Catherine tells us all about her time at the Royal Shakespeare Company!
Today's the first day of my week at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). It amazes me to think that it was only three years ago since I saw my very first production in The Courtyard Theatre; now I'm standing outside their new building, The Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST for short), wondering what I should be expecting from my week here.
I'm now outside the RSC Cafe with and the people who are here with me for the week all seem really nice and bubbly and I have no doubt that we'll all be sad to leave, when Friday eventually comes. The day starts with a health and safety briefing and a few games, designed to ease the nerves from our first day here. After this we're all dragged off into taxis and taken to a warehouse where the props and sets are designed and made for the RSC's shows.
They also store 30,000 costumes in their warehouse from past productions. It's a unique experience to look around the warehouse as the RSC is one of the few companies that still make all their own sets, props and costumes.
After lunch we're given a guided tour of the RST, which now has two stages, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, for the big productions of the season and The Swan, used more often by touring companies and smaller productions. All I can add to that is that it's an amazing building and it really has an atmosphere to it, I also enjoy hearing all the little anecdotes from our guide and can really see myself working here one day.
This is then followed by a lighting workshop which I enjoy a lot more than I thought I would. I was very pleased with myself for being able to tell the difference between sets of lights and it's also very interesting to find out that the guy taking the workshop used to be a lighting operator at The Alhambra.
Our first day finishes with a very interesting and useful workshop from the voice coach, currently working with the cast of The Merchant Of Venice. His methods for understanding text in plays is interesting and very effective and I'll definitely be using these methods when I get home.
The day begins with a treasure hunt around Stratford-Upon-Avon and I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't happy about this. Today is quite warm and it's nice to be outside. Our group finishes before everyone else and we decide to pop into a milkshake bar. I'm quite happy here, sitting with new friends outside the theatre, drinking milkshake.
However, we're not here to drink milkshake and soon after we get back we're thrown into a talk about the production cycle (the process of creating a show and what happens before, during and after the show), which is well worth the heat we're having to endure in this small room. As well as learning a few new facts about the RSC, I also find out that a lot of the things involved in the production cycle happen a lot later than I first thought.
We're then crowded into the blissfully air conditioned RST stage space to talk to the sound department. The amount of technology they have in the new theatre is unbelievable and I think everyone enjoys playing about on their microphones. We're then handed to the automation team, who are in charge of controlling trap doors and 'flying in' bit of scenery or even actors.
I enjoy this a lot more than I first thought I would and all of us have fun going bellow the stage and coming up onto the stage area on the new scissor lift, which is used in The Merchant of Venice.
As our second day draws to a close we're bustled, once again, into a small, but slightly cooler room for a talk with two members of the marketing team and as well as being shown some of their work (including a spine tingling trailer for Macbeth), we're asked to make our own posters using the same techniques they use to promote RSC shows. I thought I did rather well, to be honest.
It's hard to believe that my time here has gone so quickly. In a few days we'll all have finished and we'll be saying goodbye to everyone. But today we've been left with little time to dwell on it, as we're thrown straight into a movement workshop, which goes down well with everyone, even those who are normally hunched over a coffee at this time in the morning. We are, however, given an early lunch to recover.
As soon as we have recovered we have a talk with the costume department and they show us costume designs from previous productions. It surprises me how detailed the first costume designs are and how much information is taken for an actor's costume. We also try to design our own and we have a lot of fun comparing our rather basic drawings to the detailed costume designs in front of us.
The next thing on our timetable is a directing workshop with two RSC directors. Our group really enjoyed the tasks they set us and enjoyed discussing how a scene might come together and pitching these ideas to the two directors.
One 10 minute break later and we're making figurines with an RSC Set Designer. This is another thing I enjoy immensely, which is why I was slightly disappointed that my figurine was far from brilliant. I can only really play to my strengths. So after an hour we were once again whisked off to talk to the front of house team, who have some brilliant stories of things they have had to cope with during their careers.
I'm pleased to say that today has been a quiet day, compared to the rest of the week. The day began with an education workshop, which is almost identical to workshops I've been to in the last few years. We then had an extended lunch break, most of which I spent in Starbucks, before we poured into the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to see The Merchant of Venice.
The play itself had a fantastic opening but I found that a lot of the first act very dull but, with Patrick Stewart playing Shylock, I found myself hooked by the time the interval finished and the second half began. We're lucky enough to go up to what's called The Green Room but it looks a lot more like my school canteen than an actor's lounge, if I'm honest. Anyway, two of the cast pop by and have a chat with us but I unfortunately don't get to talk to any of them (with 29 teenagers trying to talk to two actors, it's hard to be heard). I had a lot of admiration for the two people who did turn up, because they're both in the evening's performance of Macbeth.
I'm now waiting in the foyer with my mum, dad and a few friends I've made over the last four days to go and see Macbeth. I'm so happy we got tickets to this, even if I am sitting on my own, it looks like it's going to be a production worth seeing. The play has just started and there's this brilliant atmosphere in the air as the lights go down and the most haunting music begins to play.
The play has just finished, and boy, I haven't been this exhilarated in a very long time. I'm now sitting in the pub with my parents and it's a little surreal, seeing the cast of Macbeth sitting down and having pints of beer with friends and actresses, running into the bathroom to get rid of what remains of their stage makeup. There always seems to be a brilliant atmosphere here in Stratford-Upon-Avon and it's hard to think of anywhere else I feel more at home.
Well, the day has finally arrived and as I set off for my last day I think of what an amazing opportunity I've been given and what a brilliant week I've had, my only wish is that I was here for another week and that I didn't have to go back tomorrow. Our last day begins with another talk from the front of house team who tell us all the things that went on during yesterday's performance of The Merchant of Venice. Including someone slipping on the stairs, a few wheel chair seats having to be adapted and one woman passing out in her seat.
We then had a brief talk with the stage manager in the theatre space, where they were changing the set from Macbeth to The Merchant Of Venice. As well as learning which type of stage manager does what sort of jobs we end up watching the set being changed and it's amazing how they manage to get it all finished in just over an hour.
We're reluctantly carted away to go and have another talk with a casting director whose first day at work was on Monday, our first day here. This was a valuable opportunity to not only ask him about his job but to ask him about what a casting director looks for in an actor, which was one of the most interesting sessions of the week.
The rest of the day was spent reviewing our experience, along with prizes and certificates being given out to everyone. A number of the people who'd seen us during the week took the time to come and see us and say goodbye. I'm so lucky to have got here and made as many friends as I have and I couldn't be more thankful.