Greg Cook – Working with a touring company has been an engaging experience for all of us. Being able to act in different environments with a sizable amount of independence has been both fun and stressful at different times, but always oddly insightful.I myself haven’t done much acting outside of “The Tempest”, so getting into the swing of things was relatively difficult: setting aside free-time for learning lines, getting into character and learning more about the physicalities of acting are all relatively new. I personally find that analysing the meaning of a text (especially a Shakespearean one) before performing and rehearsing is essential. Fortunately, practising with the rest of the highly enthusiastic cast was rather easy.
Travelling to every venue has added a much more pronounced degree of professionalism to our performances, with the setup of the stage, placement of props, etc predominantly done by students. We are given a large amount of time beforehand to look out costumes and props, before doing a single dress rehearsal to plan what will happen, and then perform it to an actual audience.
Our first touring performance was likely the most stressful. The Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe was our largest out of school venue. The fact that few of us had ever done anything similar to this before, plus the sheer scale of what we were doing suddenly hit us. It was scary to think that we would be performing in this unfamiliar location to a live audience! Luckily the performance itself went near-perfectly, and this set us up in confidence perfectly for the rest of the week.
Touring in different locations becomes much less nerve-wracking once you’ve done it. Moving from location to location wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be, as you are going to all of these new places with a familiar and supporting company. The only hurdles we encountered were different stage types. At the Tobacco Factory, Bristol, they had a thrust stage with no backstage right wing, so adjustments had to be made.
Overall, I intensely enjoyed the touring experience! Being able to do something like this with people of similar interests and learning about the stagecraft that goes on behind the scenes. It has definitely made me realise that I do have a more performing arts-oriented side to me, and I hope I get to do more in future.
Freya Raybould – My main role was Antonio, who is the evil brother to Prospero and I was given the responsibility of the understudy of Prospero. As an understudy, it is vital to take key notes and annotations on what you will be doing, if you lay back and don’t annotate in the early stages it is a lot harder to pick up, especially if the lead is not around to help you. In this performance, the main Prospero felt unwell due to covid, which meant I had to take over as the show must go on! As an understudy you must be able to quickly pick up new staging and adapt to corrections given to you by staff and cast as quickly and efficiently as possible – as well as being on standby ready to jump in should anything not go to plan. However, having two roles in your head at one time can be confusing, so my advice would be to become as calm as possible! Have notes, diagrams, two scripts if needs be! Anything that will help you detach two roles from one another.
After finishing one venue, the journey had just begun. Usually most of the actors / actresses would go home after the show but having to pack up everything made everyone feel a lot more included and valued as a company rather than just performers. There were always challenges about switching from venue to venue (e.g is there a cut-through round the back, are the wings big? ) but as a company we worked around them to still display a beautiful piece of Shakespeare. The Tobacco Factory was definitely my favourite venue because the proscenium arch stage created a wonderful atmosphere. In addition to this we had some time to visit a small part of Bristol. I think the best audience was in Honiton as all my friends had come to watch me and the cast on that night. Everyone laughed, clapped and cheered throughout the play.
Creating a performance can be a lot of effort and time, but every Saturday myself, and many of my friends/castmates have dedication to rehearsal time. It is a common known fact that more rehearsals equals a better performance. Even if that means rehearsing in break time and lunch times down in the Queen’s Black Box Drama Studio, the contribution to your work will present itself in your favour overall. For me, rehearsing is something that has been built straight into my life. By having routines on Saturdays it helps my motivation improve and still allows time for social events afterwards, like all walking into town to get food after earning it by working hard in our allocated rehearsal times.
I enjoy performing arts at Queen’s for multiple reasons. Personally, I’m a social extrovert and by touring with my friends it brings me closer to them it almost feels like family. Furthermore the experiences are outstanding and our director Ian Trafford, who although joining us this year, approaches every casting with fresh eyes.
Overall, this experience has provided me with many, many, challenges but it also has provided me with many opportunities. I know that my younger self would be so excited to experience and so proud of how far I’ve come as well as the amazing people I’ve met because of it! All the theatres were beautiful and I will never forget the experience! Soon we will be reuniting to perform in the Edinburgh festival. I cannot wait to see everyone in the summer and make a great show!