Bard on the Beach is well underway and sure to be coming to a beach near you, so get cracking and grab a picnic blanket and some Aeroguard and head to the beach. Bard’s artistic director Patricia Rowling filled me in on the less glamorous elements of performing outside, from curious cockroaches to urinating dogs.
Joy – How are the actors rising to the challenge of performing outdoors?
Patricia – They are doing great! I think that they think I am mad in the rehearsal room when I give them demonstrations of how loud they will need to be, but once they get to the beach they realize very quickly, especially on a windy night how much projection they must do and how much voice warm ups are needed. There are no intimate moments in outdoor Shakespeare, even Romeo and Juliet have to yell when 2 inches away from each other’s face!
Joy – There are so many fantastic Shakespeare plays to choose from – how do you decide what to program?
Patricia – This year our first choice was an easy one, the discovery of the bones of Richard 3rd in a car park in England prompted us to want to put on The Tragedy of King Richard 3rd, it is such an intriguing story and we wanted to know more. Also the fact that he is so often played as a terrible villain but the play is titled “The Tragedy of …”, we wanted to discover his tragedy. And as a victim of abuse at the hands of his family for many years due to his supposed “deformities”, it is no surprise that he lashes out finally in the play.
The second choice was a little trickier. We generally do one tragedy and one comedy to balance things out for the cast. And so in looking for a comedy, I wanted something we hadn’t done before and I came cross The Two Gentlemen of Verona. I knew nothing about this play, and that was something I relished. Everyone comes to performances of Romeo and Juliet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream with expectations of what they will see, even the actors have expectations of what they will do. I knew with this one, the majority of the cast and of our audiences will have had little exposure to The Two Gentlemen of Verona and that just meant we could play and come up with whatever we wanted. A very exciting prospect!
Joy – Have you had any dramas performing outdoors that you didn’t count on because of external factors out of your control?
Patricia – I had a cockroach crawl up my leg when I was playing a dead Juliet.
I had a dog lift his leg to pee on me, when I was dead at the end of a battle in The Tragedy of Macbeth.
You often get the odd swimmer wander through high tragedy or the kookaburras laugh at an entirely inappropriate moment. The audience loves it, especially if you can use the interruption and make it work, not get frustrated by it.
Joy – What is your personal favourite play and why?
Patricia – Of Shakespeare? If so, it has to be Hamlet, I can’t get enough of it, the words are just like wine. Of any plays other than Shakespeare? I would have to say George Bernard Shaw’s, Saint Joan, that’s on the To Do list.
Joy – The Borrodell Vineyard shows look fun, do you go on the road with the shows?
Patricia – Yes, we are very excited by this! This is the first time the full company has left Sydney with a show. I have a small troupe that tours to schools each year, but not on this scale, nothing like this. We have the bus booked and the accommodation ready and we are heading to Orange, hoop skirts, crowns and all!!. We are also lucky enough to be one of the opening acts for The Bango Patterson Festival that is on that week. As Australia’s Bard, it feels entirely apt that Bard On The Beach have been invited along too, with our “Travelling Bard Production”. banjopatersonfestival.com.au
Joy – Are the April shows the last for the season? When do they resume?
Patricia – Yes that is the last of what we consider the Beach season.
But I do have a few theatre shows in the pipeline for the year to be announced soon, the school’s tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in October/ November also and then we start rehearsals for next year’s beach season to be opened in January 2019.
Thanks so much to Patricia for taking the time out to ‘chat’, and be sure to take advantage of these warm summer nights with a night out to see one of the shows, for details see: https://www.bardonthebeach.net/romeo-and-juliet-2017