Monday, 14 January 2013

My Shakey week.

The University of Winchester has, for the past three years, participated in an annual Shakespeare 'festival'/one-night spectacular at the Theatre Royal in the city centre; the project is called 'Scratch Shakespeare', and consists of three of the Bard's works being completely pulled apart and stitched back together by a group of talented students, as they take on roles as actors, producers, techies and directors.

Last year the shows included 'A Comedy Of Errors' and 'Julius Caesar'; this year the plays selected are 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', 'The Merchant of Venice', and 'Twelfth Night', each with a special twist set upon them.
   'Midsummer' is transformed into an 1980s wonderland, the soundtrack including Grace Jones and A-Ha, and characters are given an eighties makeover - with Oberon as Adam Ant, Titania as Madonna, the Mechanicals as Dexy's Midnight Runners, etc., it promises to be an exciting and certainly unique performance.
   'Merchant' is comprised of a cast consisting of just four actors and a myriad of musicians and physical performers; it is rumoured to have a circus theme, with the actors dressed and painted as classic red-nose clowns.
   'Twelfth Night' is slightly carnival-esque, with all characters masked and dressed in bright costume. The story of love and all the confusion it brings with it is given new life in the hands of talented students 
fighting with balloon swords.


I missed out on 'Scratch' last year, mostly due to my laziness and general ignorance of everything happening around me, and this year I seem to be making up for that by being in two of the three productions... Typically, this isn't done by any 'Scratch' actors, as it's hard work and the loyalty to one show is very important, but circumstance gave me the opportunity and I couldn't say no.
   I'd just finished the amazing play 'When It Rains Gasoline'; a wonderful experience and the greatest time working with some seriously talented and brilliant people. There was a sense of sadness creeping in towards the end of the 'Gasoline' rehearsals - what am I going to do with my time when this is all over? Will I still see my lovely co-stars? Will I get to perform again at all this year?
   That was when the 'Scratch' auditions began. I auditioned for 'Midsummer' and 'Twelfth Night', not exactly confident about my chances because a) going from a modern and originally American play to Shakespeare is a bit of a shock, b) I was certain I'd got into 'Gasoline' purely due to my choice of monologue and a touch of dumb luck on the day of auditions, and c) everyone else at the 'Scratch' auditions was more talented/experienced/well-liked than me. Still, I tried.

I got into 'Midsummer', to my absolute delight. That was the one I wanted most - how lucky was that?! Clearly my portrayal of the very simple-minded Starveling/Moonshine in the auditions made the director happy - the laughter from everyone else in the room while I slowly and deliberately stuttered "this lanthorn doth the h-h-horn-ed moon present..." made it pretty clear that I was doing something right.The director gave us our roles, and said "if any of you have agreed to do any of the other Shakespeare plays, I'll be pissed!"
   A month or so into rehearsals, I was approached by a lovely co-worker and asked if I would like to be in 'Twelfth Night' - they'd had someone drop out and desperately needed a new Captain/Antonio (two characters, both fairly small parts). I enjoyed the audition for this play, and some friends of mine had been given roles, so it would be a good experience and I'd get to perform even more. I had to be diplomatic and say "maybe, probably yes", and then confirm with the lovely director the following night that I would be happy to fill in - the director left me a voicemail saying she knew I was "having personal difficulties with some of the cast members", but reassured me it would not be a problem and she really wanted me in her show. I in turn assured her that the "personal difficulties" would never affect me in a working environment, and I was sure they'd be resolved soon enough.
   I came back to uni two weeks early to start intensive rehearsals for 'Twelfth Night'. I cannot even begin to describe how nervous I was; I felt like the new kid at school, starting in November after all the cool kids had spent the past two months hanging out and getting to know each other - what if they didn't like me? What if they hated me for replacing the girl who dropped out? What if they believe those awful things people are saying about me? As you can imagine, walking into that studio on Day 1 could not have been more terrifying. All I wanted was to do well, and make friends. I think it's gone well, so far...
   Hashtagging #TwelfthIntensive on Twitter with my fellow cast members, getting up early every day, learning to sword fight (kind of), mask making at the director's house, constant giggles and unintentional innuendo - it's been a great couple of weeks. I also managed to message the 'Midsummer' director, a lovely friend of a friend (who I'd definitely like to be a full-time friend), and she was alright with me being in two 'Scratch' shows - as long as I didn't slack off on my Mechanical duties.


Which brings me to today: the first rehearsals in the Theatre Royal. The morning was spent blocking and running 'Midsummer', plus practicing the crazy end dance to 'Love Is The Drug'. After lunch with some 'Midsummer' friends, the afternoon was all about 'Twelfth Night'. I was instructed to "be more camp" as my character of secretly-gay Antonio, and then spent the rest of rehearsals throwing a tennis ball backstage with a fellow cast member. I then had staff training at my SU, and then raced back to town to meet lovely friends (and future housemates) for a trip to the cinema. It's been a crazy day. Right now, at 1:30am, I am looking forward to my lie-in tomorrow morning, and reflecting on my mad-mad-mad week. It's been a fantastic experience, and I'm so happy I've been lucky enough to get a double helping.

'Scratch Shakespeare' is on Monday 11th Feb at the Theatre Royal, Winchester.
6:00pm - 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.
7:20pm - 'The Merchant of Venice'.
8:40pm - 'Twelfth Night'.
Tickets are £5 per show, or £11 for all three.Buy tickets online!

I've already effectively guilt-tripped my immediate family into coming, let's see how many more people I can entice. If you need that extra bit of encouragement, imagine me clicking my fingers and thrusting with a lovely male dance partner to this tune...

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