Tuesday, 24 May 2016

BEHIND STAGE DOOR



THE TAMING OF THE SHREW 
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

I think it's a bit ironic how I titled a recent blog post of mine 'New Balance', as I strongly believe that that is a true reflection of how I've been feeling of late. NEW - HAPPIER AND BALANCED. Just like I've grown some what over the past eight weeks and now re-ready for whatever life throws at me. It has to 100% be down to that fact that I've just finished performing in a Shakespeare production which has always been a dream job of mine. (And may it continue).  **Oh if all this acting talk is all new to you. Please read my actress post here to fill yourself in :-)). 

So now that I've finally managed to get myself out of my post show depressed slump. (job finished 2 weeks ago) I feel fully ready to write all about what I got up to. The dark comedic controversial comedy of  'Taming of the Shrew' by William Shakespeare was full of riding highs and a few frustrating lows......So let's get started! Oh, you will definitely need a big brew for this one! Enjoy! XX


I distinctly remember receiving the call from the director and co-founder of Custom Practice, Rae Mcken offering me the role of 'BIONDELLO', in  'The Taming of the Shrew'. Custom Practice is a London based theatre company with a string of raving productions across the UK under their belts since 2010. I had previously seen quite a lot of their stage work so I was fully aware of the kind of material that Custom Practice produce and already a huge fan. I also got to work with Rae at the Bush Theatre last November in a play called Stripped Black. (If you're an actor I would highly recommend looking this company up and writing to them as they love seeking new talent!)

Our rehearsal space was at the delightful Theatre Delicatessen in Farringdon. Typically filled with actors singing in the corridors, a leaking broken kettle and Toby Jones (Harry Potter) casually walking around. I instantly loved our new working home for the next three weeks.  On the first 

day I was very excited, nervous and I guess over curious as to what the next few weeks had in store for us. So the first day of rehearsal is when you get to meet the full cast and production team including a production and costume designer, stage manager, production assistant and director. Sometimes you get to work with people you've met or seen in the industry or sometimes it's the first time meeting new actors. On this particular show I had met Catherine Lamb (briefly at a reading) and Lorenzo Martelli (also Co founder of CP) before. Everyone else were all knew to me. So after the welcomes and cast/crew introductions we immediately got stuck in with the first sit down read through of the Shrew script. 


In the three week scheduled rehearsal period we paraphrased each single word/line/phrase of the entire script as a collective. And just deeply dissected and translated the Shakespearean text to continuously gain meaning and clarity of the language. Majority of the classical text is all in verse, (big speeches) and we had tons of discussion about the themes and plots within the play, especially questioning the controversial comic tragedy aspect. Huge in dept talks on our own personal interpretation of the dialogue. As Rae made the choice of regendering the play, it really did open a big catalyst of discussion about feminism and power. Also our own experience of being modern day women and the everyday expectation of wearing heels, makeup and accentuating our femininity (which I've never really thought deeply about in the past). And just looking at the text from a different approach with a female heavy cast taking the leading role, which completely changed the dynamic of the story. A real interesting concept which even took us a while to get used to. (All the leading roles were originally played by men) Oooops this is turning into an English essay! I need to get on with it!

So after a very long week of text discovery, by week two we were ready to play (where the word play stems from) and by play I mean getting all of the text up on it's feet. Blocking by marking out where we stood on the stage, enter and exit. A collaboratory explore of what felt right and works for our characters and what didn't in the space.
Rehearsal. Kayla Meikle playing Tranio and myself playing Biondello.


For me this is one of the best times of rehearsals. 
Rehearsal. Martin Laird as Petruchio, Kazeem as Katherina

Tim Bowie as Bianca in Rehearsal.



Eugenia Caruso in Rehearsals.


We also had movement and dance calls with a movement specialist and dance teacher. The movement sessions really help by getting you to think more about the physicality of the character your playing. The rehearsal time isn't all fun and games as you can also struggle to find your characters voice or connect with the character. For example you could be rehearsing and practising yet something doesn't feel right with what you're doing. You haven't yet quite worked out how she/he sounds, walks, eats stands etc. By the end of week two I wasn't yet connecting with who Biondello really was. I was also finding the lines and language harder to remember because I still hadn't found her voice. 
Script.
So every night its your job as an actor after the full day of rehearsal to go home and learn your lines. The quicker the lines are learnt the more freedom you have to play and also it's easier to be directed without a bulking script in your hand. You're thinking more as the character would rather than stopping constantly to look at your lines.
 Rehearsals. 


But I think it was mid way through week two that something finally clicked and I finally found Biondello's voice! Hooray! And I also had braids put in my hair under Rae's direction. Braids really suited Biondello as they really helped me feel more like her cheeky quirky playful character. Sometimes like with anything that you are finding hard, you just need to  stop and not over think it and relax in to it. And that's what I did. Less is more.....
Arts Theatre, Leicester square. West end.
So after our three week rehearsal and all the blocking and direction had been done. It was time to change location and move bases to our new home at heart of  Leicester Square at The Arts Theatre Westend and enter something which is called a 'technical week'. Which is where the production crew spend a day or two (usually) doing another theatre term called a 'get in'. They basically move all of the set in, paint, decorate and set the stage and auditorium. The Arts Theatre is a black box theatre so everything can to be painted and set by the designer. 

Setting the stage.
After the get in is done we had a technical run of the show. Which is when the run is staggered and mainly focusing on the visual picture of the show incorporating light and sound. The lighting and sound engineers are able to hear cues to set the lighting and sound working with the director. A tech day can start at 10am and finish at 10pm. Our tech day was 12pm - 10pm. They are always very long days but all part of the fun!


