Julius Caesar Rehearsal Diary – Week 3

Week 3: From Standing to Walking…

Julius Caesar - Rehearsal - Photo by Simon Purse (180).jpg

This third week was about moving from our Standing phase to our Walking one: completing initial blocking of the play, and began to sketch on some of the scenes in more detail. This week was the opportunity for the actors to bring the choices they have made about their characters into their scenes. We have worked in greater detail the characters’ relationships, especially between the conspirators and Caesar as well as between Brutus and Cassius, without whom the plot against Caesar wouldn’t be carried out.

As part of the work in detail, we worked for the first time on the funeral song. Eleanor House (Casca) is our musical director, and composed the melody for the funeral of Caesar using words from Shakespeare’s “Dirge for Fidele” from Cymbeline. Eleanor has created a very moving and solemn melody to mourn the death of the Dictator.

Julius Caesar - Rehearsal - Photo by Simon Purse (48) colour  Julius Caesar - Rehearsal - Photo by Simon Purse (124)

This week our company is now complete! Simon has begun rehearsals in the evenings with the supernumeraries who are joining the company as plebeians, Senators, and soldiers. They have started rehearsing on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, working on the world of the play, how politics work in our version of modern Italy, what the death of a dictator means in modern times, etc.  They began thinking about what the crowd mentality would be especially in a festival, such as the Lupercal in the beginning of the play, the difference between political plebeians, and fun- loving plebeians, and how they shift and change in opinion and energy throughout Brutus’s and Mark Antony’s speeches in Caesar’s funeral.

Mid-week we started working on the battle and suicide scenes. The battle scenes arrived as a treat in the rehearsal room as the actors were given guns and all of them were really excited to play with them! These battle scenes raised the question of making the story clear for the audience in terms of who is fighting for whom and against whom, and the solution was found in costume design. Indeed our fantastic costume designer Eleanor Bull had planned the need for clarity and it is thanks to her costume choices that we can distinguish Octavia and Antony’s national army from Brutus and Cassius’s rebel army.

Julius Caesar - Rehearsal - Photo by Simon Purse (79) colour.jpg

On Friday, we had our weekly session with Jonathan Waller and worked the battles scenes in greater detailin order to sharpen the story we are telling. The actors began to learn how to work as a squad sweeping and clearing areas, keeping each other safe. We also continued to work on the assassination of Caesarlarifying Brutus’ final choice to betray Caesar for the greater good of Rome, denying his personal feelings for what he believes is the betterment of the Republic.

Written by Jessica McVay

Photograby by Simon Purse

This June we reunite with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School to present Shakespeare’s riveting political drama Julius Caesar. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

INKBLOC Ensemble Rehearsal Diary – Week 2

Following a successful R&D period, we now have a name for INKBLOC Ensemble’s debut show. Here, Alexandra Wollacott talks us through the next stage of their production’s exciting development.

Hello hello hello!

Well INKBLOC headquarters have been an absolute hive of activity recently. This week was a whopper for the team. We had two big decisions ahead of us; finalising the name of our piece and creating a basic narrative timeline!

3   1

Out of the two tasks, the selection of our name has a little story behind it. Claire and Alison lead the R&D day for Lego exploration, and they had aptly named their day ‘Lego Beach’. The name stuck and has been consistently used to refer to that day. When we were intently searching for our name, we discovered we had one the whole time! So I can emphatically confirm that INKBLOC are presenting Lego Beach – a story about a town where Lego washes up on their shoreline.


Once we had laid down a narrative we began some interesting work on devising around some characters; bringing them to life from our newly scribbled up timeline. We came up with some cracking material, which involves classic English beach wear… anoraks! Myself and my fellow marketing angel Genevive have had some big deadlines to meet for this week along with creating some potential images for our campaign and getting things ready for our press deadlines! Very exciting stuff.

Stay tuned for more next week!

INKBLOC Ensemble are this year’s resident company with Made in Bristol – Bristol Old Vic Young Company’s theatre training course for ages 18-25. For more information about the programme, click here.

INKBLOC Ensemble Rehearsal Diary – Week 1

As they approach the tail end of their year in residency with us, and their debut performances, the newly-created INKBLOC Ensemble give us a weekly insight into their rehearsal room. This week, director Claire Crawford talks us through the beginnings of the Research & Development process.


