The Tempest ‘the way Shakespeare would have wanted it’

08:00 06 December 2016

Geraldine Brennan with Shakespeare: Direct. Picture Camilla Greenwell

Geraldine Brennan with Shakespeare: Direct. Picture Camilla Greenwell

Camilla Greenwell

The salon:collective is presenting The Tempest using cue-script preparation, which means there is no group rehearsal prior to the performances. To top that off, the actors don’t find out who plays who until an hour before the show.

While the bard’s plays have stood the test of time, in general the same can’t be said for the way in which his actors have approached producing them. It’s good news that women characters are now able to be played by actual, real life women, but a loss of some of the traditions can make for occasionally stuffy viewing.

Nowadays, Shakespeare is seen as the “serious” playwright for “serious” people, possibly due to the amount of study that is required to understand his words. But going out to see Will’s new play back in the day was a raucous affair filled with laughter and heckling. Or that’s what all of the period dramas would have us believe.

The salon:collective is presenting The Tempest “the way Shakespeare would have wanted you to see it”. It’s being performed using cue-script preparation, which means there is no group rehearsal prior to the performances. To top that off, the actors don’t find out who plays who until an hour before the show.

Islington local Geraldine Brennan has performed in the company’s previous cue-scripted performance of Two Gentlemen of Verona which was met with great reviews for its originality and captivating approach.

“You really have to do your work in advance and listen really carefully to the other actors,” says Brennan. “It’s great to be kep on your toes like that. You come off stage and go: ‘wow that was so much fun!’ I’ve done plays in where you get into habits after the twentieth performance and there’s no chance of doing that with this.”

In order to make sure all the actors know what they’re doing once they get on stage, they must study the text intensely before and pick up on the nuances hidden in the script.

“If you say thou rather than you, Shakespeare meant you to be physically closer on the stage to them,” Brennan explains. “Lots of capital letters meant extra importance to the words. My favourite one is if the sentence is mono syllables, for example ‘in truth I know not why I am so sad’, that means to slow down because it’s big emotion. You can look at any piece of Shakespeare and work that out.”

Brennan and the rest of the cast have been working hard to make sure they’re familiar with their own parts of the script but stage acting being completely reliant on taking cues from co-stars, it will depend on more than her knowledge of the play.

We’re expecting it to be an adventure. The first night is always unpredictable which is how they did it in Shakespearean time. People used to pay extra to go on the first performance because that was when stuff could go wrong. We’re all well rehearsed individually and well trained in using the stage but you still don’t know what’s going to happen. You have to be really ready for spontaneous moments.”

The Tempest is showing at the Cockpit Theatre on December 11 and again from January 10 to 15.

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