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Interview with Joseph Chance 

Passage from Scene 8

Enter Sir Toby and Sir Andrew

 

SIR TOBY: Approach, Sir Andrew. Not to be abed after midnight is to be up betimes, and diliculo surgere, thou know’st.

SIR ANDREW: Nay by my troth I know not; but I know to be up late is to be up late.

SIR TOBY: A false conclusion, I hate it as an unfilled can. To be up after midnight and go to bed then is early; so that to go to bed after midnight is to go to bed betimes. Does not out lives consist of the four elements?

SIR ANDREW: Faith so they say, but I think it rather consists of eating and drinking.

SIR TOBY: Thou’rt a scholar; let us therefore eat and drink. Marian I say, a stoup of wine.

 

Enter Feste the clown

 

SIR ANDREW: Here comes the fool i’faith.

FESTE: How now, my hearts? Did you never see the picture of we three?

SIR TOBY: Welcome ass, now let’s have a catch.

SIR ANDREW: By my troth, the fool has an excellent breast. I had rather than forty shillings I had such a leg, and so sweet a breath to sing, as the fool has. In sooth, thou wast in very gracious fooling last night, when thou spok’st of Pigrogromitus, of the Vapians passing the equinoctial of Queubus: ‘twas very good i’faith. I sent thee sixpence for thy leman, hadst it?

FESTE: I did impecticos thy gratility; for Malvolio’s nose is no whipstock, my lady has a white hand, and the Myrmidons are no bottle-ale houses.

SIR ANDREW: Excellent! Why this is the best fooling, when all is done. Now a song.

SIR TOBY: Come on, there is a sixpence for you.
Let’s have a song.

SIR ANDREW: There’s a testril of me too; if one knight give a-

FESTE: Would you have a love song, or a good song of life?

SIR TOBY: A love song, a love song.

SIR ANDREW: Ay, ay, I care not for good life.

FESTE: (sings) O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear, your true love’s coming,
That can sing both high and low.
Trip no further, pretty sweeting.
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.

SIR ANDREW: Excellent good, i’faith.

SIR TOBY: Good, good.

FESTE: What is love? ‘Tis not hereafter,
Present mirth hath present laughter.
What’s to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

SIR ANDREW: A mellifluous voice, as I am a true knight.

SIR TOBY: A contagious breath.

SIR ANDREW: Very sweet and contagious, i’faith.

SIR TOBY: To hear by the nose, it is a dulcet in contagion.
But shall we make the welkin dance indeed? Shall we rouse the night-owl in a catch that will daw three souls out of one weaver? Shall we do that?

SIR ANDREW: An you love me, let’s do’t, I am dog at a catch.

FESTE: By’r Lady, sir, and some dogs will catch well.

SIR ANDREW: Most certain. Let our catch be ‘Thou knave’.

FESTE: ‘Hold thy peace, thou knave’, knight. I shall be constrained in’t to call thee knave, knight.

SIR ANDREW: ‘Tis not the first time I have constrained one to call me knave. Begin, fool: it begins ‘Hold thy peace’.

FESTE: I shall never begin if I hold my peace.

SIR ANDREW: Good i’faith. Come begin.

They sing the catch.

 

Interview with Chris Myles

"A sister, you are she"

Playing women in Shakespeare 

Being part of Propeller, you often get asked, “What’s it like playing a woman?” or “How do you approach playing a woman?” It seems to be a subject that many people are interested in, whether from an acting perspective, from a political perspective, or simply out of curiosity. In post-show discussions we are able to give brief answers to these questions but I thought it would be interesting to go into a bit more detail.

It is worth mentioning that the idea of Propeller being an all male company is not something our artistic director Ed Hall deliberately set out to do. It all started with a production of Henry V at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury in the nineties, where Ed had the idea of telling the story through a chorus of twentieth century male soldiers – an idea that was revisited in our production of Henry last year. This initial production was a huge success and so Ed asked that company if they wanted to do another one, naturally they said they did and so the company began the process of being formed. All actors who were in that first production were asked back to do the next production, something which Propeller continue to do to this day. It wasn’t until some years later when Ed decided the company should have a name, so he asked the current company to come up with ideas and Propeller was the one that stuck. A lot of people I speak to about Propeller say, “Oh, so you’re doing it the traditional way” by this referring to the fact that in Shakespeare’s time, all the parts were played by men. While I can see what they mean, we’re not aiming to replicate that, as anyway, from what we know the female parts would have been played by teenaged boys, whose voices had not yet broken, rather than fully grown men. By having men playing women we are making the audience complicit in the theatricality of the piece and the storytelling, rather than trying to make them believe what they are seeing is “real”. In doing this we encourage our audiences to take an imaginative leap right from the start, to “Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts” and “make imaginary puissance” (to quote Henry V). This high jump of the imagination makes for a highly rewarding experience, both for the audience and indeed the actors.

