The RSC Open Stages showcase has brought the Countess Wear Community Theatre to the Hall for Cornwall. Last night we were but one twenty minute slot of four amateur groups demonstrating our love of Shakespeare before the masses. We’re something of a South West gathering with groups coming from all over the region to put on bits of shows over two nights.
The Hall for Cornwall is an incredible venue. Putting my tongue in my cheek for a moment I could joke that more people saw us last night than came to our entire run of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ and at the same time, the auditorium was still only half full. Presumably this was to make us feel comfortable and at home. You don’t want to scare off the amateurs by giving them a full auditorium! But joking apart, it gives some idea of the divide between selling tickets for our small spaces and how difficult it must be for those trying to make a living in the world of professional theatre.
We were welcomed by the Hall for Cornwall and both staff and location are beautiful. The backstage folk were all very encouraging and if I were in the habit of giving ‘shout outs’ there would be one for the splendid stage manager.
As the Tavonians Theatre Company opened the evening with their ‘A Caper Through Shakespeare’, we waited patiently in our dressing room. We could hear them over the internal sound system, and I was delighted to hear sections of ‘As You Like It’ as part of their celebration of Shakespeare.
I have to confess that nerves kicked in for the first time when I heard a line from the final scenes and thought it was my cue. Only a couple of months ago I would have been that Orlando and here I am ready to step out as the Prince from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ doing dialogue with the wrong Rosalind over a tannoy.
By the time we were called to the stage we could enjoy the Tavonians singing ‘Lover and his Lass’ and again I found myself mouthing the words in the wings (albeit set to a different tune to the production I was a part of). As their excerpt came to an end, you could see that they were enjoying themselves and that the audience had been given a proper taste of what the group could offer. The applause was inspiring and the audience warmed up nicely.
As we stepped in with ‘Romeo and Juliet’ no fewer than four sword fights were presented with thanks to our fight arranger, James King, working hard with the cast. We gave the Hall for Cornwall a splash of humour, some drunkeness, plenty of anger and many a clash of swords.
There was a moment, just towards the end of our twenty minutes, it was during the line, “Let Romeo hence in haste…” where I was able to look up into the audience and capture that feeling that so frequently escapes me.
It was the moment that really reminded me of why I do it. Why this is the best hobby in the world. For those fleeting seconds I was stood in the middle of a big stage in a big room saying age old words familiar to many, and there were people watching me do it. I was part of a team and at the same time, entirely alone. It was a magnification of playing the same moment to the Barnfield Theatre, Exeter or Harptree Court or the 100 Club in Countess Wear or even at the first performance in director Jill Coram’s back garden. It’s the moment of connection with an audience that I hope to be reminded of every time I say I’m never doing another one. It’s a stupid thing to say and it’s time to stop saying it. Roll on the next role…
After the interval we were treated to the St Agnes Theatre Players offering the edited highlights of their forthcoming production, ‘The Comedy of Errors’. With bright costumes and make up that matched the energy of the performance and dancing, this will be a production well worth hunting down. There was plenty of confusion as twins met twins and a wonderful jig that made any self-respecting amdrammer want to get up on stage and join them. It was the brightest part of the night from what I saw on display, and again highlights the joy of being a part of a large company – there’s nothing quite like a large cast dancing.
Finally, the Luxulyan Amateur Dramatic Society presented a section of ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’, a story written and directed by member Penny Gorman that takes a schoolgirl Suzannah, played by Ruby Waterfield, on a bus trip around Shakespearean characters. It was originally staged at the Luxulyan Village Hall between 16 and 18 May 2012.
We were treated to history and comedy as Suzannah’s driver, played by John Baker, a Shakespeare/Prospero figure takes her from play to play. Ably assisted by Ele Lucas as Puck (wearing a PCUK t-shirt and hoodie) there was live music and original song as well as some of the most famous speeches the folio has to offer. They had props galore and took their show into the heart of the auditorium as Suzannah ends up a Miranda figure sailing through the centre of the Hall for Cornwall. And again I was treated to the nostalgia of sections of ‘As You Like It’, played very differently as Rebecca Waterfield and Joshua Rogers on stage performed as all four sets of lovers at weddings in turn from the end of the show.
As just a small part of the showcase, it was obvious that there were big differences in how groups approach Shakespeare, but the energy, the commitment and the pleasure in what we do was evident across the board. At this point I should thank both the Hall for CornwalI and all those at the RSC involved with Open Stages, as it has been tremendous fun to be a part of. I look forward to more of the same presented in a different way by five more amateur groups this evening.
Visit the St Agnes Theatre Players performing ‘The Comedy of Errors’ at Wheal Friendly Lane, St Agnes between 25 and 31 July 2012.
Read the Jolly Lion’s thoughts on the second night of RSC Open Stages.