18. Dream Arrives in Nottingham

18. Dream Arrives in Nottingham

This blog by Becky Morris

For 11 months, we had been imagining what May 2016 would look like. Every step of every day during the rehearsal process, involved projecting forward to this almost mythical point in time. It existed on calendars; in diaries; in print on the leaflets that the Nottingham Theatre Royal had dropped everywhere; on posters outside the theatre; in annual leave booking forms; and in our rehearsal schedules. But a date isn’t actually tangible; we knew we were going to perform our opening night on the 3rd May – that much is fact – but the date itself took on almost fictional proportions. We didn’t know what May would look like. And we were about to find out.

 

The juggernaut of #Dream2016 had been rolling for a few months, and the tech team, cast and crew were, by now, well versed in the act of putting on this show. We would be the 10th Mechanicals group to perform, and the 8th on the road, so it was second nature to them. To us? Less so.

It all started in earnest, as we had been advised, the week before. On the 27th April, our intensive rehearsals began in the Len Maynard Suite at the Theatre Royal – the very room where we had been finally cast on the 6th June the year before.

Kim Sykes and Lindsey Knight – our director and stage manager – rocked up and tore it down. Having thought that I was a bit of a grafter and a hard worker in the past, I was not expecting how this would actually roll.

Our rehearsals for the evenings were called for 4 hours: 6pm-10pm. This, in itself, doesn’t sound too much, but this was Wednesday, Thursday and Friday on days where I started work at 07:30am. So, I would finish work at around 4pm, pick up the smallboy from childcare, drop him off in other childcare and get on a tram to Nottingham for a 6pm start.

The intensity and drive of these rehearsals was unsurpassed in my life. How professional actors do this all the time, I just don’t know. I think it was more marked for me, playing Bottom, as I had the lion’s share of the lines (bit of a Mechanicals Dream pun there!) Someone had pointed out previously that Bottom has the most lines in the whole play – I read the figure of 12% of the total. It certainly felt like that in the rehearsals, because when you ONLY rehearse the scenes that you are in, over and over, there is no respite and no break. But it worked. My goodness did it work. Following these sessions, (and bearing in mind the rest of the year’s training) I came out the other side feeling like a different performer. I was ready.

Saturday saw us in a full day rehearsal from 9am until late at night, and then we had Sunday to get our heads around things.

The love of the project and the adrenaline certainly kept me going, because I look back now and wonder how I was still awake on Saturday night.

Monday was a bank holiday, so there was a festival feeling as James McBride and i stepped off the tram outside the theatre at 08:30 in the morning. At the side of the stage door, we saw the trucks unloading our set. We saw the boxes containing our props and costumes and we turned into groupies watching the crates move from one room to the stage.

 

Groupies

Dream had arrived in Nottingham!

 

 

17. 317 Days to Now

17. 317 Days to Now

This blog by Becky Morris

 

Our final (and successful) audition was held on June 6th 2015. We were lucky enough to be given the amazing news that we had been cast, on June 10th 2015. Since that date we have experienced:

Professional photo shoots

BBC Interviews

Newspaper interviews

Multiple Skype RSC Meetings and Training

Social Media Training

Visits to Stratford

Free Theatre Tickets

Line Learning and Performance Tasks

Dance Task

Vocal Training

Movement Training

Acting Training

Comedy Workshops

Radio Play Recording

RSC Practitioner Visits

Weekend Rehearsals in Clapham with the pros

Remotely Meeting the Professional Cast

Remote Rehearsals and Feedback

Our own rehearsals

Social Media Conversations with other Mechanicals

More Interviews

Shakespeare Seminars

Email Advice

Line Learning

Vocal Exercises

Tips and Techniques

New Ways of Rehearsing

Blocking and Unblocking

Exploration of the Text

Playing Games with the Script

Character Research

Time Period Research

Rehearsal in Sherwood Forest

Sherwood Forest

Backstories

Sneaky Peeks at other Rehearsals

Watching the Dream in Stratford

Watching the Dream in Bradford

and here we are

April 21st, and our sessions with the absolutely stellar Kim Sykes are beginning.

Two evening sessions this week

Three next week

A full day on Saturday

A full day on Monday

Then show week

It’s almost time to Dream

Lovelace Theatre Performing #Dream2016 at Nottingham Theatre Royal May 3-7th 2016

 

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16. The Lost Weekend

16. The Lost Weekend

This blog by Becky Morris

An unusual journey (Dream2016) became more unusual throughout February and MArch 2016. Our play was in performance in Stratford, and then it started to tour, moving first to Newcastle. But we weren’t in it – and all we could do was watch and wait and hone our skills until time caught up with our impatience.