I am in my second year with Propeller now and have played two women over the four plays I have done: Perdita in The Winter’s Tale last year and Olivia in Twelfth Night this year. These are both extremely different characters: Perdita a princess who is cast out as a baby into the wild and brought up by shepherds, not knowing her true identity until the end of the play, quite a mild character who speaks when she is spoken to and is admired by everyone for her beauty and gracious behaviour; on the other hand, Olivia is a grieving countess, having recently lost her brother and father, yet arguably the highest status person in the play, who ruthlessly speaks her mind and commands attention, frequently demanding what she wants and putting down those around her in the blink of an eye. As you might imagine, the difference between playing these characters is huge, which is why one can’t generally talk about playing women, just as I couldn’t talk generally about playing Shakespearean characters, or Chekhovian characters, or male characters. My motivations, vocal language and physical language are usually very different depending on who it is I am playing.

If I’m to be specific then, I can share a bit of my ongoing experience creating the character of Olivia, since this is the part I am currently playing. It is fair to say that my process of creating this character is roughly the same as with any character, be it male or female, though the resulting character will be different depending on the demands of the piece. I started before rehearsals began by reading the play two or three times in its entirety, including anything that Ed and Roger Warren had edited out for the Propeller version. I then began to look more closely at the scenes relevant to Olivia. These are not just the scenes in which she appears, but also scenes where she is spoken about. I carried on to make four lists: the facts about my character; things she says about herself; things she says about other people, and things other people say about her. For example, we can safely assume that it is a fact that her brother and father have both recently died, we also know she is a woman, and that she is a countess. She says Malvolio is “sick of self love”, yet also says “I would not have him miscarry for the half of my dowry”. She is called “cruelty” by both Viola and Orsino, and Maria says Olivia will hang Feste for his absence from the house. These are just a few examples of clues within the text, which one ends up weaving together to create the basic foundations of the character.

One can also look at the form of Olivia’s words as they are on the page; she starts off the play speaking in prose, indicating perhaps a rational and emotionally disconnected state of mind. It is only towards the end of her first meeting with Viola, disguised as Cesario when she starts speaking in verse, which tells us something has changed within her: her emotional cogs begin to be set in motion and by the end of she scene she’s even got a rhyming couplet! By looking closely at the text and mining out the clues within it, one can create a basic skeletal structure, which helps to plot the character’s journey through the play.

Something that playing a woman often requires is great change in physicality. It is a refreshing challenge for me, especially in a world where typecasting is becoming more and more prevalent, to have to actively and constantly make different choices when it comes to physical movement and interaction with other characters. People often imagine it to be very difficult for men to inhabit more feminine qualities and vice versa, yet I think it mostly comes down to a question of the individual’s willingness to embrace the opposite sex within them. I am a firm believer that we are made up of both masculine and feminine aspects. As a man, I was brought up by my mother – a woman, all my primary school teachers were women, many of my secondary school teachers were women, I had many female friends as a child and continue to have them now, I lived with two women for five years, my two best friends are women… I could go on. People ask if we spend time observing the way women move and so on, but I don’t really feel the need to do that as I’ve been doing it my entire life! A big part of bringing that physicality on stage is simply embracing that part of you that intuitively knows what those qualities are, without commenting on it, sending it up (unless the part requires it!) or feeling embarrassed. I feel the key to really inhabiting this physicality is to root everything in the character’s inner life, history and desires and to try and be as specific as possible. Generalised “woman acting” would just be pretty crass I think, so one needs to be careful to think precisely about what kind of woman one is playing.

During the rehearsal process, with the help from Ed and our associate director Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, I developed a detailed mental picture of how Olivia would look, move, speak and so on. I used plenty of specific personal references to build up this picture. This could be anything from women I have randomly encountered to friends or colleagues to characters from films. Indeed a big inspiration for me was Goldie Hawn’s performance in the 1980s comedy film Overboard, where she plays a spoilt and bored woman living on a yacht. This might seem a little odd, especially in a production where the design is taken from an obscure existentialist French film from the 60s, but for me it’s just about what works for you personally. I made sure I had a rehearsal skirt to wear and I got my heels early in rehearsals, as wearing these things really do influence the way you move around, not only the manner of movement but also the tempo – it’s much harder to go fast in heels! Ed said to me in the final week of rehearsals; “Olivia is the sort of woman who would spend fifteen minutes in a restaurant making the waiter go through every item on the menu only to eventually order a green salad” (no dressing, obviously). These kinds of abstract character references are things that I find tremendously useful, references that allow your imagination to take you off somewhere you can find all sorts of new things to try out.

