Week by Week: Week 1

Rehearsals have now begun for this year's Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank production! Join us on our Week by Week journey as we follow the cast and the creatives of Romeo and Juliet through rehearsal and into performance.

This week we spoke to the marketing designer for the project, Adrian Hastings from Premm Design - take a look below.

Brief for this week

A creative brief is given to each member of the creative team working on the Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank project. The brief is intended to help them structure their ideas and keep a focus on the director's intended vision for the production. Why not be creative yourself by designing your own poster for the production using our real marketing brief...

Backstage Blog

Saturday 9th February, 5.11pm

"Thus then, in brief..."

After the talks this morning we returned to the rehearsal room to continue to work through the play text.  By the end of the day we had started to get Act One up on its feet, which is always a really exciting but nerve-wracking  transition as all the thoughts and discoveries made so far can start to be tried out in action, not just discussion.

From The Rehearsal Room

Friday 8th February, 4.46pm

This afternoon we all went to a talk from Dr Farah Karim-Cooper, who is the head of Research at the Globe, and also from Jonathan Hope who researches Shakespeare’s language at the University of Glasgow.  Farah told us lots of fascinating things about being a teenager at the time Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet. Then Jonathan gave us some brain-fizzing observations about the language of the play, both of which set our thoughts racing about what that might mean for our production.

After that we had our initial chats with Hannah (our designer) and Lisa (part of the wardrobe team) about what costumes we might wear in the play. I am doubling up (playing two parts) so will need to be costumed as two different characters; The Prince and Lady Capulet. The ideas for the Prince are very clear: she will be a powerful politician, in a formal suit. And I’ll probably wear a wig to help differentiate between this character and Lady Capulet. Lady Capulet is proving a bit trickier to pin down as we haven’t really done much work on the character nor rehearsed the scenes together as a Capulet family, so we considered a few options and then agreed to come back to the discussion in the following week. I also have to think about the fancy dress costume she might wear to the party. Any ideas?

From The Rehearsal Room

Thursday 7th February, 5.32pm

Today we started to look at the party dance with our choreographer George (Georgina). Before we got down to learning the steps we had a thorough warm up.  Warm-ups are really important to help us to improve our strength, flexibility and also to help avoid injury. George uses a combination of games and yoga to do this so by the time we started working on the routine we were well and truly warm.  I really enjoy dancing but I haven’t danced properly for years so I’m slower than I used to be at picking up routines. I find this really frustrating at the start, but so satisfying once it falls into place. It’s also brilliant fun.

We started off by learning short sequences of jumps and claps following different counts, which was surprisingly difficult to get right and also really tiring.  However it's a great way of getting us used to dancing as a company and learning a shared physical vocabulary.   After that we moved to a more structured routine and by the end of the session we had part of our party dance learnt.  The satisfaction from getting even such a short section right is only dimmed by the realisation that this will probably only take up a fraction of the final sequence we will have to learn.

From The Rehearsal Room

Wednesday 6th February, 5.44pm

Today Alex, our composer, is teaching us the vocal music for the show.  He started by teaching us some of the themes he’s composed. We sung these through a few times, learning the main tune and accompanying harmonies.  We just worked on the music today: we haven't been told precisely where in the play this music will come yet, but it's important that we start learning the music early on as it will then hopefully be simple to refine it when performing it in the action of the whole play.

From The Rehearsal Room

Wednesday 6th February, 10.13pm

Here’s my fiddlestick, here’s that shall make you dance

Although there isn’t a great amount of music in the play in the way there might be with plays like Twelfth Night or As You Like It which have songs in the script, we will still have music to learn: there is the party, the ‘wedding’ (even though it’s a secret wedding, there will be music), at least one kind of funeral (certainly a few deaths), not to mention scene changes, fights and of course the jig. 

The jig is a dance that comes at the end of Globe productions and is a conclusion that would have been familiar (in one form or another) to audiences at the time Shakespeare's plays were first performed.  They are enormous fun to perform as they act like a physical detox from the play you’ve been performing: the dance is usually raucous, celebratory, loud, rhythmical and although there might be moments where actors dance together in reference to the characters they played, in essence it's the actors saying to the audience ‘thanks for coming’.  It’s one of my favourite parts of performing at the Globe and I always look forward to finding out what the choreographer has in store.

However for Romeo and Juliet the more difficult piece of choreography is for the party. There not only needs to be the presentation of a party which includes dancing (referred to a few times in the text – “Come Romeo we must have you dance”, “Foot it girls!” and so on) but that dancing has to be woven into a scene.  This means that the routine has to also allow for dialogue, both by giving focus to the actors who are speaking and also dropping in volume sufficiently so they can be heard.  There are some pretty vital points of plot which happen or are set in motion during this scene:  Romeo spots Juliet, Tybalt spots Romeo, Capulet and Tybalt argue, Juliet and Romeo meet and also find out they are from rival families.  It’s therefore quite a complicated task: there needs to be the feel of a party, but the actors need to be clearly heard while they are talking as they are delivering vital information to the audience.