It was an odd period of time. In amateur theatre, every second counts – in my experience, we usually have around 12 weeks to do everything from audition to performance. And 12 weeks generally means two sessions a week of two and a half hours.

Alhambra

You block the moves, you learn the lines, you paint the set, you find the props and if you’re lucky, you build ten minutes of games or warmups into the process. Here, in this process, we were suddenly gifted with the luxury of time. We weren’t called to an official rehearsal until the end of April, but had been advised to keep our hands in and explore lots of different versions of the text. It was great. And while it did take a bit of getting used to, and sometimes felt unproductive, I believe that it helped us to understand the bigger picture and the different way of working, and I think just having time to talk and bond and give ourselves the permission to be creative and silly, really helped us to piece together the bigger jigsaw ahead.

I spoke to some of the other Mechanicals from other groups, during this down time, and some felt a little lost whilst others took the opportunity to engage in other projects. For us, the eye was always on the goal and we didn’t get tempted to be in the Lovelace May Play (the jovially titled Bad Day at Black Frog Creek) or get involved in anything that would distract us.

I really enjoyed this period – I like the feeling of anticipation and looking forward to “what is to come” and I actively engaged with my Countdown App every day to see how many heartbeats I had left until opening night.

And every now and then, I reminded myself that I was going to play Bottom for the RSC. And that Lisa (Nightingale from Canterbury) and I were the first women ever to do so.

In the lost weekend, this was all I knew.

15. Busy Busy Busy

This blog by Becky Morris

#Dream2016 properly kicked off in January and February. Not only were we “dialling in” to the Google Hangout sessions twice a week, but also running two rehearsals of our own each week.

In addition to that, I was popping down to the RSC rehearsal rooms in Clapham when I got the chance, of a weekend, and we were all busy learning lines, and trying to work out what the play would look like.

I was really lucky as I got to work with Erica and Ayesha, and the amazing fairies from the pro cast. I mean – they were brilliant! And it was such a thrill and an honour to act opposite an actress of Ayesha’s calibre. Not many people can say that they’ve done a love scene with Queen Jamilia!

During the Hangouts, the sessions looked a bit like this:

Ostensibly working with the pro cast and London’s Tower Theatre Group, Erica and the directing team would run through the ideas for the scenes on camera, and we would watch and take extensive notes. The rehearsals were sometimes difficult to follow, as although the themes and ideas were generically up for grabs for all of us, they were also rehearsed specifically with one set of Mechanicals, so we had to cherry pick what was useful to us, and try not to take too much of the stuff that wasn’t.

As the weeks progressed, and the Mechanicals scenes continued to evolve and change, the biggest lesson that we learned was that there was no “one size fits all” policy, and that our unique qualities as a group would absolutely inform the way our scenes would run – with some RSC specifics thrown in for good measure.

The first week of February was a really cool landmark in the process for us. We had our lovely Kim (and Lindsey – the ASM from the RSC) with us, and did some amazing rehearsals in our studio space.

Group and Kim and Lindsey

Then, we were the subject of that particular week’s hangout. So the other amateurs dialled in to us, to have a look at what we had been rehearsing. It was great being able to share some of what made us tick, and also to ask Erica for some specific feedback.

On the Saturday. the Bottom rehearsal was not only broadcast from London but a satellite hub was hosted by us in Nottingham. I was joined not only by Chris and Pat (my Lovelace directors) and Jess (our rehearsal Titania) but also Kim and Lindsey and the two West Midlands Bottoms, Chris (from the Nonnies) and David (from the Bear Pit.)

Midlands Bottoms

L-R David Mears (The Bear Pit), Becky Morris (The Lovelace Theatre Group), Chris Clarke (The Nonentities)

Midlands Bottoms United!

And as if this wasn’t awesome enough, we were also joined by the fantastic Laura Harding who plays Hippolyta in #Dream2016, but also (and more importantly on this date) is Titania’s understudy. So, couple this with my lovely BBC crew, Stuart and Daz alongside us, and we have ourselves what you might call a rather fantastic rehearsal!

It was brilliant being able to rehearse with Laura – it genuinely made me realise that a key difference between the professionals and the amateurs is the “fear factor”. We as amateurs tend to be unsure of what we’re allowed to do – so a lot of the time we ask if we can try something, or maybe even keep it to ourselves. Laura, on the other hand, just did stuff. Sometimes it worked (most of the time) and other times it didn’t, but she never stopped throwing herself into it.

