25 June 2017
One month to go to opening night, and everything is coming along beautifully! We had a wide-ranging rehearsal this afternoon: another fight session led by our RSC fight choreographer, Tom Jordan; the first shot at the full soundtrack (thanks, Mike and Nick!); a thorough rehearsal of all the live songs; the finishing touches being put to the dance (thanks, Vicky!); and shooting of a promotional video (thanks, Pete!). Watch out for the video on social media!
We’ve now got a coffin (thanks, Geoff!), and have identified the boats we’re going to borrow (thanks, Catherine!). Beth keeps arriving at rehearsals with a car full of costumes! And Amanda has assembled an astonishing array of props!
We also have a draft programme, and ticket sales are going well. Thursday is practically sold out, and Wednesday and Saturday availability is down to the last couple of rows. It’s going to be a varied and fast-moving show: don’t miss out!
27 May 2017
We’ve had some brilliant rehearsals in the last couple of weeks. Our first run through the whole play took place outdoors at Eastleach last Sunday, and the play worked beautifully. It was an opportunity for everyone to see the show from start to finish, and to appreciate how each character fits into the story. A number of us were surprised at how fast the action moves. It really is a remarkable play! And it ran less than an hour each half: with a bit of tightening up, it may well come to less than that on the night.
On Thursday, we rehearsed the scene which is the climax of the play. It’s a beautiful scene, and we were all in tears by the end! No spoilers here, though – if you don’t know the story, come and experience it for yourself!
Beth has come up with some lovely ideas for colour-coding the costumes, and we’ve been discussing how to reflect that in the programme too. Between colours, music and stage entrances, we’re going to make sure the audience know where the action is taking place in each scene! The next challenge, given that the play flits forwards and backwards over 20 years, is to ensure that we are clear about when the action is taking place. We’ve been working on posture and voice to convey different ages, and we have a make-up workshop next week to help cast members understand how to make themselves look older or younger.
Unfortunately, Dave, who was playing Cleon, has been given a June date for his knee operation, so he won’t be able to appear in the show. By an extraordinary coincidence, one possible replacement I approached also has an appointment for a knee operation in June! So I’m in the market for a king of Tarsus with two working knees!
I see we’ve sold three-quarters of Thursday’s tickets already. Book now to avoid disappointment!
27 April 2017
Rehearsals have now started in earnest! We were lucky enough to have our first rehearsal on site at Hatherop Castle, under bright if not exactly warm sunshine. In rehearsing some of the later scenes, we were reminded of how moving they are: this really is a magical play!
I arrived at Hatherop to find Eric and Alwyn painstakingly measuring the stage area, and finalising the exact position of the stands. We take great care to ensure that the whole acting area can be seen from every audience seat – and then think about how we avoid the audience being distracted by other things in their line of sight! We also have to ensure that the stands are on flat ground – and don’t touch any tree branches or roots.
Catherine was also there. She had been working with Lakshmi Marquees, a local company from whom we are hiring two tents as part of the scenery, to determine exactly where we can pitch them. And it was good to see Liz, our new Front of House manager, there too. There’s a lot more to putting on these shows than just the acting!
In the next couple of rehearsals, we shall be starting to integrate some of the music into the action: Mike has done a great job in providing recordings for everyone to work on, and Vicky has got some fun ideas for the dance at the “Pentapolis Olympics”!
Tickets are now on sale to mailing list members: over 200 already sold! Wednesday and Thursday are selling particularly well, so if you want to come mid-week, get your orders in!
26 March 2017
The first cast gathering did indeed turn out to be a busy evening! We did some introductory ice-breaking; we talked about the approach we’re taking to this exciting and fast-moving show; we had a look at the setting and some of Vivienne’s lovely watercolours of her set design; we learnt the song we’ll be singing at the end; we had a quick run through all the entrances and exits; and we still had time to play around with the final scene! It was great to see so many newcomers to The Arcadians, and to have them join in the fun!
