In the third post of our blog series following two young actors performing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s summer season, we hear from Daniel Easton on the eve of the first Hamlet preview…
Swanning into Stratford town…
We moved last Sunday, my life compressed into a pathetic number of boxes, Jo (Horton) and Luke (Norris) had taken pity on me and had offered space in their van to Stratford. Some deft removal work later and I had landed at my new gaff on Bull Street. A swell of nerves had greeted me when we pulled into town, a sickening pang akin to the beginning of my time at University except I already knew most of the people I’d be spending my time with. “See you at the union, yeah?” I felt like saying. Those nerves where soon replaced with high-pitched yelps of giddy joy at the fact I had my first own proper little house. My little house on the Avon, Casa de Avon, Hotel Avon, Papa D’s joint… hmmm, not so much… I could host if I wanted too, I could bloody well host! I knew those Come Dine with Me omnibuses hadn’t been in vain! I wanted people to rummage in my wardrobe. I welcomed it.
Drinks in the Union turned out to be welcome drinks at the Swan bar. Not quite the double mixers for a pound and adhesive floors from the heydays of my time in Manchester but a way for us to come together and look ahead at our time here. That and a free bar. “How’s your place?” “Did you move ok?” “SO GOOD!” I replied quelling the urge to invite everybody round for a dinner party that night. You’ve got seven months to host Danny. Easy now. Come the morning I was excited to be here and eager to explore the town. A brief stroll before rehearsals allowed me to get my bearings. Its quaint beauty was somewhat overshadowed for me at first by the sheer volume of shops that had decided to trade in on the Bard’s heritage. Much Ado about Toys greeted me first, then it was Iago’s jewellers which struck me as a rather untrustworthy place to buy jewels, but hey what do I know.
We spent our first week in the Arden Street rehearsal rooms. Beginning with an aperitif of As You Like It for two days, we then placed it carefully in storage so the next few weeks could be spent previewing and opening Hamlet. We entered the Royal Shakespeare Theatre bright and early the following Monday morning ready to start the tech. Tech means different things to the actors and technicians alike. It can fill one with dread as the beautiful nugget of a performance you had in the rehearsal room slowly slips through your fingers as technical issues take precedence, but technical rehearsals are always an interesting time. When the two sides of the production meet head on and tentatively try to join together like the two rows of protruding teeth in a zipper, it can be a little bit stiff at first. But in an incredibly short amount of time they gel, snap together and it starts work effortlessly: actors, technicians, wigs, wardrobes, lighting, sound, props and all.
Being part of that coalescence is always fun – being swept up in such a mass effort of endeavour, preparing to mount your show and set it before the public. I love those one-time moments that tech affords you, when you see your fellow actors in stunning costumes for the first time that a few months ago where sketches on paper, your swift intake of breath as your walk onto the stage and the set for the first time. An entire world is realised in three days and it’s so exciting to witness it happening. Right now I’m typing this sat in the stalls. On stage Johnny, Greg and David are discussing blocking and lighting for the ghost entrance, re-jigging slightly and looking at different possibilities. The first preview may be on Thursday but this is still a creative environment. We’ll continue to tinker through previews as we put the show in front of an audience. An audience? You mean we have to perform this for other people? Not just ourselves?
*runs screaming and jumps into the Avon*
Til next time…
The RSC runs a £5 ticket scheme for 16 – 25 year olds. Find out more here.
Image: Keith Pattison