as a company, to discuss the meanings of all the lines and words within the play so we would be able to communicate them to an audience properly. With As You, we also had a two week workshop period where we improvised and tried out various movement ideas for establishing the two worlds of the court and Arden.

Q: “Is there any chance for those of us who don’t go to drama school after university due to cost?”

Rosie: I tried to get acting jobs without an agent and without drama school, and it varied from hard to impossible. Unless you know someone like a radio producer, or director, or want to put on your own stuff, go to drama school. It’s hard to get an agent and without them you don’t get seen for paid jobs. I know RADA can take on tuition fees if you can’t afford them, at least they could when I applied. Otherwise, the Actor’s Centre do courses which at least means you meet professionals and peers, and Paines Plough do fantastic open auditions.

Dan: I think it’s getting a lot harder for people going to drama schools, especially with the recent increase in fees. But don’t be put off, there are various bursaries and scholarships you can apply for which help towards funding. If this is your first higher education course, you can take out a student loan to help with the costs too. Also there’s nothing stopping you working for a year or so to stockpile some cash to help get you through your training as well.

Q: “Do you have any tips on how to make yourself more open and vulnerable in acting?”

Rosie: Being centred and remembering to breathe helps to focus your concentration on listening like you’ve never heard stuff before, which means if the situation is sad or funny it should make you laugh, cry, sigh automatically. I need to know who my character is through movement, rehearsal, and what they are thinking, then I can relax and stop worrying about back story because it’s in my body and I can just listen. It’s hard though; I’m easily distracted and it takes concentration.

Dan: There are so many ways for this to be achieved and I think I’m still figuring it out myself to be honest. There’s not one correct way; I suppose it’s finding what works best for you. A good warm up and some physical exercise (run, gym or yoga) before a performance helps to clear my mind before a show, so I can be as much in the moment as possible and not over think stuff too much, and just let it happen to me.

Q: “How does an actor transition from being his cheery self backstage into a sad character on stage in limited time?”

Rosie: For me, having explored a character’s physicality really helps, and costume helps too. If I change how I move, that makes me a different person, or at least body memory reminds me to be a different person in a different situation. Lighter or more tense, slower or more jagged. I’m not a very intellectual actor. I’d rather my body did the work, and I can just try and be available to the other actors and immediate situation. That’s where repetition and rehearsal come in.

Dan: For this I think it’s just a case of giving yourself enough time to focus and relax, and doing whatever is necessary to allow you to do this whether that’s a warm up, or a cup of tea and a sit down. Different things work for different actors so I suppose it’s just a case of trial and error until you land on something that fits. It also depends on what you’re doing in the show and what the role requires of you, so adapt and change what works for you accordingly.

The RSC runs a £5 ticket scheme for 16 – 25 year olds. Find out more here.

Images: Daniel and Rosie in rehearsals for Hamlet. By Keith Pattison.

Daniel Easton and Rosie Hilal

Daniel Easton and Rosie Hilal

Daniel: In his RSC debut season, Daniel Easton plays Reynaldo in Hamlet, Dennis/Duke Ferdinand’s Lord in As You Like It and Soldier/Ward in All’s Well that Ends Well. Daniel trained at RADA, and other theatre includes The Illusion (Southwark Playhouse); A Marvellous Year for Plums (Chichester Festival); 66 Books - Lazarus (Bush) and Richard II (Donmar). Rosie: In her RSC debut season, Rosie Hilal plays Audrey in As You Like It, Mariana in All's Well that Ends Well and second Gravedigger/ Player/Gentlewoman in Hamlet. Rosie graduated from RADA in 2012 and other theatre includes Carmen (Moving Theatre Co.); Occupied (Theatre503); L’Ecume Des Jours (Maison Francais, Oxford) and Salome (Canal Cafe). Image: Rosie in rehearsals for As You Like It (credit: Keith Pattison) Image: Daniel and Rosie in rehearsals for Hamlet (credit: Keith Pattison)

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An Indian summer: relocating Shakespeare

Posted on 29 October 2012 by Anna Braybrooke

Directors are constantly trying to surprise us with innovative settings for Shakespeare: Hamlet in a bouncy castle, Othello in a pub, The Tempest in a barn and Macbeth in a prison, to name but a few. The message? Shakespeare’s themes might be timeless, but to stay relevant you have to be prepared to mix them up. Choosing an unexpected venue or an unusual setting for his writing can fall flat, but a change of scene can be brilliantly successful in illuminating a play. Iqbal Khan’s Much Ado About Nothing has done just that for audiences this summer, transporting its characters into the midst of high summer in India to create an RSC production with a distinctly Asian flavour.