In terms of voice, I am not trying to exactly replicate a particular woman’s voice and I certainly don’t try anything like a falsetto voice, something which I think would only act as a barrier between myself and the character, and in turn the audience and my character. Instead I aim to suggest a female voice by shifting the resonance higher up in my body, that is from the stomach and solar plexus up towards the chest, face and head. As a consequence of this the voice does become generally higher, but I remain connected to it and it still has the potential to drop down in tone and resonate from different areas, should the moment require it. It is ultimately about finding a character voice that you can inhabit as fully as your own voice, once this happens you can go in any direction you want to go in and in turn make all sorts of discoveries.

All in all I find playing a woman extremely liberating. That might sound strange and many people would expect the opposite to be true, yet there is something so exciting about playing a character who is such a different entity to you. I remember a director at drama school once said that if you are playing something that is very close to you, you are likely to do a good job, but because you are so familiar with that world you may not fully explore and take many things for granted. On the other hand, if you are making a great jump imaginatively you have the capability to see things with fresh eyes and explore the character to its fullest potential. I think this is very true and I count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to do this in such a wonderfully supportive company, especially in a world where many directors and casting directors understandably won’t cast you outside of your type because they can’t take the risk that you will be able to achieve the end result within the time frame of the project.

As I write this I am aware of that fact that men playing women in the theatre has been the cause of much debate, particularly recently, with many articles expressing the frustration of female actors having less opportunities than men due to there being more parts for men, particularly in classical work. Many might ask, what is the validity of having men playing women? Why not have women in this company? I personally cannot give formal answers to these questions but I hope that it is through such productions as ours, the recent all male productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III out of the Globe and the all female Julius Caesar at the Donmar, that audiences can grow to appreciate gender-blind casting. Surely by doing this we could potentially open up those hundreds of fantastic male parts in the classical repertoire for women to play. In addition to this we need to encourage more female (and male) playwrights and directors to create work about women and for women. Hopefully by gaining more female work we can gain some kind of gender balance and I would much rather that than preventing more male-orientated work from existing or policing the arts and telling people what they can and cannot do. As a company we should be free as artists to put on the work we feel compelled to make, and as long as there are audiences willing to come and see us, I think we will be doing it for quite some time to come.

Ben Allen

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COMING SOON

The wardrobe department on their role in Propeller 

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‘Mirror, Mirror’ 

Reflections on the design for Twelfth Night

For their 2012-13 tour, Propeller are reviving their pairing of Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew first seen in 2006-7.

These plays present families in crisis and each puts domesticity under the spotlight. The image of home, something we cherish and regard as a sanctuary, provides a scenic framework to present both plays. Olivia’s household is air space for a family suspended in the holding pattern of liminal mourning, stalked by deadpan satirical comedians and uncles preferably edged out of the family snapshots. For me it conjures the existential books, films and dramas of the 1950’s, of the Parisian chic intelligentsia, of Cocteau or Sartre. The perfect reference point for our scenic world surfaced early on in my design process, a film that had got under my skin 30 years ago, the enigmatic and claustrophobic black and white classic, L'année dernière à Marienbad.

De-saturated of colour, Feste’s followers, our masked chorus, put on a face, revel and delight in oiling the whirligig of time – they constitute the “pack” that bedevils Malvolio and perhaps anyone else who dares to dream. They’re cool, sometimes menacing. Their clothes could be equally at home in a Tarantino movie.

The play asks us to reflect on the ironies of life and the characters are given chances to scrutinise their attitude to love in all its guises. Illyria is shaped and re-shaped by the strangely absent adult generation’s wardrobes. After the possibility of childhood fables in amongst the mothballs, furs and dinner suits, encounters with lions and witches, the occupants have now degenerated into darker recesses where adolescents and young adults question themselves before engineering transformations and springing revelations. I looked to the personas projected by 20th Century artists. Their images and mythologies may have become more firmly fixed in our consciousness than the work they produce: René Magritte, Gilbert and George, Joseph Beuys and others.

So… this Propeller project’s design brief is about morphing, introspection and celebration – an unusual mix of motivations: but isn’t that why we are continually fascinated by the themes that Shakespeare uniquely offers us to scrutinise, reinvent and make both visually and metaphorically meaningful for our own times? 

