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Guest Blog: Simultaneous Shakespeare, The Big Day

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Student Nicola Pollard recently directed an ambitious project that saw her stage two productions of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the same time in two different locations - Exeter and Cambridge.

She's been keeping us updated throughout the creative process, and here tells us how it went on the big day.

My relationship with technology is greatly improved! The live feed held up throughout Saturday evening, from the overture to the curtain call. I was very surprised, and very pleased. In addition, the audience in Exeter exceeded 70 people, which is more than I could have hoped for. That also meant a decent collection for charity which is brilliant.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a cast. They have all worked so hard and gave the rehearsals dedication and commitment – I couldn’t have asked for more. The idea of the project was to share one night of theatre between two venues, so we couldn’t do more than one performance, thus we only had one chance to get it all right. Which they did.

The production bowled along at a good pace, with the laughs growing as the play progressed. We made a popular choice with Rufus the puppet as Crab the Dog, the way the actor dealt with him received awws, ahhs and plenty of laughs. (From what we saw in the technical rehearsal, the inflatable dog in Cambridge went down well too!) I’ve received feedback that the identical sets really helped the notion of ‘lateral playing’, and gave highly visible profiles for the images on the live feed. That is terrific (and not only because it was the biggest expenditure of the whole budget).

The different time periods were interesting too, notably the costumes were different but also the interpretation, as I expected, changed a little. In Cambridge the outlaws who kidnap Silvia wore hoodies, whereas ours were a ragtag bunch alike to those in Robin Hood. Cambridge also had many more props than we did, which may be a consequence of the modern time period.

The live feed proved that we managed to start both halves at the same time, but we didn’t manage to finish at the same moment. It would have been brilliant if the curtain calls could have been at the same time, but as both directors had free rein on interpretation that affected the running times of the halves.

If (IF) I were to do this again, I think I would set a time limit on the length of the halves, then we would aim to finish within a couple of minutes of each other. That would involve being stricter on the two directors in terms of what they could do in addition to the text, but having two simultaneous curtain calls would be an amazing feat. Even though we couldn’t hear it across the live feed, as it was muted, playing identical music in the two venues was a great way of binding the two audiences. We knew it was playing, even though we couldn’t hear it. The lighting for the openings of the halves was also similar, which was visible on the live feed screen.

The audience was response was incredibly positive – at least the comments I heard were! I wonder if we had done the same play in exactly the same way without a twin performance whether the response would have been the same. I was very pleased with the production by itself, but I wonder if the evening would have been as interesting without the simultaneous element. The lateral playing didn’t make any difference to the audience’s enjoyment of the comedy, which generated a good buzz in the auditorium. The actors started on high energy levels, but these were raised further once the laughs started to roll.

I began work on this idea about a year ago, and now it’s all over. The flats are going to be recycled in other stagings, the posters will come down and the casts will disperse to other productions. But the evening was a bigger success than I thought possible, and to have an audience of that size in Exeter was amazing. It wouldn’t have happened without the 40 people who assisted me, I can’t say thank you enough times. Keep an ear out for Simultaneous Shakespeare, maybe (MAYBE) it’ll happen again.

Thank you to WOS for enabling me to write this Blog, I hope it’s been enjoyed by readers.


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