The decision to set the action in India was about far more than just adding some exotic window dressing. Anjana Vasan, part of the ensemble cast, explains why it makes perfect sense for the play’s themes: “There are some strange things that happen in the text that don’t really work in a Western context that urgently any more, like the whole storyline of how Hero is shamed in marriage and the question of chastity. But in India those themes of honour and chastity are very much important and immediate. Those kinds of contradictions exist in India, the tensions between old and new.”

Changing the setting meant gaining a slightly different audience too. Aysha Kala, who plays Watch, has been delighted to see how many people from an Indian background are coming to the show. “They get things that other people wouldn’t get about the culture and language.” And of course, “It’s nice that people who aren’t Asian are loving it and loving the fact that they feel like they’re in India”, she says.

Performing in London meant a change of routine for the tight-knit company, who all live together when they are in Stratford. Vasan remarks: “I think it’s rare when you get a company that gets along so well.”

The actors’ strong relationships have also been fostered by the play’s director. The cast includes both established industry professionals – including the doyenne of British-Asian entertainment, Meera Syal – and people just starting out in their theatre careers. But it seems that Khan created an atmosphere of equality from the very beginning of the process. Vasan confirms this: “From day one I felt like I never had to be anyone but myself.” Most of the company was required at nearly all the rehearsals, even the ones that solely involved the lead characters: “We would input and our suggestions were taken on board.”

“He [Khan] works in a very organic way,” Vasan continues, “he creates a really good ensemble energy and I think that’s what really comes across in the play: that it’s a story where even the smallest characters have a lot to do and are active in the narrative.” The result is a play that’s been enormous fun for the cast, and hopefully for audiences as well, with – as Kala puts it – such “high energy throughout the whole thing, it is just like a constant party.”

Much Ado About Nothing was performed on tour and in London as part of the World Shakespeare Festival 2012. For more about the RSC and its current and forthcoming productions, visit

Image credit: RSC

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Classics with a modern twist: Shakespeare at the Fringe

Posted on 24 August 2012 by Nadia Newstead

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a place for both the classic and the cutting edge, which is why a new take on Shakespeare is the ideal combination for a chance at Fringe success. With many of Shakespeare’s plays being taken up every year, it can be a hard task to stand out from the crowd in amongst the many Romeo and Juliets, shortened versions of Hamlet and the odd Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night. Two companies taking on this challenge are The Fifth Act from The Netherlands and Straylight Australia from down under, who are focusing on females, both within the plays and those that surrounded Shakespeare himself during his time.

Straylight Australia’s piece Shakespeare’s Queens: She-Wolves and Serpents explores “what it means to be a Queen” in Shakespeare’s England, where many of the issues “are still high on women’s agenda’s today: career or family first?; negative perceptions of powerful females; forced marriages arranged for political or commercial gain; infidelity, infertility and the use of sex as a bargaining tool.” The wheel of history turns once more, showing us that what goes around comes around – or has it ever left us? “The passionate, seductive, ruthless and vulnerable queens of his plays are as exciting to play as they are thrilling to watch,” says Kath Perry, a member of the three person cast.

The show is versatile, easily accessible to all and tons of fun to watch; it stems from a previous show Shakespeare’s Mothers: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know taken to the Fringe in 2010. The concept of the play is that Shakespeare is caught between two raging queens: Elizabeth I and her cousin and arch-rival Mary, Queen of Scots. He summons each of his queens from his plays to “contribute their experience to the debate”. This way, we hear speeches from some of “the greatest female roles in theatre” including Cleopatra, Queen Elinor and Tamora, and can see how much Shakespeare was influenced during his time at court by how much his queens resemble his patron, Elizabeth.

This is Shakespeare with a twist; audiences who may not feel up to a full Shakespeare production can watch this fast, funny, 60 minute piece, fill their Bard quota for the day and maybe see Tony and Cleo in the future, or those who know the plays well can revel in all the great characters being side by side, having conversations with one another and helping Shakespeare in his plight to calm the two queens. The show has already been in Sydney and Adelaide and there is a mini-tour planned for after the Fringe to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home turf, and London – but Perry would like to spread the joy of the Bard as far as she can and “would love to take it to other cities and countries.”