Michael Pavelka 

Kinds of Love 

Twelfth Night is an ambiguously erotic play. It dramatizes many different kinds of love, ranging from Orsino’s and Olivia’s love for Viola/Cesario, Antonio’s for Sebastian, and the love felt by the twins for one another, to Malvolio’s deluded love for Olivia, and, on a more basic level, the relationship, and eventual marriage, of Sir Toby and Maria. Orsino is wooing Olivia from afar, but has no real relationship with her; much nearer to home is his obvious, and immediate, attraction to his apparent servant, Viola/Cesario. Viola comes into the claustrophobic world of Orsino and Olivia, and turns it upside down. She awakens, brings to the surface, the potential for emotional fulfilment in Orsino and Olivia, especially in the great central scene where she obliquely declares her love for Orsino in the allegory of a sister who died of love:

  She never told her love,
  But let concealment, like a worm i’th’ bud,
  Feed on her damask cheek; she pined in thought,
  And with a green and yellow melancholy
  She sat like patience on a monument,
  Smiling at grief.

‘Smiling at grief’: the phrase trenchantly summarises the bitter-sweet tone of the play, its beautifully sustained balance between laughter and tears.                                                                      

Shakespeare probably wrote Twelfth Night in 1601, at roughly the same time as Hamlet, when he was at the height of his powers, so its theatrical mastery is not surprising. But his personal experiences may have contributed to that achievement. The sexually ambiguous figure of Viola/Cesario  seems very closely related to the male lover of the Sonnets, whom Shakespeare calls ‘the master-mistress of my passion’. Again, when in her speech quoted above, Viola goes on to say that she is ‘all the brothers’ of her father’s house, she increases its ambiguous potential: she is expressing her love for Orsino, but also for the twin brother she thinks is dead. The twins introduce a vein of particularly intense emotion into Twelfth Night. Shakespeare was the father of twins, Judith and Hamnet. Judith lost her brother at the age of 11, in 1596, and Shakespeare may have known what modern research into bereaved twins has demonstrated: that the death of a twin seems to cause a particularly intense sense of desolation, so that the surviving twin often tries to ‘compensate’ for the loss by attempting to assume the other’s identity, as Viola does in assuming her brother’s persona for her male disguise.

The Malvolio sub-plot presents a love story of a different kind –though perhaps with another connection between the play and its author. In Sonnet 62, Shakespeare accuses himself of the ‘sin of self-love’, the very fault Olivia criticises in Malvolio. This plot moves from the broad comedy of the letter and yellow stockings scenes to   something much harsher: the attempt to drive Malvolio mad, shutting him up in a ‘dark room’ or prison. In this scene, Malvolio is tormented by his adversary Feste, who subsequently tells him that ‘the whirligig of time brings in his revenges’. But Feste is not merely a revenger; he seems to encapsulate the whole tone of the play: when, for instance, he compares Orsino’s mind to an opal – a gem that changes in the light –he catches its shifting, sweet-sour mood. He holds up mirrors to the other characters, penetrating Viola’s disguise, criticising Orsino’s love-melancholy, or exposing the excess of Olivia’s mourning for her brother. His final song emphasises that the rain raineth every day – but at the same time he tells the audience he wants to please them. So this ambiguous play ends ambiguously: after all, its sub-title in the 1623 Folio is ‘What You Will’.

Roger Warren

Watch the trailer for Twelfth Night

Edward Hall on Propeller's Twelfth Night

 

 

Facts About Twelfth Night

When Twelfth Night was written, there were no copyright restrictions on plays. The first recorded performance of the play was on 2nd February 1602, but it is thought there may have been an earlier version written for the court of Elizabeth I.

Shakespeare often wrote about twins. He and his wife had twin sons, one of whom passed away when he was only eleven years old. The acting company that he wrote for also had a pair of identical twins in the players!

Malvolio is described as a puritan. In Shakespeare's time the puritans held a great deal of power and regarded theatres as places of sin. The first audiences of Twelfth Night would have had great fun mocking and deriding the character onstage, and enjoying his comeuppance.

The first listed Broadway production of the play opened on June 11, 1804.

The original full title of the play is ‘Twelfth Night; or, What You Will’ and it is believed that ‘What You Will’ was Shakespeare’s intended title for the play. He had to change it when a rival playwright premiered a play of the same title.

During Shakespeare’s time, women were not allowed to perform on the stage and instead young boys were cast in the female roles. Just like in the Propeller version of Twelfth Night, this meant that the role of Viola would involve a boy playing a girl who was pretending to be a boy!

