Stage Two: Standing. (Spoiler Alert!)
From page to stage: For this second week of rehearsals, we left the table work and started to explore the scenes on their feet. Using the preparation work of the previous week, the units with their actions and targets, this week was about telling the story through space. Our lovely Stage Management team have marked down the ground plan of our set onto the floor of the rehearsal room, giving us an idea of the architectural space to play with. Blocking the play early on offers the actors a frame to start with before deepening the work on situation and characters. It does help to know where to enter from and where to exit.
We can already hear the journey some of the characters have made from the first reading to their first time on their feet. In order to be aware as a company of where this table work had led us, our director Simon organised a second read-through on Wednesday including additional members of the company. Our production is collaborating with actors from the Bristol Old Vic Young and Adult Company as well as The Bristol Acting Academy, who will be playing the Plebeians, Soldiers and Senators. Having almost a full team around the table, the second read-through, which was performed like a radio play, was charged with dynamism and we could visualise the grandeur of the world of Julius Caesar.
This standing phase is also the opportunity for the actors to play with the language that has been well explored the week before, as well as its beautiful rhythm. Julian and Lynn have generously and kindly taken the time to work one-to-one with our graduating actors on their verse speaking, to master Shakespeare’s famous blank verse.
Back on our feet after this midweek reading, we also had the fantastic opportunity to work with fight director, Jonathan Waller, who offered his expertise for the scenes of the assassination of Julius Caesar and the murder of Cinna The Poet. These scenes need to seem brutally violent to the audience, but must at the same time be absolutely safe to perform every night for four weeks. Watching Jonathan explore the characters and situations and then choreograph the action so that it can be both was fascinating. It also raised important questions regarding the use of blood!
At the tragic culmination of the Assassination scene, Julian Glover impressed us all with his extraordinary impression of Caesar’s dying breathe. It might have won a world record for the longest exhale! It was like Darth Vader was in the room with us, and coming from the man who played General Veers in Stars Wars, this was pretty priceless.
Finally, on Friday the brave company of actors accepted the challenge of running half of the play to remind ourselves of the work and choices we made through this busy week. Everybody has been working extremely hard; some of our graduating actors have also been working on other shows for the school and it was really impressive to see how well they had done all week.
Written by Charlotte Marigot, Assistant Director.
Photo by Mark Douet.