Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

Chasing dreams, because I can

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Preparation is the key

Posted by Oli on Wednesday 10th January, 2007

Who’d have thought I’d be back to studying, eh?

Not 24 hours after my mammoth meeting on the new show, I realised that if I was going into rehearsals on Wednesday, I’d sure as heck better have done some work on the script I’m tackling.

It wasn’t till I sat down to piece together the sections of text from Hamlet and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead that I realised it was going to be impossible to work from copies of the script I had, so I’d have to type it all out fresh for the cast to use.

Laborious as it was, I’m actually grateful for the need to take the long way round, because it took me through both texts line-by-line, which got me much closer to them than I would have been if I’d just have given them a cursory glance through.

The basic idea of what I’m trying to do is use two of Shakespeare’s scenes with Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (or Ros and Guil, as their mates – well, my type-worn fingers – call them) to book-end my favourite section of R&GAD involving a rapid-fire word game which is not only fun to watch, but also to perform and direct.  The contrast between the language and the style of performance in the two different parts (ancient and modern) is a great opportunity for the actors to really explore and play with the text and their characters.

What I didn’t count on, wading through the text as I typed it out, was just how much extra work I’d created for myself by going back to Shakespeare’s original.  Foolishly, having studied it for A-Level, I was hugely confident of my grasp of the material.  But looking at it again I realised that although I still had a good hold of the sense of it, there were a hundred questions that leapt out at me from the verse which, as an actor, I would immediately have thrown at the director.

Being the director, that means I have to know the answer.  Of course, it’s not as simple as just throwing out an answer – I prefer, in rehearsals, to let the actors reach their own decisions and conclusions about what they’re doing – but in order to keep them on the right track and not flailing off in random directions which take us round in circles, I needed to swat up on my ancient English and get to grips with Will’s words.

Remarkably, I slipped back into my studying patterns without so much as a hiccup.  In fact, I think I may have been better at it now than I was when I was studying it to be tested on.  Whether that’s a reflection on my abilities, or motivation, as a student, or on the problems with teaching Shakespeare in an English class I’m not quite sure.

Whatever the result and however well it goes in rehearsals, there is no doubt that getting back into creative endevours – and practical ones at that – has refreshed my mind and my imagination and pushed my motivation to stay fit, healthy and able to work even harder than it was before.

More than anything else right now, I want to be able to see this through to the end.  Ok, if I get my transplant call, I might just see fit to relinquish my role (provided, of course, I get comps to the show…), but beyond that, I don’t want anything else to get in the way of me being able to do the thing that’s been so missing from my life.

So it’s double-physio, extra drinks (of the build-up kind, not the alcoholic kind) and plenty of rest throughout the day so that I can make the very most of the opportunity afforded me.

And if you haven’t bought your tickets yet – why not!?!?!

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