There have been several attempts to re-work the play into a musical including a jukebox musical featuring the work of Elvis Presley, which was called ‘All Shook Up’.

Will Wollen 

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Music from Propeller's Twelfth Night

Creating Propeller's Music

Jon Trenchard, Composer and Arranger of Original Music for Twelfth Night, describes his process

The opening line of Twelfth Night suggests that music will be important in the play. And the role of Feste, with four whole songs in the text and many other catches and rounds besides, is crucial in leading that music. We decided to use the traditional 16th century folk tunes for his songs, and our job as his ensemble of zanies was to figure out how to accompany him.

On day one of rehearsals, Edward Hall and Michael Pavelka told us that one of their inspirations for the design of Propeller's production was the French film, 'Last Year In Marienbad.' When we watched it, we were struck by how the characters in that monochrome world were trapped in repetitive cycles, just as each character in Illyria is trapped in their own behavioural patterns until the shipwrecked twins enter their lives and begin to break the spell.

It occurred to me that musically we could represent this trapped, monochrome world by humming a single note, out of which Feste's songs like 'Come Away Death' would emerge in a melancholic minor key, with the same cycle of minor chords repeated throughout the play; the effect of the twins on the musical landscape would be gradually to transform this minor atmosphere to the more contented major key of A flat, showing how the whole stagnant world of Illyria is transformed by these two outsiders. This idea formed the basis of most of my vocal arrangements. Our hummed C drone accompanies the opening lines, and, at Orsino's request, “plays on,” recurring throughout the play until during the final song, the building tension of the C minor accompaniment slips away to leave a calm A flat major chord resonating in the theatre. Starting songs with all the cast joining in on a single note also ensures we are all in the same key!

Instrumentally, we were lucky the cast already played various folk instruments – guitars, clarinet, penny whistle, drums, accordion, with some brassy saxophone and a jazzy cello bass line thrown in for Toby and Maria's mischievous antics. But Edward Hall also wanted to evoke an eerie horror film atmosphere, and we sourced some unusual percussion to achieve this: a piano gut is plucked like a harp, or hit like a drum for thunder during the shipwreck; glasses of water provide a buzzing drone under the Antonio and Sebastian scenes, along with a bottle blown like a distant foghorn; but our piece de resistance (and the instrument audiences always asked about) is the waterphone – a simple but surprisingly costly invention, consisting of a hollow metal cylinder with what looks like two dog bowls soldered on one end to form a container, with lots of thin metal rods of varying lengths protruding up from it: you pour water into the cylinder and bow the rods with a violin bow, whilst swaying the container to move the water around inside; and the resulting sound is all you need to send shivers down people's spines!

Jon Trenchard

The cast warm up ahead of a performance

The Music of Propeller 

Music is a hugely important part of a Propeller production. It evokes the time, place and mood of a scene, as well as adding to the comedy and tragedy that is unfolding onstage. Many of the cast join Propeller as lifelong musicians, and others have never picked up an instrument before. But everyone becomes involved in the music of a show, from playing sound effects on percussion instruments to performing full versions of original Propeller songs. 

The cast play the following instruments in Twelfth Night

Liam O'Brien - Guitar, drum 

Christopher Heyward - Percussion

Arthur Wilson - Percussion

Joseph Chance - Percussion

Dan Wheeler - Bass guitar, harmonica, accordian 

Benjamin O'Mahony - Penny whistle, percussion

Ben Allen - Clarinet

Chris Myles - Percussion

Vince Leigh - Guitar

Gary Shelford - Bass guitar, drums

Finn Hanlon - Saxophone, cello

Lewis Hart - Guitar, lute

Darrell Brockis - Clarinet, guitar

 

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As ever, there have been plenty of memorable comments in the show reports for Twelfth Night!

Date: Tuesday 30th April 2013

Venue: Theatre Royal, Newcastle

Comments:

1.  Mr Wheeler caught Mr Heyward in the face when he threw the bouquet at him.
2.  LX Q137 - going into the sun and the moon scene - early, due to Miss Randall being distracted by a pile of cured meats that a member of the company had placed on the prompt desk.
3.  Channel 5 dropped focus towards the end of Scene 14.
4.  There was a round for Car Mio in the opening, Die, Biondello's speech and the cook/cake.
5.  It was a very responsive house. There was an extra call.

 

Date: Sunday 17th March 2013

Venue: Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis

Comments

1. Mr Myles bottom stroking in Scene 14 caused an outbreak of the smirks. Mr Allen fought this to deliver his final speech and there was a round as he exited.
2. There was a round for the tap.
3. It was a warm audience this afternoon.