Out of nowhere, February ran ahead of itself and before we could catch a breath, the show actually went and started in Stratford. Our play. It was performed!

 

 

It was so exciting watching the Nonnies and Bear Pit throw themselves into the parts of the Mechanicals – they did an amazing job. They were so professional and just so very good! In our Facebook Group, the rest of us around the country watched eagerly for all of the updates and press reviews. And when they came, we realised what a show we had!

A nice review from The Guardian

 

We HAD to go and see it, of course. So one Saturday in February, Jen and I set off on a little road trip to Stratford to watch the Bear Pit in the matinee performance.

As we watched, I was excited to see Laura, having worked so extensively with her – but when Hippolyta came on, I realised, in shock, that this wasn’t Laura! It was the lovely Lila Clements (who plays Moth in the play, but understudies Hippolyta)

“Oh no, ” I whispered to Jen, “Something must have happened to Laura”

We were thrilled to see the Mechanicals first scene, which didn’t disappoint, and then got excited to see Ayesha in her role as Titania. Only when she entered – it was LAURA!

Poor Ayesha had hurt her leg earlier on in the day, and Laura had been drafted in at the eleventh hour. She said to me afterwards that it was a good job she’d come to Nottingham on that Saturday, to rehearse those scenes as, at this stage, they’d not even done an understudy run.

She – and Lila – were both phenomenal in their respective roles, and whilst it was a shame not to see Ayesha, Jen and I were thrilled that we had had the chance to watch these two professionals absolutely nail their job!

After the show finished, we met up with Kim, who generously gave up some of her very limited free time, to work with me on the stage and with the Grand Piano (which I hadn’t had the chance to do in Clapham)

The Musical Director, Tarek Merchant also came to work with me, as my very special USP (as well as being a lady Bottom) is that I have the very great privilege to actually play the piano on the stage during my Titania scene. So not only did Kim give up her time to put me through my physical paces, but Tarek too, as he patiently walked me through the beautiful score (which I have to butcher by singing to!)

Dream completed three weeks at Stratford with amazing success. And then… it was time for the road!

 

Ayesha and Chris Piano

Ayesha Dharker and Chris Clarke in the Grand Piano as Titania and Bottom

 

 

 

 

14. January 2016. The Dream Begins

 

This blog by Becky Morris

So, this is really what we’ve been waiting for. The professional cast had been announced in December (Meet the Professionals), we received our scripts in early January,

Script

 

we were armed with a Google Hangout Timetable, and we were about to embark on the opening leg of #Dream2016 the Dream Year

We eagerly met on the 6th January, logged into the Hangout and waited for the session to start.

This would be the first of many hangouts throughout the month of January. I shall summarise, rather than go through in detail because it’s all a blur and I can’t remember the format was the same for all of them.

We were invited to “dial in” twice during each week – ostensibly on a Wednesday and Thursday. We also factored in at least one other rehearsal session a week. Alongside this, I was invited to attend the “Bottom rehearsals” on Saturdays in London.

Jan and Feb looked like this:

 

 

So each week, for around six weeks, we all did our “day jobs” (which were starting to feel more and more intrusive!), twice a week we would join our various colleagues around the Dream Nation, and dial into their rehearsals, watch how our amazing play was progressing, ask questions of the cast and crew and take detailed notes. We would then hold our own rehearsals, where we were taught the Bergomask Dance that the whole cast participate in (led by Bottom) and incorporated some vocal and movement warm ups, as we chugged along rehearsing and exploring the scenes of the Mechanicals, all the time trying to include the notes and bits that we had learned from the live streamings.

I was fortunate enough to go along to the weekend Bottom sessions in London. The first was on the 9th January, and I was accompanied by Chris Clarke, John Chapman and Pete Cockerill. We also linked in with Trevor in Belfast.

This was an awesome session, as we all got to explore Bottom’s first meeting with Titania and the fairies (who were all fantastic) and have a good play around with words, meanings and interpretations. It felt so good to finally be in that rehearsal room, with the professionals and lovely Erica, Kim and Sophie!

Team Lovelace were back in Nottingham, watching on the live link, which was a weird experience for me!

This was a fairly momentous Dream day, as it happens, as it was the first time that any of us were introduced to the infamous prototype “Bottom Ears” – and I had the pleasure of being the first Bottom to be bedecked in them.