Next we had our dress run. This is the first time actors get to use the space in full costume(no more rehearsal space). Sometimes it can be the first time your fully using a prop, and finding out what works in the new space and what doesn't. It's all very exciting stuff!



In costume as Biondello.

Are you still with me? I literally can't stop writing.
So after our tech and dress runs. We had our first ever preview night of the show to a public audience. Our first night was a real buzz and we instantly got a reaction from the audience. We had a standing ovation on the first night, and we were all so pleased that the first ever performance was done. After the preview night our show was then in a period called the 'previews' which can be days or weeks leading up to the official press night opening. The days after each preview performance the director will call you in at 6pm to give you notes, cuts and tweaks on the show. A directive view on what works best to improve the narrative of the story.

And after your 'preview period' is the night you've really been building up to 'The Press Night'. Arrrrrrgh! Press night's can be seen as quite nerve wracking as it's the one night that an audience are specifically invited in from the national press to critic your performance and show. On our press night I actually wasn't overly nervous. I mean I had nerves but good ones to spur me on. As a whole with press nights I just try and remain calm, focused and not put too much pressure on myself. You just have to have self belief in your talent and ability and let go!

Myself, Kayla, Cat and Kazeem.

I also like to remember that it's what we've been waiting for, finally to be seen doing a job that we love to do. Why worry. We also had (without sounding big headed) a pretty amazing frigging show on our hands! I loved playing Biondello and we worked our arses off. Lorenzo told me that you know when your doing Shakespeare correctly by the sweat dripping from you as you come off the stage. Everything was so heightened in performance and the play is pretty much a fast comedy. So we definitely grafted our way through it. Rae did a great job at bringing 'Taming of the Shrew' to life. Her attention to detail was incredible to watch! And thankfully the reviews that we gained reflected that. Feel free to read a review here.  I actually tend not to read the reviews till after the run as I just don't think it's mentally healthy to fixate yourself on one persons point of view, as it can sip into your performance. Pleasing everyone is impossible so I just stick to receiving all my notes from the person who's hired me - The Director. 

So during the next four weeks I had the best time being on stage every day (exc Mondays). And for me it was where I really got to develop my craft by naturally constantly finding new things about the character I was playing. Literally as your saying the lines on stage you can hear something completely different or something someone else has said sounds different.  Also as we are performing in front of a fresh audience, we have to keep our performance roar and new. I just try to never let myself get stale or bored on stage. Every performance has to be like you've never ever said the words your about to say before. And its definitely feels like the show gets a new life every time you do it. Its exhilarating and also crazy!












Production images including Martina Laird, Kazeem Tosin Amore, Lorenzo Martelli, Tim Bowie and Karlina Grace-Paseda.
Four weeks had quickly passed and I suddenly found myself in the wings about to do my last ever performance of the show. The person who invented the saying 'Time flies when you're having fun' was absolutely bleeding right! Where had the time gone? The last time I would ever say the exact same words again was upon me. The entire production process for 'Taming of the Shrew' was seven weeks. Three weeks rehearsals and four weeks of the show. And in the seven weeks you naturally become so close and attached to one another. 
Art Theatre dressing rooms.
We ate together, drank together (too much), cry together, laugh together, warm up together, dance together, sweat on stage together, slip up on stage together and literally fart together. (shared dressing rooms! Inhibitions goes right out the window on day one mate!) I mean we practically saw each other naked by the end of the run and it's kinder like living in a liberating big bubble that you don't want to end. (Especially if your touring a show across the country, actually that's a tough slog!). I like that you're just surrounded by people who get your craziness and mind. 

                                                                 Resting between shows at Arts Theatre.
When it comes to the last show you know you'll never have that again which can be sad but you know its par and parcel of the job and  you'll see them again anyway (meet up next Sunday to be exact). I've been doing this for nearly eight years now and I'm looking forward to my next opportunity as it's been a blast filled with highs and little lows. I think when your working on a film or TV set you don't unfortunately have the time for that big rehearsal. You can literally be snogging a bloke (actor) who you've just met that day on set, so you miss the bond you make during creating live theatre.
Full 'Taming of The Shrew Cast.


So there you have it! A big (probably too much but I wanted it to make sense) insight into what a full west end production entails. I hope you liked it and I'll be back on the fashion stuff this week, I promise. I just wanted to share something that isn't a hobby or a small thing in my life. Being an actor is my life. I think when I say that to people that are not in the industry they are excited but a bit baffled as to what us actors actually do, and never really know all the work and commitment we put into it. Which is understandable because the insider part isn't really spoken of or shown. I hope this has broaden some minds. A life of an actress isn't like a X factor programme and the majority of us don't do it for the money and fame, we do it because we choose to work hard at pursuing something that means more to us than we even know. 

I also would like to thank my beautiful friends and family for supporting me on this production, and supporting me over the past years. I love you all. Thank you. OK I better go because I'm getting all emo, mushy and weird lol!




As always thanks for reading.
My Look, 
My Style 
FLORA MARIA

In memory of my beautiful Rose. 
Mum.

Ps. 
If it doesn't come bursting out of you in spite of everything 
- Don't do it
Unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut
- Don't do it
If your doing it for money or fame
- Don't do it
If it's hard work just thinking about doing it
- DON'T DO IT
When it is truly time and you have been chosen it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it
- Till you die
Or it dies in you.

There is no other way and there never was. 
:-)
Russell Crowe's FA Cup words of wisdom
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/36350709
































































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