 

Date: Saturday 2nd February 2013

Venue: Theatre Royal, Norwich

Comments

1. This evening's performance was signed.
2. The signer kept knocking the chimes DSL. Mr Leigh struck them after he used them for the final time in Scene 5.
3. The light in the wardrobe didn't come on - LX Q41 - despite the battery being changed and the channel checked between shows.-
4. Mr Myles sang To be a pilgrim this evening.
5. There was a round for Mr Myles in Scene 14 -for his bottom stroking - and for the tap.
6. A warm and responsive audience. There was an extra call and a partial standing ovation.  

 

Date: Friday 28th January February 2013

Venue: Theatre Royal, Norwich

Comments

1. 120 attended the post show.
2. The scene change from Scene 6 into 7 went awry.
4. LX Q 74 – Caro Mio starting - late, DSM error.
4. Snd Q 8 – wedding bells – late, due to Mr Gregory following his script closely and reading the sound cue rather than doing the sound cue.
5. There was a delay to starting the second half as a guitar string needed changing.
6. Mr O’Brien forgot to ring the bell at Baptista’s house. After a short pause Mr O’Mahony rang it instead. Snd Q 21.
 

Date: Wednesday 28th November 2012 

Venue:  Theatre Nanterre-Amandiers, Nanterre 

Comments

1. There was intermittent interference on Feste’s vocal mic during the show. This caused a short squeal during Scene 5.
2. Mr Myles sang a Piaf song on his entrance into Scene 10, there lyrics were altered to insult Sir Toby. This was well received.
3. There was an excellent reaction to the 2 French lines and Mr Dougall’s Oh.
4. There was applause for ‘Most wonderful’ and the tap.
5. It was a warm audience, there were 4 extra calls. There was a standing ovation.

 

Date: Tuesday 27th November 2012  

Venue:  Theatre Nanterre-Amandiers, Nanterre 

Comments

1. The mic on the guitar had an intermittent fault during the first half and was changed during the interval.
2. The break away bottle smashed completely when Mr Leigh broke it over his head.
3. Mr Hanlon’s flaming torches went out as he entered for the flame dance.
4. There was applause for ‘Most wonderful’ and the tap.
5. It was a warm audience, there were 4 extra calls.

 

Date: Friday 23rd November 2012    Performance No: 13

Venue:  Theatre Nanterre-Amandiers, Nanterre  

Comments

1. There was a delay to starting the show due to problems with the shuttle bus service from the station to the theatre.
2. There was applause from one audience member on ‘they are as true of heart as we’.
3. There was a round for the tap.
4. It was a warm and responsive audience, there were 4 extra calls and a standing ovation.

 

Date: Wednesday 14th November 2012   

Venue:  Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford    

Comments

1. Mr Myles was knocked off his bike on the way home last night. He is a little bruised today and so Mr Wilson replaced him lifting Mr Chance during the storm.
2. Miss Bardsley injured her elbow when passing through the backstage corridor with the coffin trestle. A spare trestle has been borrowed from the theatre so that the trestles use on stage can be set ready to be brought on in the scene from the top.
3. Mr Hanlon pulled his back tripping over his bag during Scene 13.
4. There was a round for the tap.
5. It was a warm and responsive audience, there was an extra call.

 

Date: Tuesday 13th November 2012   

Venue:  Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford   

Comments

1. One of the flaming torches has broken. As a result only 4 torches were used. A repair will be made tomorrow.
2. Mr Gregory spent some time trying to identify the source of a noise FOH. He discovered it was his laptop and so turned it off.
3. One of the SL trees was knocked over during the dream of the storm.
4. Mr Chance missed the first waterphone cue of Scene 13.
5. There was a round on ‘this wins him liver and all’
6. It was a warm and responsive audience, there was an extra call.

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Propeller Social Media

Social media is used by Propeller all year round as an important tool to keep in touch with their fans and let them know what the company is up to. Often audience members will send a message to let us know what they thought of the performance. 

