Just off Trafalgar Square, near the stage door of Theatre Royal Haymarket where they’re showing the “Only Fools and Horses” cash-cow musical there’s a vast and well appointed building full of high ceilings and marble and artworks. Well – truth be told there are thousands of buildings that could fit that description, and most of the rooms in most of them are empty most of the time. But this one is used. This is a busy building. I’ve been through it a fair few times, mostly for disappointing auditions but periodically for the flipside, as last time. Sometimes, apparently, things are allowed to go well. That’s been the pattern recently, and long may it continue.
I’ve been at the London base of The University of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish. A Catholic university, renowned for what the Americans call “football”. “Go Irish!” I will be out there in autumn, among the chipmunks at the campus in South Bend, about to kick into a tour that will fly me all over the place in that vast populous continent. Off the top of my head, there’s Indiana, Texas, Massachusetts, California, Maryland and Colorado involved. I’ll finish in Colorado Springs in November and then I’ll probably try to get wheels and go on a great American roadtrip for a fortnight, out west, see the sights. But first I’ve got to do two Shakespeare plays for two different companies.
Today, five cast members met with the two actors who had cast the five of us. We went on a walk and had a shedload of photographs taken of us up against London landmarks. They’ll be sent to America ahead of us to bolster the public relations and garner audiences. The company has existed for 45 years now and it’s running in a well smoothed groove. I’m excited to get to see the production lot out in Indiana again. I’m sad though, as the last time we came out we had Ryan helping us out. Beautiful kind Ryan. “Guys, you’re forgetting I’m here. You keep saying you need to go to the shop and buy this and that. Gimme a list!” He passed away, his kindness and self sacrifice lost to future companies. I only just realised I wouldn’t be seeing him as I started to think about who I was looking forward to seeing. Life can be unutterably arbitrary.
In late July we will be locked in a room together in Brixton for a few weeks, and the hope is that we will emerge blinking into the light with a tight version of Twelfth Night, performed and created by the five of us with no director, working out all the tech and costume and props ourselves, and making sure that everything we need in order to run the show can fit into a single suitcase. After today’s read-through I’m confident that it’s going to be good. But fuck, it’s going to be a hell of a lot of work. I’m absolutely bricking it about the two week overlap with rehearsals in London and evening shows in Oxford. But even without that added pressure it’s a huge amount of work to get it right, particularly considering how much of my major part (Belch) is in prose. Hard as heck to learn Shakespearean prose. But I’ll be in excellent company.
Here’s a sketched distant photo of a posed photo of the five of us at the start of a journey that will teach us a great deal about one another. I deliberately haven’t cropped it for context. HERE COMES SUMMER.
Although we don’t start rehearsal for weeks yet…