Dad’s Army or Shakespeare in Love?

I haven’t posted here since the beginning of the year.  Why? Lack of time? Not sure what to say? Mostly what I have been saying is:

“Don’t panic”

“It will all be fine”

“There has been progress….”

In fact at the first run through on 8th January I felt like I was in one of those sci-fi programmes where one person gets stuck morphing into a second one and keeps flickering back and forth*.  In my case not between some glamorous FBI agent and an alien life form but between Corporal Jones and Captain Mainwaring.  On the one hand my ‘Don’t panic’ cries had the same note of desperate panic as old Jonesy,  on the other my statement that we should all adopt ‘ruthless optimism’ had more than a hint of Mainwaring’s crazily dangerous confidence in his own superiority and abilities.

The first half was much better than I expected and the second was like watching a fly stuck in glue on a window-ledge slowly dyeing.  But as I (ruthlessly optimistically) pointed out: if we were perfect now we would have peaked too soon, and anyway was perfection really what we were aiming at – wouldn’t wonderful, amazing, thought-provoking and emotionally engaging be better? Not that it was any of those things either… but it will be.

The ruthless optimism of the New Year has been chipped away by nights of sleepless thinking and nights of crazy dreams (the only one so far not about Julius Caesar involved a very small, fat talking dog called Pig, but I couldn’t absolutely swear that he wasn’t talking about Julius Caesar).  But this week it’s back!

The intervening rehearsals have been a mixture of flies dyeing in glue and brilliant breakthroughs.   I have come to realise that speedy results and action are the enemy of democracy and debate! Yes I have resorted at least once to the phrase “Just act it!”.  The fact that our ten-year old Soothsayer seemed at one rehearsal to be the only person who knew not just his lines but all his entrances and exits, understood the dynamics of the space and the only asked sensible questions (to which I hadn’t already provided the answer) also made me question whether undertaking this project was just about me subconsciously testing the limits of my sanity.

This week has seen a leap forward.  The principles are now more confident in words and actions and all that character work is beginning to shine through.  There are many fine performances coming through in the rest of the cast.  The battle scenes now begin to look like battles.  The crowd scenes have dynamism and excitement.  We have begun to talk about character Tweeting.  A further boost came from having a small excerpt of rehearsals broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme item about RSC Open Stages.   This week also saw several meetings and emails with the technical team which reassure me that lighting, sound and costume are all more than taken care of and progress has been made on the AV and tweeting side of things.  We also heard that we have a slot at the RSC Open Stages Regional Showcase in April.

This Sunday sees another run-through – it will be interesting to see what progress has been made.  Next Sunday will see our first rehearsal in the space itself.  If we can get the wi-fi up and running we will have our first Tweet rehearsal.  Ruthless Optimism has returned and the moment has come for Shakespeare in Love* to take over from Dad’s Army:

Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Hugh Fennyman: How?
Philip Henslowe: I don’t know. It’s a mystery

Come and see how it all turns out: 15-18 February at Chestnut Grove School, Balham – tickets from


*I may have been watching too much Dr Who and Haven

*thanks to Laura Cooke for the quote – she’s a drama teacher – it is her mantra…

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