Here is a selection of fan reviews from the tour so far:

'I saw your production of The Twelfth Night in Nanterre last Sunday; I have to say it was absolutely brilliant! I went from having never heard of you to being a huge fan in a few hours. All the characters on stage were marvellous, the play was funny and grave all at once; the acting was perfect. I love Shakespeare, but seeing you guys act it out was a new experience. Congrats!' Charlotte N'Furter Monteil

'Fellas, you are fabulous! My son and I thoroughly enjoyed Twelfth Night and can't wait until we can come and see you again.' Clare Wright

'Watching Propeller perform Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night was the best way to spend a Friday night in Norwich, loved the way it was a modern twist on a Shakespearean play, such an inspiration to be a complete male cast! Thank you, myself and everyone I went with will continue to support you wherever we can!' Rhianan Beavis 

'Thank you so much Propeller for amazing performances of Taming of the Shrew & Twelfth Night - absolutely outstanding acting talent from the whole cast. Set, costumes, whole production was superb! Come back to Norwich soon please?
Good luck for the rest of the tour!' Sue Hamilton 

'Just got home from the most wonderful school trip to see Propeller perform The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night!! It was the best shakespeare I have ever seen on stage!!! Thank you all for making it a day to remember!!' Rowen Brittain

 

Behind the scenes

Eleanor Randall describes her role as Deputy Stage Manager

As Deputy Stage Manager (DSM) for Propeller I start in the rehearsal room with the actors and director. I keep a copy of the script known as the prompt copy. This has all the alterations to the text recorded  and also any music, scene changes and blocking (moves the actors make and their relation to the text spoken). I write a rehearsal call each day which lets everyone know what we will be working on the following day in the rehearsal room and includes things like costume fittings and press calls. At the end of the day I also write the rehearsal notes, which pass on any relevant information to the other departments, including information about how props and costume are being used and requests for items in the rehearsal room that will help the actors rehearse.

When we move from the rehearsal room to the theatre I give the rest of the stage management team a settings list which has the starting position of all the props, furniture, set and musical instruments on it. I also give them a running list, which has cues that need performing during the show, and includes things like escorting actors front of house to make entrances. Both of these documents are amended by the Assistant Stage Manager (ASM) and Stage Manager (SM) as we develop the technical details and things are changed. When we move from the rehearsal room to the stage the prompt copy has the cues for lighting and sound added. I am responsible for calling these during the performances so that these cues happen at the same time even when we are in different venues.

The Propeller tours have two shows which means we have to swap back and forth between the two shows a couple of times each week. As a rule we start each new venue on a Tuesday with a technical rehearsal (tech) and performance of the first show. On a Wednesday we then change around to the second show which we tech and perform. There are usually two more turnarounds between the two shows before the end of the week and then we pack all of the props, instruments and furniture away again for transport with the costumes, lighting, sound and set to the next venue and begin it all over again.  For shows within Europe we pack away at the end of the week as usual and the lorry travels over to Europe for our shows.

When we are further afield it is a little bit different. For our shows in Ann Arbor and Minneapolis this year we have had to duplicate a lot of our props, furniture and instruments. Anything that is small enough or light enough to pack in a suitcase is transported with us as excess luggage along with all of the costumes and some technical items. Anything bigger has to be replicated and is sent on ahead in a shipping container along with a duplicate set, and some lighting and sound equipment. For our trip to Australia and New Zealand last year we had almost a ton of excess luggage that had to be checked onto our flight with our personal luggage.

If you see us in an airport check in queue it’s best to join another line!

I enjoy working with Propeller on all aspects of the creative process; from the seeming anarchy of the rehearsal room as all ideas are thrown into the mix to see what sticks, through the hard work of tech and turnarounds and finally to the fun of playing abroad and discovering new places with a group of people who are a real ‘band of brothers’, helping and supporting each other when needed.

Eleanor Randall

Show Reports

After every performance, deputy stage manager Eleanor Randall sends a show report to the entire creative team. This lets everyone know of any problems, notable incidents or any other useful information about the performance.

Click here to download an example show report with an explanation of all the key information.

For some of the more memorable reports that have been sent round, make sure to take a look in Outtakes!

Time Lapse Video of Twelfth Night Get-in  

Two day process of setting up our production that happens at every theatre we tour.  

Education

Our education packs are essential for school groups to make the most of their trip to see Propeller.

Download the Twelfth Night education pack here.

Look

Sound Effects from Propeller's Twelfth Night

Re-Lighting a Propeller Tour

Tom White describes his role as a re-lighter

My name is Tom White and I am the touring Re-Lighter for Propeller Theatre Company. Ultimately I am responsible for the 'Look' of the lighting whilst the show is on tour, replicating the beautiful lighting that has been created by Propeller's lighting designer Ben Omerod.

