But to leave his box, is Bardolph quite ready?
The tour finished on a high. We had two great shows at Harlow Playhouse, as part of their Pay What You Can season. Our youngest audience member was a baby of about six months, which I believe is our youngest fan to date! I really enjoy the family shows, watching the parents experience the production alongside their children and talking to them about it afterwards, perhaps having a closer look at our set. I wish we always had time to do this, and for our actors to talk to the children. Three little girls approached Stuart after the morning show to say how much they liked it, he has an ever growing fan club amongst young audiences!
I have a feeling this might not be the last we see of Bardolph and his box. The reception is always overwhelming positive, from pupils, teachers and families. Venue managers and programmers who have seen the show have been complementary too. There are a great many corners of the country we haven’t visited… However, touring to schools is getting harder and you need effective partners and willing teachers who understand the value of such a production. These past eighteen months have been an experience, so we’ll give ourselves a breather first before we embark on the next tour.
What else might Up The Road get up to? I know the piece I would like to make next, in a few months I hope to start thinking about how that might happen. The website might go quiet for a while, but we’ll still be here, thinking and planning. So, for now, goodbye Bardolph, and thank you. This year you’ve given over 3,500 children a truly memorable experience.
Up The Road On The Road
Up The Road are firmly back on the road. After a few script amendments and a couple of alterations to costume, we were back in rehearsal in mid-September for our autumn tour. Lucy Heath and Gareth Wildig have joined Stuart Crowther in our exploration of Shakespeare’s plays, which gave us the opportunity to address the show afresh, with new ideas and inspirations. There can be a temptation with revivals or remounts to stick to exactly what you did before, which isn’t very exciting for new cast members. I know what worked well last time, and I knew what we could alter. Gareth and Lucy have brought new ideas and interpretations, and Stuart has made new discoveries too. The essence of the show remains unchanged, and, I’m relieved to say, so has the reaction of our audiences.
There’s a new element of slow motion in the piece. To my amusement many of the children commentate on this section, although my favourite response was those in Cumbria who added their own slow-mo backing music. The audience interaction goes down well, with our audiences gleeful at Bardolph’s attempts to outwit Cleopatra. Lance has had some surprising reactions, whilst the Dromios inspire a similar angst to before. Reactions to different moments can vary, depending on where we are in the country. One Lakeland teacher commented that his children had been ‘taken out of their comfort zone’, although it was a place they seemed very content. We had a terrific set of workshops that day, I love being able to spend a bit more time with our audiences and explore the play with them.
The team are doing a great job on the road. Thank you to Janine for keeping them in line and managing the tour. Also thank you to Simon, because this is a tough job and without him there would be a number of children without their autumnal wonder.
Just a Note
Looking for photos of Bardolph’s Box? Click here!
Thank you to Brian Roberts for photographing our production.
Back In The Box With You
And we’re done. The Box is resting at Up The Road HQ, surrounded by various props, costumes and puppets; the van is off on another adventure and all is quiet in Bardolph’s world. 5 weeks of touring, over 2000 audience members, 1 museum, 8 schools, 9 theatres and 13 libraries played and a host of ‘happy’ or ‘excited’ children who thought the play was ‘dead funny’ and ‘outstanding’. (No child was bribed in the recording of these thoughts.)
Bardolph’s Box was first formed in winter 2013, so it’s been a long journey. At that point Up The Road didn’t exist and I was way off being able to co-produce a production. There have been so many challenges and unexpected mountains to climb, but a great number of rewarding moments too. Such as the class at The Museum of Wigan Life who gathered round the set at the end of the show and cried ‘Shakespeare!!’ as their photo was taken; the boy at a Cheshire library who was entranced by the show from start to finish, and taking Bardolph and his pals to my primary school, to the same hall where I watched a small-scale performance in Year 6.
