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Guest Blog: Simultaneous Shakespeare, Rehearsals

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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.

There’s so much admin! So many emails are flying around between people and cities, my inbox is rarely cleared. However, we should now have a full production team for both venues which should lessen the load a little. I’ve been trying to recruit people since the end of August, except the Cambridge directorial team who were in place before that. I’ve gone from having no-one apply for production roles to more than I needed so we now have assistants to the publicity designer, composer, producers, and directors.

The list of creative is looking a bit like an apprenticeship scheme – but they will all prove useful. Most of these assistants are based in Exeter, except the assistant composer, who is a Cambridge student while the composer is an Exeter student… I counted yesterday, and if I include cast I have around forty people involved in this project – that explains the amount of admin! After a few hours of dedication yesterday, I managed to clear my inbox of show-related correspondence, hurrah.

I’ve managed to make just the one mistake – I received an email from an actor and thought for some reason, despite his email address clearly showing his was from Exeter, that he was a Cambridge student so directed him that way. Wrong! Someone else sent their apologies for a meeting in Cambridge, I thought as they live and work in Exeter that was excusable.

So rehearsals are the easier part at the moment! I really enjoy working with actors on soliloquies, drawing out meaning from the text. I had an eureka moment with Lance yesterday. He’s a clown-type role, so his style is intentionally complex. It takes a bit of figuring out, but when we both finally tuned in to the central joke the rest of the speech made more sense. The delivery is still really hard, but we’ll get there. I then worked with Valentine on his speeches. My actor has hit the target with his first three, but the final scene is a bit of a beast. If you know the play you’ll know the very last scene is tricky, if you don’t know the play go and read it! (Unless you’re coming to see it, in which case don’t, wait until the performance. Tickets will be available soon.) To say the scene utilises abrupt changes in tone is an understatement.

Although this is an extra-curricular project, we are still constrained by time as we all have lectures, seminars and work demanding our attention. It must be such a joy to be able to dedicate days and weeks in rehearsals to discovering a play. The Two Gentlemen would certainly benefit from workshop-style activities, but I don’t have that much time. However, I will find the time to play around with the final scene – I think it will need it.

I recently discovered that a simultaneous idea was in use at the Globe Theatre. The theatre holds a series of ‘Read not Dead’ ‘performances with scripts’, which allow plays by contemporaries of Shakespeare, and other works inspired by the playwright, to be heard and seen. Earlier this month one performance was held on Bankside, as another text was done in Poitiers at exactly the same time. Sounds like a darn good idea to me!

I’ve just seen my inbox – I have a page and a half of emails demanding my attention. Here we go again…


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