Sunday, October 12, 2003

Theatre, theatre - and for a change of pace - theatre

I should blog about Fresher’s week, formal wear and my growing fear of my reading lists.

But I’m not, well, not yet.

I went to London yesterday to see one of the last productions for the season at the Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, the reconstruction of the Elizabethan Globe a few hundred metres from the historical site.

I had a £5 groundling ticket and scurried in fairly late, having got completely disoriented when coming out of a different tube entrance to the last time I went to the Bankside area, and then by not cutting through Southwark Cathedral gardens but blundering on through, and eventually around, the Borough Markets (which look really cool and worth a later visit).

Scraped in just before the play commenced (with a semi-Elizabethan warning about pagers and mobile phones), and could only wedge in near stage left, about a third of my view blocked by a pillar supporting the tiring house. Got centre stage after the interval, though, which was much better.

It was a period costume production of “Twelfth Night” complete with male actors playing the female roles, often with startling success – as in the vaporous, timid Olivia given to really funny bursts of enthusiasm tempered with self-doubt.

The best part of the experience though was its immediacy: in open air, daylight and with the “front row” of groundlings leaning on the stage, there was an easy exchange between actors and audience. Once, to great effect, a ring flung at the ground bounced into the audience, and had to be thrown back on stage.

I popped into the nearby Clink Prison Museum afterwards, which had some interesting taped narrations, but a slightly amateurish feel.

At the other end of the acting process, it was absolute auditioning madness in Cambridge today, with at least two dozen student productions casting over this weekend for the coming term.

So I screwed my courage to the sticking place and went auditioning. My first was a combined audition for two "fresher plays" (one a Stoppard, the other set in 1930s America). At the same theatre I also tried out for "Much Ado About Nothing" – discovering a bit too late that young hopefuls would have to sing something to the directors also. All I could come up with was an old school hymn “Guide me, Oh thou great Jehovah”, which given my lack of any church attendance and wavering agnosticism was rather funny.

I also did not realise until too late that the tour goes on tour to the continent for two weeks before Christmas at a cost of £100 - £300 to the participants. Would still jump at it if the opportunity arose.

My final audition was for “Under Milkwood” – which did not require accents, but I had one of those fierce instincts that the director really did not like me, but it was the first audition without an ample queue in which to prepare your readings. Indeed, I had no sooner picked up the compulsory readings than I discovered there was no line before me, and the last auditioner was just walking out of the room.

One of those situations where “no rush, in your own time” are simply not reassuring words. So, I just read everything through once, went in and got on with it. Not sure I varied my delivery enough, though.

I’m getting plenty of practice at the moment of dealing with small stuff that I’ve been a bit nervous to try again: cycling, auditioning for a play, returning to study.

What have you tried recently for the first time, or the first time in ages?

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