So interesting to get two juxtaposing theatrical experiences in one day, and all combined to a magical day.
So the first experience:
I'm biased because 4 of my lovely peers were involved in this - Pop Up Shakespeare Flash Mob - before I ramble on, here's a flavour below....
Click on the photo to link to The Guardian article and video of the flashmob in action in Covent Garden
I'll also admit I'm heavily biased because Mark Rylance was behind the idea, and I openly confess to having a bit of an actorly-awestruck crush on him.
No. But seriously. Why did I love it?
It kind of coincided with having just finished my Shakespeare season at Rose Bruford during which I had a bit of an epiphany. I've always liked Shakespeare, but never raved over it so there's always been this sense of knowing I wasn't quite getting it. I was one of the many put off Shakespeare by English teachers at school - somewhat ironic, really. But then I got it. I got it. Like a born again Christian, or an ex-smoker, I finally got it!
So I popped along on a secret "it's a surprise so you're not meant to know it's going to be there" mission to the Natural History museum to get myself Shakespeared in the dinosaur room. Hadn't been there long before it happened.
There was something about being amongst the bustling tourist venue of 21st century London, and being approached by a stranger (to all intents and purposes a fellow tourist like you) that made the words even more beautiful to hear. They were living and breathing again. When you go and see Shakespeare at the theatre, you can't help but get yourself into "Shakespeare mode" - whereas here that wasn't an option. There was more beauty to be had from the words than ever.
It reminded me of the "hand-shake induction" - it's a hypnotic induction that works by putting the subject straight into a hypnotic state by interrupting the normal pattern of a handshake by catching their hand as they go to shake yours and putting them into trance. The idea is that the momentary confusion in the neural pathways caused by the pattern interruption results in a kind of split-second "wormhole", or gateway which is the hypnotists way in.
This felt similar. The context of a 21st century London day in September, an approach with a question from a genuine stranger, engaging your brain to help give them directions to such and such, then switching to speaking to you in Shakespeare's words created a magical pattern interrupt. You were left in an altered state to just drink the words in. One guy gave me Suffolk's speech from Henry VI part 1 (Act 5, Sc 3) - I totally fell in love with him by the time he had finished speaking...
The second experience:
The polar opposite of everything I want to do and achieve in the theatre. I won't say who, what, where because it was a small production in which all involved had probably worked hard and engaged their hearts and what the fuck do I know really, to diss them for that?
In a lovely little theatre venue above a pub, somewhere in London, where an actor/writer had written, directed and played the lead role in a silly farce. It seemed to me there was no depth to the story, no depth to the writing and no depth to the characters. It served more of a reminder to me of what I must keep striving for - truth and honesty.
Yeah, yeah, that all sounds a bit ponsey and serious but it isn't really. It's an important note to self as I have a penchant for being the class clown and comedian. I don't find comedy funny if it has no substance, or truth. It's why I love Billy Connolly and can't stand others like Shappi Khorsandi (although clearly I don't speak for the masses since she's a very successful comedian!!!!!).
The characters in this play were one-dimensional. Their energy and tone was the same throughout. There was no colour to them. They were generalised cliche, they weren't even talking or listening to each other. And the pieces to audience, made even worse because it was an intimate space, were not even properly to the audience. But all in all, I think it was the fault of the writing, which I found to be egotistical, and unintelligent.
At drama school a lot of your learning is inductive learning - so you often don't know whether you've learnt or not until something outside of you mirrors back to you that you do know it. I re-read a blog I wrote last year, and already disagree with it. I said at the time that you often don't know how you're doing because you're so in the moment - but I'll requalify that.
My experience from recent productions, such as Cymbeline and Top Girls, is that you can feel when you're on it, and when you're missing the mark. And for me it all boils down to truth and specificity.
actor, general alright person and tree-climber extraordinaire.