John took this lovely flattering photo of me in them (I was acting here, not posing!)

Bottom Ears

 

The rehearsal was over far too soon, and my lovely husband and son came to meet me at the door. They were thrilled to be invited in to meet everyone, and my smallboy was absolutely starstruck by Ayesha, as only the week before we had engaged in a Star Wars marathon and watched all 6 films. Meeting Queen Jamillah was certainly a treat (for the husband too, I think)

We spent the rest of the day in London, and I remarked to my husband “I have to pinch myself a bit. Because it almost feels like this experience of working with the RSC is the prize. It feels like I’m a competition winner, and my prize was these workshops. But in fact, I also get to actually perform don’t I?”

But every step of this journey feels like that. Every Dream Day is a gift.

Sorry about that. Less emotional service will resume in the next blog. Particularly when I tell you about my unglamorous fall.

 

 

 

13. Funny Women

13. Funny Women

 

This blog by Becky Morris

On December 12th 2015, Linda and I had the very great fortune to be invited to the Royal Shakespeare Company rehearsal rooms in Clapham, to participate in a comedy workshop.

As the roles of Quince and Bottom are central to the journey of the Mechanicals, and are written for (and usually played by) men, the RSC thought it would be a good idea to get all of the female Quinces and Bottoms together to have a bonding session, share our fears and joy and take part in some comedy training. The male Bottoms were not forgotten, however, and they too were invited to their own comedy session later in the day.

Linda and travelled to London on the Friday night, as we were to be staying in a hotel in Clapham along with some of the other mechanicals and some of the RSC team.

It was a brilliant experience for us – not only were we excited to be having a weekend away, we were also really excited to meet everyone and experience some professional input.

 

We stopped off at the famous St Pancras Disney Tree on our way to ClaphamSt Pancras

When we got to the hotel, it was around 9pm, so after an amusing room mix up (Linda only realising that her room was actually already occupied when she saw a cardigan hanging on a dress maker’s dummy) we went to the bar for something to eat and drink

I had been facebooking and tweeting to find out if anyone else was there, and – as luck and fortune would have it – they were all in the bar!

So we had an amazing evening seeing the lovely Baz and Taz from Bradford again, as well as fab Ian Wainwright from the RSC and the absolutely stellar Claire Birch (Dream Assistant Producer.) We also met Pete and Dorothy from Truro. We reluctantly turned in for the evening, knowing that we had a big day ahead of us.

The Windmill Hotel at Clapham is absolutely gorgeous – do stay there if you get the chance.

This was the view from my room, overlooking Clapham CommonClapham Hotel View.jpg

After a lovely breakfast, we all met up with Ian who led us crocodile style down Clapham High Street to the rehearsal rooms. This was momentous enough in itself, to be honest, but even more so when we arrived and met up with Kim and Sophie and Erica again. Mar Dixon was also there, as well as several other amazing team members from the RSC – but even more exciting for us was the chance to meet the other women Quinces and Bottoms.

We also had the unbelievable fortune to meet Sally Phillips – a close friend of Erica’s and a comedy hero, she graciously gave up her Saturday to put us through our paces. Best known for Smack the Pony and for being the sweary one in Bridget Jones, her presence made us all really up our games, I think.

The morning started off with a bit of a pow wow. We bonded (very empowering with the absence of the men) and then talked about our individual fears about Dream.

When it got to my turn, I said that I was a smidge concerned that whilst I think I’m quite funny, it may not translate on the stage.. My comments were addressed, and Sally said to me “Becky – I don’t think you have anything to worry about – I think you’re very funny!”

How amazing is that?

Our session was wonderful – we did so much text work, but also lots of physical comedy and ways of extracting humour from all sorts of situations. My favourite bit was where I had to do a sort of silent-version of Bottom, alongside Jo from Newcastle’s Quince. It was great fun.

All too soon our morning was up and the men were released into the room. Which was fine, because many of them were carrying crisps and cakes. It was time to meet my fellow Bottoms (other than the lovely Lisa from Canterbury, with whom I had spent the morning)

I had met Baz and Chris already, and Trevor very briefly that morning, but for everyone else it was like meeting celebrities – because of our social media interaction, I felt like I already knew them all!

We had a bit of a social and chat, and then Erica called us all into the centre. The Bottoms were to sit in a circle, with their Quinces standing behind them. There was an empty chair next to me. Erica announced that she had a bit of a treat for us all and then said “May I introduce to the bravest woman in Britain” and in walked Ayesha Dharker. Our Titania.

