by Rosalyn Mitchell (Tamyra)
Our brave band — well, many of us, at any rate — first gathered at a pub in Victoria Park. (Side note: if you’re new to London, like me, and you need to go to a pub in Victoria Park, come from any direction except Homerton. Live and learn.) I arrived somewhat nervous, of course. First rehearsals are always nerve-racking, and this more than most—this was to be my first production in Britain, everyone in the room was a stranger to me, we had not yet received scripts, and I had been given some vague impression that I might be in a leading role in the first show of the season. Add to this the image of our director I had pieced together from his online footprint (part Shakespeare scholar, part combat expert, part madman), and it can be no surprise that I walked into the rehearsal wary.
I needn’t have worried. Everyone was friendly and, more than that, compatible—logical enough, I suppose, given that we’re all the sorts of people willing to commit the rest of our year to this particular project. Brice described it in an early email to us as “quixotic.” It takes people of a certain mentality to sign up for five months of quixotic Jacobean theatre.
When we were all assembled, Brice walked us down the road to our rehearsal space, an abandoned Victorian school to which we have access 24/7 for the next few weeks. We settled into the pews in the school chapel and talked through the basics of the plan, which seems to translate roughly to “THERE WILL BE BLOOD AND RAISING OF THE DEVIL. Also, does anyone have any percussion experience? How about costuming?”
It did rapidly become clear that Brice knows exactly what he’s doing, the scripts do exist, we have a very-professional-seeming movement director (on whom I expect to depend heavily), and the energy in the room will be one in which rashly idealistic classical actors can easily bond and thrive. If we’re mad, at least we’re all mad together.
We eventually retired to the pub, where we chatted enthusiastically into the night about Bussy D’Ambois, fantasy novels, the Church of St. Giles-in-the-Fields and its reverend, Alan Carr (saved in Brice’s phone, he informs us, as “Rev. A. Carr”), ghosts, our families, and what happens if you raise the devil on stage in a church. (Does Reverend Carr know we’re planning this??) Talking with the clever, shining men and women with whom I will spend the rest of the year, I found myself swept up far more forcefully than I had expected, not exactly by the cast itself but by the process of theatre, the jumping in, the trust that yes, we can take three utterly unknown classical texts and make them not merely intelligible but ecstatic.
It was rather like falling in love.