We’ve reached crunch time in the INKBLOC rehearsal room, and that can only mean one thing… we’re ready to roll and start developing our show!

Back in April we had a fantastic week of R&D, where each day a company member brought an idea to the table for exploration and conversation with the team. These ideas, after their time in the spotlight, were then whittled down to a final two (no easy feat – we think there could have been about 100 shows with the amount of material generated), and we finally arrived at a decision. Our story will stem from a real life abnormality, when a container ship spill dumped 4.8 million Lego pieces 20 miles from Land’s End in a freak storm in 1997…

To say that the last few weeks have been jam packed and fun filled is an understatement, but it really feels like we are kicking into gear now as a company as we hurtle towards the show and the end of our time as Made in Bristol. Alex and Genevieve have been hard at work creating our social media channels (catch us on Facebook and Twitter, even Instagram), along with marketing concepts for our poster and flyer design. While Producer Amy is beavering away with schedules and logistics, Associate Director Krista and I have been mapping out our rehearsal plans, and as a whole ensemble we’ve started playing with, developing, and generating material for the show itself.

I’m so looking forward to creating and shaping our first production, and seeing where it takes us. As we’ve seen, things that go to the bottom of the sea don’t always stay there, and we want to dig far below the surface, delving deep into the murky depths of it all…

With Lego as our linchpin, stay tuned for INKBLOC updates from a different company member each week… enjoy!

INKBLOC Ensemble are this year’s resident company with Made in Bristol – Bristol Old Vic Young Company’s theatre training course for ages 18-25. For more information about the programme, click here.

Julius Caesar Rehearsal Diary – Week 2

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.

This June we reunite with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School to present Shakespeare’s riveting political drama Julius Caesar. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

Julius Caesar Rehearsal Diary – Week 1


And so it begins!

We are excited to have begun the journey of rehearsals on Julius Caesar with the core of our troupe combining 12 actors from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, with Julian Glover (Julius Caesar), Lynn Farleigh (Calpurnia) and John Hartoch (Soothsayer).  In two weeks’ time the rest of our company, a group of eight performers from the Bristol Old Vic Young Company, Bristol Old Vic Adult Company, and Bristol Acting Academy will also join us.

Our first week kicked off with the company as well as tech and production members from both the Bristol Old Vic and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School meeting at the school. It was such a pleasure to begin the process with the full energy and support of both groups behind us! Our first day began with a read through of the entire play. This was our first chance to hear Simon Dormandy’s wonderful cut of the play all together. One of the most exciting changes is that Simon has given through arcs to all the characters allowing for those who are part of the conspiracy at the beginning of the play to have their say in the war of the second half

Our first day continued with the presentation of the set design by Sarah Mercadé and costumes by Eleanor Bull. Both final term design students at BOVTS, they have created a 21st Century Italy which allows the company to play against the backdrop of another dimensional Italy in which a populist dictator is coming to power- so, nothing like our modern world at all…

The rest of our week has been filled with table work in which we were able to ask all the questions about the play, the history, and our production which we will continue to answer in the coming weeks. It threw up questions of allegiance, power, relationships, and of course politics. We have broken the play into acting units, defining which character is driving the action, what they are trying to do to their “target”, and we have begun to explore the tactics they use to get what they want. Julian, Lynn, and John have been incredible leaders in the room pushing the student actors to interrogate the text in new ways, and the student actors have taken the buck and run, probing their initial thoughts, and assumptions, and stretching themselves.

The company has come in with wonderful work on the verse already begun, and Simon has been able to use the time at the table to begin to dig into the detail of the verse. One of the most exciting moments of the week was seeing Julian and Lynn each gave their versions of the line “I should not need if you were gentle, Brutus.” Their mastery of the text brings the play to life.

As we come to the end of our table work we begin to see the drive of tragedy and revenge through the arc of the play which splits two generations against each other fighting for the soul of the Roman Republic and poses the question is it better to kill a would be populist, or is what follows the assassination worse?

Written by Jessica McVay

This July we reunite with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School to present Shakespeare’s riveting political drama Julius Caesar. For more info and to book tickets, click here.