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.