The Fifth Act, instead of looking at a range of females, has focused on one woman in particular in their show Lady M.: Lady Macbeth’s Lady-In-Waiting, a small bit-part who would probably be able to tie up all the loose ends in the plot - if only she had more lines. “It’s a wink to the conflict between being a bit character or principal character in life,” says Sarah de Bruijn from the company. Amongst the comedy, “the dramatic foundation [is strengthened] through the play: the tragedy of a person who will not be remembered.” Every character in Shakespeare’s work is important, even if they are just a messenger; each has their part to play within the plot and in this case one of the smallest parts takes centre stage in this one woman show. “It’s pure poetry and the way Shakespeare puts characters down is still (in the 21st century) a true insight in human behavior.”

The piece is also a comment on the acting profession – actresses are always striving for larger parts and trying to get noticed by the right people as the weighting in roles between males and females is still, in the 21st century, uneven. Coming from The Netherlands, Fifth Act’s take on Shakespeare is different to our perhaps more “traditional” English pieces. The Fifth Act have a respect for traditional Shakespeare but would prefer to watch and create pieces that put forward a comment on his work than simply re-produce it. “Lady M. is a very dynamic piece, more dynamic than you might expect from a solo [performance]. The audience reactions, and reviewers, are very enthusiastic about the play.” So far, so good in the Netherlands, and hopefully there will be the same success at the Fringe.

In cooking, TV chefs are obsessed with ‘classics with a modern twist’ – easy, mainstream dishes that have been tweaked to give them a little something extra for the cameras, and that is what Straylight Australia and The Fifth Act have done with theatre; taken 400 year old words, added some spices, a new perspective and created a modern classic exploring what it is to be a woman under social pressures both in Shakespeare’s time and in the modern day. Hopefully it will be a winning combination that all of Edinburgh will be loving as much as the ultimate Scottish classic with a twist: the deep-fried Mars bar.

Shakespeare’s Queens: She-Wolves and Serpents is at C Venues – C Eca until 25 August. For tickets and more information, visit or or for more about the show, visit

The Fifth Act presented Lady M. at C Eca – C Venues on 18 August but you can find out more about the production at

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Want to Write? The best of the UK’s Literary Festivals

Posted on 05 March 2012 by Marése O'Sullivan

2012 marks a major year for literature all over the world. From Shakespeare to Dickens to the best of Ireland’s authors, literary festivals offer a jam-packed few days of writing, reading and guest speakers, as well as the opportunity to indulge in the delights of each city. A Younger Theatre has checked out some of the best literary festivals that the UK and Ireland have to offer over the coming months:

The World Shakespeare Festival will celebrate the Bard as part of the Cultural Olympiad. Celebrations will be particularly centred in London as crowds flood in for the 2012 Olympics, but the event will also be marked in cities such as Stratford-upon-Avon, Newcastle, Birmingham, Brighton and Edinburgh. Beginning on 23 April, Shakespeare’s birthday, and running until November, theatres all over the UK will have productions and exhibitions on offer.

The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon – along with staging many plays – will host an exhibition, ‘The Stories of Shakespeare’, in association with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. There will also be many other events, such as the Swan Theatre’s Creative Dialogues (Translating and Transposing Shakespeare, Reinterpreting and Reimagining Shakespeare, and Shakespeare and the Contemporary Artist). Stratford-upon-Avon will also have its own Literary Festival from 22-28 April.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London will host all of the playwright’s 37 plays on stage in Globe to Globe: “a multi-lingual Shakespeare project”, from 23 April to 9 June. “Each [play will be performed] in a different language [and] each by a different company from around the world”, says the website. The official opening will take place on the 21-22 April. In September, the theatre will also feature Stephen Fry’s first performance on stage in 17 years, as Malvolio in Twelfth Night.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, from 10 August to 2 September, the Edinburgh International Festival will stage a Polish production with English subtitles entitled 2008: Macbeth, while Wales’s National Theatre will present Coriolanius in August.