We have received a huge amount of support. Linda, Simon, Graham and Laura our glorious van drivers deserve a mention for their patience and good humour (‘Nah, there’s nowhere to park here love!’); all our hosts at libraries, theatres and schools who looked after us with pastries, cake and coffees and those who did the literal dirty work when lumbered with the washing (particularly you, Mum). Kayleigh and Alice – our fifth and sixth Beatles – have kept up their support both in person and from afar. Anna, Harvey and Stuart worked tirelessly to ensure every child got a great show, and sometimes had to think outside the box (no pun intended) when the audience needed that extra bit of encouragement. Touring can be exhausting, but thanks to Mel B, Gogglebox, 90s pop music and their own good humour we had a very successful and largely disaster-free 5 weeks. (We won’t mention the two trips to Kwik-Fit, or the prolonged pit stop at Warwick services to change a tyre. Hurrah for Mike of the RAC.) Some of our audience travelled a long old way to see us in action – thank you, that means a great deal.
And so the final question still remains – To leave his box, his Bardolph quite ready?
On The Road in Kent
Week Two in the south-east has begun! Last week was a myriad of venues and emotions as we toured to libraries, theatres and schools, 10 shows in 6 days. For me, going back to my primary school was incredibly moving, the same hall, some of the same staff, it really was home turf. The cast did a fantastic performance, with our 120-strong audience joining in all the way. I hope the performance stays with some of them and lights a few sparks.
Now we’re into Week Two, with a performance at The Horsebridge Centre, Whitstable, kicking things off. It’s a lovely venue, right on the beach, and a terrific performance space. Tomorrow we’re back to an early start as we head over to The Woodville in Gravesend for two shows to packed houses. The audience makes a real difference to the performances; Anna, Stuart and Harvey rise to every occasion, either coaxing responses or gently adapting their performances to suit the crowd. It’s interesting to see the difference in the venues: pupils in their own schools tend to be more relaxed and eager to be involved, whereas family shows are usually quieter affairs. Year 3 classes are proving hugely rewarding as audiences, really getting into the spirit of things. The design is certainly proving its flexibility, fitting into school halls, theatres and libraries alike, and Alice’s work always looks brilliant.
As you may have seen, we successfully met (and over-reached) our crowd-fundraising target of £500! Woop! Thank you so much to all those of you who donated, it really is appreciated and makes a difference. And to the teachers and librarians who took a punt on Bardolph, without you we wouldn’t have a tour, thank you.
Heading Up The Road
The running begins and the actors really get into the flow. Highlights include Crab and Anna’s wonderful Launce, the moment Harvey leaps onto stage as Ariel with a whirly tube and Stuart’s hilarious impersonation of Hal’s father.
Alice’s awesome ‘expandomatic frame’ is in place for the dress rehearsal and a sigh of relief goes out that everything and the kitchen sink can fit behind it. The dress run gets a great response and I’m struck by the huge change an audience has already made. We discover how much interaction there is to be had, and the infectious nature of the cast’s sense of fun.
Opening night and the actors finally get to play to some children. Bardolph’s moment has come and they engage with him instantly. He is new to the island and the audience (big kids and all) get to experience the world and the characters for the first time as he does.
And then the team are off… up the road! We start with The Museum of Wigan Life then Neston Library, which get the cast thinking about the very different spaces they’ll be playing. The ever-growing interaction with the audience reminds me that this show was always inspired by Elizabethan touring players and how exciting breaking the forth wall can be for an audience of any age, especially when an entire class can yell at Bardolph that he has the wrong Dromio!
After the show at The Museum of Wigan Life, the teacher asks to take a picture of her class with our set. They replace the standard ‘Cheese!’ with an enthusiastic chorus of ‘Shakespeare!’. No more fitting a reminder of what it is all for.
The Beat Goes On
Week 2 starts with a blindfolded obstacle course! It’s not just for giggles, it’s also a great way of having the team working together and listening to each other as they verbally guide their fellow actors across the room. Then Nicola takes us through a vigorous tongue-twister warm-up and back into scenes. Things are shaping up nicely. A brilliant moment opens up when Nicola directs Anna as Rosalind to walk around Harvey’s Orlando. The space between them is momentarily closed and with them looking away from each other all the bravado is dropped and we can see the love! It is a family show and our R&D students, theatre critics of the future for sure, made it quite clear that we shouldn’t get too mushy but a little sure does go along way and set a warm tone.
Day 8 and Nicola has the team working with Laban again. He was a pioneer in dance notation and his work can be incredibly helpful when it comes to breaking down, or indeed building up, complex ways of moving, using the different aspects of how a person might move. Harvey’s Cleopatra for example can be seen as slow, direct and light.
