Although a bit of a blur - an exhausting, fun, sunny, blur - we seem to have moved forward miles in a week.
The shape of the play backstage is becoming familiar to us - this is a whole new play you can only learn once up and running - when do I have to change, and into what, where should I be next, what should I have in my pocket, when should I leap out of the way of an exiting trombone / actor / stage manager, what are the real timings (there is the line I need to be one by, sure, but the line I need to be moving by), when and how can I help others / when is it best to clear out of the way, etc. etc.
|Thanks to Kate Lamb for this lovely pic!|
We have learnt a little about the weather - we have not yet done rain...but we have done extreme sun (Malta practice?) and poor Kate Lamb was freeeeezing in her dress last night. She has already developed a special backstage look of dress + dressing gown + puffa jacket...
We have learnt that the good folk of Portsmouth love the shrews - huzzah!
We also had the learning curve that was our first schools matinee.
Some of you will know that I taught Shakespeare workshops in schools for several years, from primary to sixth form and so am very much on the side of the kids here....
On a sunny day, with some quite young year groups who don't know the play (it's june, exams are over, so it looked to me like they would be studying it next year for gcse or even sats, so we are talking 12 and up), and a fair few teachers hiding away at the back to keep in the shade (caveat - this was not typical of the entire audience!) it provided some real challenges. It's hard to win over a crowd who see it as a couple of hours of sunbathing and texting...
We did learn a lot from it -
The play is robust enough, and so are we, to continue amongst difficult circumstances.
The play does speak to a young audience, and many were clearly engaged and following the story, even in the face of the disruption of their peers.
We mustn't try and engage loud crowds through volume - we know this really, it will only ruin our voices and we will only lose - but it is such a tempting instinct...
On the whole I think (given the sun and the lack of supervision of large groups in the audience) the level of engagement was exceptional - it just felt like such hard work at the time.
One really sad realisation I took from the experience was the level of peer led homophobia that is clearly still prevalent in schools. It (naively) hadn't crossed my mind that schools audiences would struggle with the concept of a female actor kissing another female actor. I do remember from schools performances of Midsummer Night's Dream that there were sometimes a few 'yuck' reactions when (the male) Lysander kissed me (sometimes even from me when the actor concerned had insisted on eating pickled chillies for dinner). But this was different. Every time Petruccio mentioned kissing Kate they would call out 'don't kiss her' 'that's disgusting' etc.
I think it brought a few of us back to school days, remembering when being seen to fit in is so important. And feeling that you have to prove that you are not gay (and presumably hide it if you think you are) is such a part of that. It was a bit heartbreaking to remember.
Joy, wisely as ever, pointed out that there will have been some quiet minds in the audience who would have been strengthened to see a same sex kiss, unapologetic and unexplained...my worry is that the reactions around them would have unbalanced any positive. But she's right, just as there will have been kids who thought:
'I can't believe it's Shakespeare and I can understand it'
'I think I want to be an actor'
'These jokes are actually funny'
there will have been some for whom it was the first time they saw a same-gender kiss as something other than something to laugh about...