Guest Blog: Simultaneous Shakespeare, AuditionsDate: 18 October 2011
Student Nicola Pollard is directing an ambitious project that will see her stage two productions of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the same time in two different locations - Exeter and Cambridge.
To all those of you who have been worrying on my behalf about the number of people who turned up to audition for Simultaneous Shakespeare, you can relax now. I had plenty of students to choose from, which is fantastic. If initial auditions are poorly attended, I find it a bit awkward to have to ask people to audition for me. Having choice is amazing! Cambridge had many, many people audition too which is brilliant – you may be able to tell from the use of adjectives I am a little bit excited.
Exeter had our read-through today; I think my cast are going to get on well. One of the joys I find in student theatre is giving opportunities to others, and this project is no exception. A few of my cast members have only been at university a couple of weeks; I also have a sprinkling of second years and some postgraduate and mature students. I think it’s a testament to theatre that we can put people of different ages and experiences in a room together and be laughing within minutes. (I think this may also have had something to do with the slightly daft game we played.)
Despite his frequent appearances within the British education system, Shakespeare isn’t performed as much as one might expect in universities. Some students relish this opportunity; others run a mile which I think is a shame because Shakespeare’s plays are such a rich source for characters, plots, themes and just pure joy. I was relieved to hear laughter in our read-through – much but not all of which stemmed from jokes within the text.
After the read-through I made the mistake of reading a little about other productions of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. I don’t usually do this as it throws me into doubt about my interpretation. I’m getting braver with ideas the more experience I get, but I’m still years away from some of the concepts I read about. (Some of the concepts I read about I know I wouldn’t ever touch with a ten-foot barge pole.)
I don’t want our productions to be too radical, but I don’t want them to be too ordinary. I don’t think they will be, and I’m fortunate in the fact that 'Two Gents' isn’t like Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet in that many people won’t have seen another production of the play. Which means it’s down to us to ensure their first experience of 'Two Gents' is a good’un…
All the actors will bring in their own ideas, as will the directorial team in Cambridge. I’m so interested to see what they come up with, especially noticing where we differ in interpretation. We’re utilising the same set design, but engaging with two different time periods, which will alter various elements of the productions, and provide some really interesting parallels and contrasts.
I’m also asking both casts to participate in a penpal scheme with each other. I figured that the directors and creative teams will be communicating from both cities, so the actors should get that opportunity too. Exeter actors will email their Cambridge counterparts, and thus begin a correspondence across the miles about their character, interpretations, temperament and the like. I’m not asking them to do the same performances, just to communicate. It might be weird on performance night for them to know that two hundred miles away another student is waiting in the wings to say exactly the same lines…