Luckily, we have a crack team to help us with the music and the dance for the show.

From The Rehearsal Room

Tuesday 5th February, 4.55pm

Love goes toward love, as schoolboys from their books, / But love from love, toward school with heavy looks...

The nerves and excitement of day one have all but faded and so we have to get on with making our production. We have dances, songs and music to learn, as well as the words that we have to speak, and all of it has to be rehearsed in just 4 weeks. 

We start with an exercise where we go through the entire play together, putting all of our character's lines into our own words. When we get to performance we will speak Shakespeare's text, but this part of the process makes sure that we follow the thoughts of the characters and understand the words they use to express themselves. Sometimes this is quite straight forward as the lines are quite clear. So Lady Capulet's line, "What say you, can you love the gentleman?" might 'translate' as "What do you have to say, Juliet? Do you think you could love Paris?

Although this process does take quite a long time, it's incredibly helpful. First of all it means that we are all getting to know the play better, but also by the time we have finished this process, we will have a thorough understanding of the words that will be spoken in performance. The reason I think this is so helpful, is that the language can be interpreted in different ways. 

This is quite an intense way of working as it takes a lot of focus to work on this one task for a whole day, but it's a really thorough way of creating a shared understanding of the play text.  We haven't got that far through the play by the end of the day, but we are gathering speed all the time, and will continue with this exercise over the coming days.

From The Rehearsal Room

Monday 4th February, 5.59pm

The day is hot, the Capulet's abroad...

I always find the first day of rehearsals a bit weird. You go into work not knowing very much (if anything) about the rest of the cast, but by the time the project is over and all the performances are done, it will probably feel like you've known them forever. I've been in a production of the play before, so although this version will be entirely new, there are also lots of memories attached to the play. Having played Juliet in a previous production I have a sort of ghost-memory of the play from her perspective. It will therefore be interesting to try and 'forget' that inside route through the play's love story, as Lady Capulet knows nothing about the relationship between Juliet and Romeo until the very end of the play.

So, what do you actually DO at rehearsals? Well, day one is usually something of a whirlwind tour of everything you'll be doing throughout the rehearsal period, which for this play will be about five weeks, and day one on Playing Shakespeare's production of Romeo and Juliet was no exception.

To start the day we had a 'meet and greet'. Everyone involved in the production congregated and introduced themselves to one another, over endless cups of coffee. This meant the other actors were there, of course, but also the designer, composer, choreographer, wardrobe, marketing, education, stage management and theatre management departments. When everyone meets like this you get a sense of how much work (and play!) goes into putting on a full-scale production like this. There are so many elements that contribute to bringing a play text to life, and on the first day it's great to be reminded of all the people that will make that happen.

So, once we'd done all our hellos, most people then drifted off to the offices and workshops. The team left behind, including the actors, director, composer, choreographer and stage management team, had to get on with the business of making the production. You have to start somewhere, so the first thing we did was just read the play out loud. We all sat in a circle, and read the parts we'll be playing in the final production. I always find the first 'read-through' really exciting, as you get to hear the play for the first time with the new company, however it's also completely nerve-wracking as, of course, all the company members are hearing you for the first time. However, what I particularly like about a first read is that you get a sort of sketched version of what the final performance might be like. We hear all our different voices together, getting a glimpse of some of our ideas for our characters, what lines make us all laugh and which parts of the play create a little hush in the room.

For the rest of the day we had a short time with other members of the creative team. First we were measured for our costumes by the wardrobe department and then the designer (Hannah) talked us through the set for our production which she did by showing us a model box (which is a 'to scale' version of what our stage will eventually look like). Then we looked at an 'image wall' that's been set up in the rehearsal room, which includes a collection of pictures that have influenced the designer's work. We then had some time with our composer (Alex) and listened to some of the music that has influenced his work on our production as well as some of the pieces that he had already written for the show.

It's been a day of extremes and opposites: nerves and excitement, a new version of an old play, some new faces and some old friends, not forgetting Romeo and Juliet, Capulet and Montague and of course scorching hot Verona and cold old London.

From The Rehearsal Room

Monday 4th February, 10.50am

Welcome to the first week of our blog! Cast member, Emma Pallant, will be blogging direct from the rehearsal room each week, giving you a behind the scenes look at the play in action. Also, why not get involved with the project yourself, by having a go at our Creative Brief tasks!

From The Digital Team