It was an incredible moment. We had all been very excited since the pro cast had been announced in December, and especially us Bottoms as we knew that we would have some very (ahem) intimate scenes with whoever played Titania. It was so thrilling to have someone of Ayesha’s calibre in the role, and even more thrilling to finally meet her. I think we were all a little star struck.

We had some time to chat and get to know one another and then had a little photoshoot. I absolutely love this photograph – all 14 Bottoms together with our fairy Queen

14 Bottoms and the fairy queen.jpg

L-R Steven Smith (Everyman Theatre, Cardiff), Lisa Nightingale (Canterbury Players, Canterbury), Pete McAndrew (People’s Theatre, Newcastle), Anthony Henry (Poulton Drama, Blackpool), Chris Clarke (The Nonentities, Stratford), David Mears (The Bear Pit, Stratford back), Baz Green (Leeds Arts Centre, Bradford front), Ayesha Dharker, Peter Collet (Carnon Downes, Truro), Becky Morris (Lovelace Theatre, Nottingham), John Chapman (Tower Theatre, London), Martin Turner (Citizen’s Dream, Glasgow back), Trevor Gill (Belvoir Players, Belfast front), Owen Evans (The Common Lot, Norwich), Peter Cockerill (Castle Players, Newcastle)

 

We also had the opportunity to have individual shots with Ayesha. This is me and Linda with our beautiful co-star:
Be and L with Ayesha

And this is my official shot (credit Topher McGrillis)

B and Ayesha Official

After a brief interview with the BBC, we reluctantly had to leave the male Bottoms to their session, and Linda and I headed into the smoke. I made the most of a smallboy-free trip by utilising my time effectively on picking up some last minute Chrissy presents, and we caught the late train back, quietly reflecting on how bloody lucky we are!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12. Tasks 3 and 4

This blog by Becky Morris

Alright – I’m going to admit it. I’ve not been that hot on the old blog front. This is evidenced by the fact that it is now April as I write this, and this entry is about December.

Look, I’ve been busy. I’m in #Dream2016 you know!

Anyway, I can remember it all really well, because I also keep a paper journal, so bear with me, and I’ll tell you a little bit about what we got up to at the end of 2015.

Task 3 was a doozy  – we were invited to create a radio play version of Act V of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The brief was simply to use our “vocal quality” and have nothing but our voices to rely upon. It was, in the end, a fairly straightforward task, impeded only by the fact that our Linda (Quince) was off to Florida for the bulk of the time that we had, which meant that she had to record her bit separately to the rest of us, before she jetted off to enjoy a bit of downtime with Mickey

(I do have a fabulous photo of Linda enjoying her holiday after a little too much vino collapso, but as I’m sure she will never forgive me for using it, here is a pic of Mickey Mouse instead)

Mickey_Mouse

The rest of us met a few times, and recorded our “tedious and brief scene” (which didn’t feel very brief when I was raging about grim look’d nights in Tesco’s community room, which is right next door to the staff canteen where they take their breaks) and we duly sent it off to the RSC powers that be.

If you are genuinely bored, and want to listen, then by all means do so here:

Lovelace Act V Radio Play

Jen, Daniel and I took the recording sessions very very seriously:

 

Hats

We all met again at the start of December, to engage in one of our now infamous Google Hangout Sessions. It was fairly awesome as we had the lovely Kim Sykes with us, and the BBC, so we had decided to mark the occasion by wearing Christmas Jumpers.

The Community Room at Tesco, where we met, was absolutely on form that night – not only was it entirely wrapped like a Christmas present, it also had a replica Coca Cola Truck in the corner – ideal for photo ops such as this one:

Tesco Lorry

It was a very celebratory session, this one, as we knew that we had come to the end of the tasks (apart from the bonus one) and it would soon be Christmas and that meant that in less than a month, Dream would start for real.

The feedback for each group was awesome, and we got to listen to a few from around the country. Erica then set us our final bonus task, which was simply to send a video greeting from each of us, to the pro cast, to introduce them to who we were and welcome them to Dream 2016.

 

This is our vid:

Lovelace Welcomes you to #Dream2016

 

Meantime, Linda and I had been invited to go to London, and take part in a “FUNNY WOMEN” RSC comedy workshop for Female Quinces and Bottoms. The male Bottoms were also invited, but to have their own session. More on this in the next Blog.

 

So from a cold April 2016, Merry Christmas December 2015. I intend to catch up with myself, blogwise, at some point.