Scene work continues and Nicola has Harvey and Anna do an improvisation to establish the Capulet and Montage relationship. Music men Keith Wilson and Mike Smith come in for their second visit and the Cajon has his moment to shine.
With the music all made Day 9 starts and the team practice. We’ve got a number of costumes, we have ‘The Box’ and scene work is very near to becoming runs! Still time to play though. Nicola takes the actors through several exercises focusing on the space and shaping of our gulling scene, a task not easy on a 4m x 4m stage. The Capulet and Montague work from yesterday has given a new layer and history to their scene, and in searching for some gold we discover just how robust the box (and Stuart) really is!
Bard and The Box
Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn… You get the point. Things are getting supernatural in the Bardolph room. Never has the Witches’ charm engaged me more. Nicola has had the cast work on it to a drum beat and my goodness it’s lifted. I’m trying to not give too much away but as I said we have a couple of awesome puppets and Stuart starts us off well. His task is not an easy one, playing a larger than life character at the same time as working a puppet. Never fear, firstly he is highly skilled; secondly he is practicing at home with an oven glove!
So we are up to Day 4 and well into scene work. Nicola wants to block enough to help the actors deal with a small stage and lots of quick changes but to keep playing and trying new things. She does an exercise where the cast walk around the space and think about one of their characters. These thoughts begin to impact on how they are moving and actors have a chance to try different physicalities for the character. It can be difficult to explore like this whilst in the midst of scene work and thinking about lines, blocking and props. They then pick a line of text, it is interesting to see how their new-found physicalities impact on a character’s voice.
Day 5. Alice and Box arrive and we all take a moment to appreciate her genius. It is beautiful! Box builder George must be credited too. There is a very talented group of people in the LIPA Theatre and Performance Design team. After more work on the scenes we have a right old hoot compiling a trailer with Rich Swainson… With more than a slight cameo from Crab the Dog.
It’s the end of the week and much has been achieved. Day 6 and we play the scenes using different genres which highlights the importance of trying new things and not getting stuck in your blocking. Melodrama and Cleopatra work well and her status becomes evermore apparent. We end the week doing a fast run of entrances and exits with the characters saying what is happening in these scenes. Anna in particular enters as about 4 different characters in the same amount of minutes. Goodness, Bardolph meets a lot of people!
And So It Begins
R&D is complete, Bardolph is deliciously cast and we have a script! Day One began as you might expect with hellos, catch-ups, games and then swiftly on to the read through! Exciting to see two weeks of R&D so seamlessly set down on the page, it’s hard to believe this was once a huge pile of potential scenes whittled down from such a vast body of work. The next step went with a bang… quite literally thanks to our dashing new cajon drum! With a noisy island in mind we start exploring our new instruments and get some soundscapes going. Personal favourite being the whirly tubes – no, honestly, that’s what they’re called!
Day Two and Nicola has the cast thinking about the multi-rolling. We start working with some movement techniques and with a long run ahead she gets the group flexing their voices. Then on to improv! A hot seating session gets the actors right into the minds of the characters and it’s great to see the complexities already building. With our characters backstories growing, Nicola then focuses on the island itself and an improvisation exploring this new land leads to some exciting discoveries including a 500-year-old talking turtle and some rather “sandy sand”. After lunch we turn to the text. Each actor is asked to choose a section and translate it into modern English. They then look at the line endings and draw out important words and discuss the many clues in the text as to the mindset of the characters. Harvey discovers how controlled and political Duke Angelo can be from how balanced and structured his lines are, Anna’s Puck we note is quite the elaborator, and short sharp sentences give our Stuart an idea of Bardolph’s first impressions of the island.
Alice starts Day Three on a high by introducing us to our puppets. The Third Witch (lovingly named Soreen) and Crab the Dog swiftly become part of the team. Nicola then takes the actors through a Lecoq exercise focusing on the seven levels of tension – another idea they might draw on when physicalising their many characters. The rest of the day takes us into the scenes from the top! Enter the Weird Sisters…
Our team is together for Bardolph’s Box rehearsals. In the room are:
Nicola Pollard – Director
Kayleigh Hawkins – Production Assistant
Alice Smith – Designer
And our actors:
Stay tuned to see how we get on!