We’re now fairly clear about how everything’s going to fit together on the set. We shall be reverting to two stands, at roughly 120 degrees, to provide a diamond-shaped acting area. This may be a bit more expensive than a single stand, but it does provide a greater level of intimacy, and better visibility for the whole audience. We shall be positioning an Arabian-style tent on the upper level, a wharf (complete with real boats!) stage right, and the suggestion of a temple stage left. One of the challenges for this play is to make it clear in which of the six countries the action is taking place at any given moment. Using music, costume and these different stage areas, we can provide the audience with clear signals.
Our publicity flier, Arcadia, will be going out soon, and the tickets will be on sale to mailing list members immediately after that. Rehearsals start in earnest next month: meanwhile the cast have some homework to do to familiarise themselves with their characters!
3 March 2017
We managed to get our team of backstage supremos together last night, to plan the non-acting side of the production. It was so reassuring to be having discussions about costume colours, make-up designs, set elements, lighting, sound and effects at this early stage. We identified (and resolved) some potential overlaps of responsibility, and agreed a shared vision for the overall show. So often, it’s only at the last minute that we try to put all this side of things together, meaning that the sound and lighting don’t quite match the costumes, or that the props department have to scrabble around to find something they thought was part of the set! With a show as complicated as this, having these conversations now is hugely helpful. It was especially encouraging to hear so many suggestions round the table for resolving issues that individual departments raised.
We learnt a couple of weeks ago that this production will also be part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages programme. This means that we shall have access to RSC resources – and in particular that we shall be able to use the RSC Open Stages logo on our publicity material. The news came through just in time for inclusion in our Arcadia leaflet, which should be going out this month.
Less than two weeks to go now to our first cast gathering. It looks like being a busy evening!
27 January 2017
This is beginning to feel like a spectacular show! With a cast of 39 (and an average of two costumes each), live music, singing, dancing, fighting, shipwrecks and the appearance of the supernatural, there’s going to be a lot to watch!
Vivienne has got her thinking cap on for what sort of set can be adapted to show at least nine different locations – her instinctive reaction was that it needed to be “fluid”! Catherine has found a source for an Arabian-style tent (www.lakshmi.co.uk or https://www.facebook.com/LakshmiMarquees) – and a couple of rowing boats! Kate has been scouring the stage make-up shops of London, to find the right substances to convey diseased whores and scurvy-riddled pirates. Tom is thinking about where we can lay our hands on four different weapons for the knights to fight each other. And we’re on the lookout for ingenious ways of bringing the goddess Diana down from Olympus – and of conveying our lovely princess off and on stage in a sealed coffin!
Every member of the cast is also helping out backstage in some way, so this one is going to be a real team effort!
Can’t wait to get started with rehearsals!
1st January 2017
We now have a full cast for Pericles! And what an exceptional cast it is! Not only in quality, but also in quantity: we have 39 people in the show, all with at least a few lines to say. It’s good to have a number of familiar faces, but particularly pleasing that around one third of the cast are newcomers to the Arcadians. Welcome, all!
I’ve been trying to work out an initial rehearsal schedule, though with so many in the cast it is quite complicated! We also need to make sure that we give enough time for rehearsing the dance, the fights and the singing.
Mike and I have now chosen the three musical themes that will also be sung. The Pentapolis theme will be the 17th century comic song, Sir Eglamore (referred to in The Two Gentlemen of Verona), to be sung (and danced) by the knights competing for Thaisa’s hand, and possibly sung by everyone at the curtain call; the Tyre theme will be the 16th century When groaning grief (quoted in Romeo and Juliet), to be sung by Marina and hummed by Pericles and Lychorida; and the Ephesus theme will be the lovely Hark, hark, the lark (unashamedly stolen from Cymbeline!), to be sung by Diana and her priestesses. Ideas welcome for themes for festive Mytilene, sombre Tarsus, and grandiose Antioch.
I’m also delighted to say that we have decided to go with two audience stands, which will be arranged similarly to those for Measure for Measure and Falstaff – ie with no posts obscuring the audience view, and no risk of the front row getting dripped on! (Not that it’s going to rain, of course!)