The Dickens 2012 Festival will celebrate the two hundredth birthday of renowned Victorian author Charles Dickens (February 7) with myriad events over the course of the year. The main attraction is the Charles Dickens Museum at 48 Doughty Street, “the author’s only surviving London house”, but ensure you visit before 9 April when the museum will close for a refurbishment. It is also holding a special Flash Fiction Workshop for 16-24-year-olds on 11 March. Young Writer-in-Residence Femi Martin will run this workshop as well as a number of others. The event is free but places are limited. The Museum will also play host to If These Walls Could Speak… on 3 April, honouring the new work of upcoming English writers over wine and sherry (drinks that Dickens himself was apparently partial to). You can also follow in Dickens’s footsteps on the Museum’s ‘Dickensian London Walk’ until 4 April for £10, prior booking essential (Call 0207 405 2127 or email).

The V&A Museum of Childhood is collaborating with the English Association and the Dickens Fellowship to present the Dickens and Childhood Conference on 18 June. Held at the V&A, student attenders can look forward to a £25 concession rate, lectures from Dickens specialists and talks from children’s authors. The Museum of London is also getting involved: it is running  an exhibition called Dickens and London until 10 June, including “manuscripts of some of his most famous novels, his writing desk and chair, artefacts, paintings and audiovisual effects to create an immersive and exciting journey through Dickens’s imagination”.

Known as the ‘Literary Capital of Ireland’ and the home of celebrated writers John B. Keane, Bryan MacMahon, Brendan Kennelly, Gabriel Fitzmaurice, Maurice Walsh, Robert Leslie Boland, George Fitzmaurice and Seámus Wilmot, the town of Listowel, Co. Kerry, will host the forty-first Listowel Writers’ Week. The event will take place from 30 May to 3 June. There are 14 three-day Literary Workshops on offer, covering genres from creative writing to poetry to screenwriting to journalism to memoir. There are only 15 places per workshop, each costing €175. The festival will also have readings from several internationally acclaimed authors, including Belinda McKeon. A weekly ticket costs €100, or €180 for two, and concession tickets are available for students. You can make bookings by calling +353 682 1074.

Galway City in Ireland is well known for its arts, especially literature. The twenty-seventh Cúirt International Festival of Literature, on 24-29 April, will showcase some of the best writing talent to come from the island. The annual Cúirt/Over the Edge Showcase on 25 April is highly regarded and will feature the fiction and poetry winners of the Cúirt New Writing Prize 2012. More events will be announced on the website shortly so make sure to have a glance at its Twitter or like its Facebook page.

Cambridge Wordfest (Spring 2012) is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in style. Held from 13-15 April at various venues throughout the city, Festival Director Cathy Moore says to “expect a three-day party bursting with everything from big-name authors to debut writers, [to] personal inspirations [and] global themes”. They will be welcoming top-notch writers from all over the UK, including Julian Clary, Michael Portillo, Grace Dent, Charley Boorman, Ian Rankin, Michael Rosen, Cressida Cowell and Andy Stanton. The festival will also have a wide range of literary events during the weekend: Writing Creative Non-Fiction, Ghost Writing Masterclass, A Room of One’s Own Workshop and Walking Tour, Poetry Workshops, Getting Published Today Masterclass and Crime Writing Workshops are just some of the delights to choose from. The box office is now open for bookings: have a look at thewebsite or call 01223 300 085.

The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival at Christ Church, Oxford, has one of the most spectacular backdrops of any festival. From 24 March to 1 April, the festival will display a wealth of creative knowledge and entertainment, and more than 80 events that will take place. The guest speakers include Peter Carey, Vikram Seth, William Boyd, Robert Harris, Anthony Horowitz, P.D. James and Ian Rankin. Check out the website for more information, as well as its Facebook page and Twitter. Call the box office on 0870 343 1001.

The Bath Literature Festival will be held from 2-11 March. This year’s festival has a smashing line-up of authors and events, from Writers’ Surgery workshops for anyone suffering from writer’s block, to Britain’s only poetry pub crawl, to a talk with The Times columnist David Aaronovitch. A fun few days in one of the most beautiful English cities, this festival is certainly not one to be missed. You can follow it on Twitter for the latest updates.

This is only a selection of the fantastic festivals and events that are going on throughout the country this year. If you’re a prospective or established author, or just a lover of words, soaking up the rich literary atmosphere will do your writing the world of good!

Image credit: Dickens 2012 Festival.

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