My first job at the beginning of each tour is to draft the light plot of the show which is basically a big map of where all the lights go when we are in each theatre. I draft one for every theatre on the tour and it includes information such as what type of light is to be used, what colour they are and what control channel I can dial into the console to select them. From the plan I then produce a shop order for the rental company, which is basically a list of any additional equipment Ben Omerod requires to light the show. Once we get into the fit up I supervise the rigging of our equipment and troubleshoot anything that is not working. When the crew and equipment are ready I focus (point) the lighting instruments at various areas on the stage under Ben's direction. The focuses of these lights are recorded with photographs using a wonderful piece of software called 'Lightwright'. It is one of the many tools that enables me to keep the lighting looking just right. It can take a few hours to focus the lighting instruments and when it is finished we can then begin to program 'looks' from the lighting console.

The next part of the process is a painstaking one. We light during the technical rehearsal with the cast; Ben the lighting designer calls out numbers of lighting instruments and positions and colours (into his headset), whilst as quickly as possible I bring them up on the lighting console. When Ben is happy I record our 'look' into the cue list. This process of going through the entire show often takes two to three days and I have to make sure I am paying attention as on tour I will often only get two to three hours to recreate the same lighting. It's very hard work as we try and use any dinner breaks and tea breaks to touch up the focuses of lighting instruments, add new instruments and troubleshoot broken equipment. I often have a mini tuck shop under the lighting desk to get through the day! Once the technical rehearsal is over if we are lucky we can get a dress rehearsal in, this enables Ben to take notes of any mistakes, which we will then fix during the dinner break. At this stage the notes are mostly lighting console notes: for example intensities and colours that need to be changed.

At last, our first show is finally open! The lighting department will be in as early as possible the next morning fixing anything that went wrong in our first show and then the cast come in and we fix any problems that they encountered onstage. We often have lots of notes after the first performance and it is another day of working through breaks to get to the second performance. Once Ben is happy with the lighting for the show I can then use the notes sessions to photograph the focuses of our generic theatre lights. Then on to moving lights! More and more shows are using moving lights and Propeller often uses anywhere between ten and fifteen instruments of this type of equipment.

A moving light is a light whose focus is re-positionable during the show, not only will it's focus change but also it's colour, size, shape and it will even project images. However the technology is not quite there yet and although they are wonderful lights there are very sensitive. They are often the piece of equipment that fails the most on a show. They also really increase the time it takes to program the lighting because not only do you have to call out it's intensity e.g. "at 65%" but also tell it where it needs to point, in what colour and what size etc. On the plus side one moving light can replace literally dozens of more traditional theatre spotlights so they are an invaluable tool for us. However, as we realised on the last tour, they also require a lot of paperwork! Every position that a moving light uses on a stage needs to be noted so that it can be accurately reproduced week on week. The last tour (Henry V & The Winters Tale) was pretty hectic in terms of moving lights as both shows combined had just under four hundred moving light positions!

THE TOUR

A typical UK touring schedule will usually go something like this, at 9am we hang all of the lights over the stage and front of house (auditorium), after lunch we will rig all of the side lighting required for the show and ensure that everything is working. We also check that each light has its correct colour and gobo/template in it. After dinner we focus all of the overhead lighting and as much of the auditorium lighting as possible using our focus notes and then by 10 or 11pm it's time to go back to the hotel and make a list of the remaining instruments to be focused and update any other paperwork for the tech the next day.

The next morning at 9am we finish the lighting focus and flash through (check that everything works). Then by around midday it is time to update all of the moving light focus positions on the lighting console. This takes about one to two hours and I often have my headphones on as David (Propeller's sound designer) uses this time to check all of his sound cues are working (It is very loud!).  I then load the cues from the show file, thankfully we tour a lighting console so we don't have to worry about compatibility issues with our show.

Once the positions are updated I know that all of the lights will be pointing in the right place for our mini technical rehearsal with the cast where we do a top and tail brief run of the show. During this time, I spend a lot of time correcting the intensities in cues. This is due to the fact that every theatre is different and some lights will be rigged closer or further away from the stage. It is also because theatre lights come in a variety of different wattages and outputs and the dimmers that they are connected to vary greatly. What often happens during a long running tour is the cast become quicker and slicker and another thing I find myself doing is changing the fade times of the lighting cues. After the tech run I spend the dinner break fixing anything that didn't work in the tech and grab a sandwich in the short time it takes for the audience to come in and sit down! I often operate the board during the first performance as it enables me to subtly (without you the audience noticing) correct intensities in scenes and make notes out of sight.

Then after the first show it is time for bed as we have to do it all again tomorrow for the second show in our rep!

Tom White

Example of a lighting plan.

This is created by the lighting designer as a map of where different lights need to go on the rig.