As we turn the corner into 2017, the show starts to feel a whole lot closer! Happy New Year to you all!
16th December 2016
We had a really good turnout at the Pericles information evening at the beginning of November, including a very encouraging number of new faces. And it obviously didn’t put too many people off, because no less than 34 people have been along to audition! The auditions were of a very high quality, which means that I now have a very difficult challenge to decide who should be asked to play which part. One of the beauties of this play is that there are so many small and medium sized roles, each with its own character and its own key part in the story, so I’m hoping we can find something interesting for everyone!
It would be good to be able just to go through the cast list, and match up the best audition for each part, but unfortunately it’s not as simple as that! I need to make sure that the ages (and sizes!) of characters who are related to each other are believable; person X may be the best for role Y, but they may be the only person who can perform role Z; and someone may be ideal for a role, but their availability for rehearsals isn’t compatible with when I need to rehearse their scenes. So I need to spend some time looking at all the permutations! One thing of which I am confident is that we shall have an excellent cast, whichever way the cards fall!
A new initiative this year has been to ask cast members also to take on a backstage role of some kind. I’m delighted at how responsive everyone has been to this. I have been able to offer Beth a choice of seven volunteers to help with costumes – and twelve have offered to help with set building and dressing. We’re now going to do some work on allocating all the many tasks, ideally with a view to indicating this at the same time as parts are offered.
The plan is for everything to be decided and allocated before the end of December, so that we can all start thinking about our preparations as the new year dawns!
28th OCTOBER 2016
The Annual General Meeting on 27th October formally marked the end of the 2015/16 season. So, with another successful production (both artistically and financially!) behind us, we can now turn all our attention to the 2017 production of Pericles.
A group of us are going up to Hatherop on Saturday to look at plans for the layout of the stage area, and in particular to understand the impact of the school’s plan to remove some of the bushes near the changing rooms. We shall have to design our set and lighting carefully to provide the best space for actors and audience. We are fortunate this year to be able to call on the services of a former BBC technical expert to help with lighting and sound design, so stand by for something a bit out of the ordinary!
Next Thursday 3 November we are holding an information evening, starting at 7.30 in Quenington Village Hall. Everyone is welcome, whether they want to be on stage or backstage - or are just interested to find out more. I shall be setting out my plans for the show and its setting, taking you through the story (interactively!), talking about the work that needs to be done onstage and off, and explaining how I shall be managing the auditions and the rehearsals.
Auditions are on Saturday 19 and Sunday 27 November – you can come along to Quenington Village Hall on either day at any time between 2 and 6pm. If you can’t manage either of them, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or text/call me on 07977 499926. Anyone who auditions will be offered a part!
27 September 2016
Next summer can seem a long time away, but the autumn is a busy time for an Arcadians production. We have already had our annual session reviewing what went well in 2016 and what we could do better: it is good to be part of an organisation that is always working on improving! Also the AGM is coming up shortly. Thereafter, we’ll be very close to the Pericles information evening to be held in Quenington Village Hall on Thursday 3rd November, starting at 7.30pm; then it will be time for the auditions which will also be held at Quenington, on the afternoons of Saturday 19th and Sunday 27th November: you can come along at any time between 2pm and 6pm. And if these dates aren’t convenient – or if you’d just like to know more - just email email@example.com. We need a big cast for this show, so do come along and get involved. No experience necessary! It will be fun!
Whilst I am very pleased with the overall shape of the script, I have been doing more work on the detail of it. Because of our relationship with The Royal Shakespeare Company, I have been privileged to be given a copy of their final cut for their adapted 2012 production, and through the Open Stages network, I’ve been exchanging ideas with our friends at Shakespeare at the George in Huntingdon, who are also performing Pericles next summer. I’ve also been given a copy of the script used by the theatre company Multistory, who performed their version at the Stroud Theatre Festival a couple of weeks ago. There’s always something to be learnt from decisions other groups have made!
One of the oddities of Pericles is that a number of songs are referenced but no lyrics included in the script. So I have been looking through songs from other Shakespeare plays (and elsewhere) in search of suitable words. I now have some shortlists, which I’m looking forward to discussing with Mike Keegan, our musical director, shortly.
One of the next challenges is likely to be planning the duelling contest. I’m hoping to work with the RSC practitioner who choreographed the widely-acclaimed fight between Hal and Hotspur in Falstaff in 2014, but first we have to decide what type of fights they are going to be – and what weapons are going to be used. That in turn depends on what we can hire at a reasonable cost.
Lots of exciting preparations to be getting on with!
3rd September 2016
The initial planning of a production is always an exciting time! Where are we going to position the stands and the different elements of the set? What music are we going to use, and how much of it will be live? How can we use colour themes in the costumes to convey location and character? Who can choreograph the fight and the dance for us? What help do we need with voice and movement? Where can we find swords that fit the Arabian setting? How can we use lighting and special effects to create a supernatural atmosphere for the appearance of the goddess Diana? All ideas and offers of help are welcome!
Meanwhile, I have been working hard on the text. The original is a bit corrupt, and the continuity of the action can feel a bit disjointed. So I have been trying to edit it into a version that is less wordy, easier to follow, and full of action. It now runs to a little less than two hours, so the story certainly rattles along!
And there are plenty of parts for everyone! At the last count, there were 19 named characters (10 men and 9 women) and a further 28 characters with a few lines to say (roughly half-and-half men and women) – not to mention a host of onlookers, crowd, sailors, lords and ladies….. So we need lots of people in the cast. Don’t be shy! And don’t be afraid of the rehearsal commitment: no single character is in more than a third of the scenes, and half of the named characters are only in one or two scenes, so the time requirement will be fairly light in the early weeks of rehearsal.
31th July 2016
As we pack up the Dream costumes, wave goodbye to friends old and new, and reflect on the happy memories of another successful Arcadians production, our thoughts are already turning to 2017.
Our production of Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre, will be set in the exotic Mediterranean world of Sinbad, Aladdin and Ali Baba. It is a swashbuckling adventure story, complete with kings and queens, handsome princes and beautiful princesses, marauding pirates, wicked stepmothers, sleazy lowlife - and the supernatural.
Ideas are already being discussed for the staging, the costumes and the music. And we are hoping for a big turnout at the auditions, to fill the dozens of roles the play offers. Anyone who auditions, and is able to meet the rehearsal commitments, will be offered a part.
There will be an information evening in Quenington Village Hall on Thursday 3rd November, and auditions in the same place on the afternoons of Saturday 19th and Sunday 27th November.
For more information, email Jonathan Vickers at firstname.lastname@example.org
7TH JULY 2016
On Sunday we had lovely weather again and were able to work on the Village Green, much to the interest (and sometimes amusement) of dog-walkers and passers-by. Thank you, Quenington, for walking around us!
It was a hard but worthwhile day in which we ran through both halves of the play twice. We haven’t done this since our ‘stagger-through’ last month and it’s great to see how the shape of the production has moved on. It’s also lovely to see the actors getting a really clear feel for their character’s journey through the play and developing more depth and truthfulness as their performances are informed by this. It was a day for practicalities too, with props and costumes appearing and being absorbed seamlessly (no pun intended!) into the production.
Today (Thursday) is the day of our last rehearsal at Quenington, and then it’s back to Hatherop for the final push. The core of the production is pretty much in place, and the next ten days will be spent consolidating, getting back into the space, and then adding all the technical elements which will make “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” audience-ready.
25th May 2016
So things really are well under way – very exciting!
We’ve had three weeks of rehearsal and have been blessed with beautiful weather for our Sundays at Hatherop. In fact being able to rehearse on-site so early on has been wonderful. We’ve been able to walk through the whole play in situ (more or less) so that everyone has a real understanding of how the play will fit into its environment.
Sunday 5th June will be a big day – our first ‘stagger-through’. This is the day when we see how all the bits fit together and everyone gets a real sense of the play’s shape and trajectory. It’s a day when the bar will go up several notches! 5th June is also the last day ‘on book’. Books go down from the on, but it’s very encouraging to see how many people are nearly there already.