21 Oct Two Weddings And A Funeral (Behind The Scenes)
Hello, its me again Kyle,
Ego is a really funny place you know, for example they some how convinced me, a Geordie with a speech impairment to have a go at performing in an acting ensemble whose aim it is to recreate the works of Shakespeare and somehow not only did I give it a go, I actually did it!
In June of 2017 I had a meeting with Georgina and Corinne about becoming a volunteer for ego and for some reason my speech came up in conversation and I explained how my speech difficulty really frustrates me and how it gets in the way of my confidence. Georgina suggested that I join the Sunday Ensemble “Bold as Bard”. Bold As Bard is one of our ensembles funded by The Heart Of England Foundation and The Backstage Trust and offers young adults who have learning disabilities or who are without employment between the ages of 18 to 30 the chance to collaborate as part of a cast to bring the texts of William Shakespeare back to life, the sessions are co led by RSC associate artist and award winning actor Katy Stephens and professional actor and vocal coach John Fagan.
I was initially very sceptical about joining Bard because I just thought it seemed a bit out of my depth and as blasphemous as this may sound to your typical performer or theatre goer but I had never really took any notice of Shakespeare, I mean I learned twelfth night in six form but the language just put me off, I didn’t understand the significance of it all at school and found it boring to be honest. Anyway the main reason for me joining bard Georgina explained would be to work with John on my speech and vocal projection, I thought to myself well it cant make me any worse, so I decided to give it ago.
My first session with bard was very different to my first session with Big, for a start the bard group was half the size of big. As well as being a much smaller group bard is a much less experienced cast and as a result before our first show the group were not very confident performers. In my first bard session I was asked to have a go at reciting a relatively large and difficult piece of dialogue from Hamlet, my initial thoughts about this was that clearly John and Katy had underestimated my speech difficulty and overestimated my ability as an actor. Before reciting the first piece of text from Hamlet I did my first vocal exercises with John and at first I felt a bit silly but those vocal exercises have become a part of my everyday life and helped me in general life immensely. I was working with Lewis for the first session in bard we hit it off immediately we have both got similar sense of humours and we are both from the same part of the world. I don’t think that it is unfair say that my first impressions of the group was that Lewis was the stand out performer in the group and that isn’t to take away from the rest of the cast, I’m just saying to begin with the group as a whole lacked confidence and Lewis didn’t at all, I really enjoyed watching Lewis perform even if it did give me imposter Syndrome!
With the Size of the group being so small in comparison to Big it meant that there was a lot more one to one work and coaching with John & Katy, we were able to go through scenes in great detail at a very early stage. The challenges between bard and Big became apparent fairly early on as I was working my fourth show With Big while bard were putting together their first. The Inexperience of the members of Bard was very noticeable and admittedly worrying sometimes but after our first show I realised the two groups were to different entities. With Big we should be expected to give professional performance as in that group we have performers who have been doing this for years and some of whom have been performing as a living. However With Bard. Most of us had never performed in front of a paying audience before and with that in mind, we had no right to put on the show we eventually did but more on that in a bit.
When I Initially joined Ego three years ago, I had Zero plans to become a cast member, acting was never my thing, I just wanted to create music for the productions and make friends, with bard I was asked to compose some music for the show and I was ecstatic to be given this opportunity, although I was skeptical that I had the ability to contribute music that would be good enough. Over the few months before the show, I’d be constantly working on music under Katy and johns’ direction. I loved the challenge of translating some times vague direction into something that would work in a scene. I enjoyed re working stuff. I took the mind-set of this music wasn’t mine, it was bards, so I wasn’t offended when my music wasn’t working at times, I’d just take the notes given and go home and play about and fix what was needed. All together I think I made 10 or so pieces of music with different edits and three pieces were used. The music that wasn’t used won’t be wasted as the more I create the more experience I have.
For most of 2017 in bard, as a group we would be split into smaller groups to go over specific texts from various Shakespeare plays. Nothing was set in stone about our eventual show. I spent a lot of time learning the seven stages of man, other weeks I’d be working with Lewis on scenes from hamlet and other times I’d completely derail sessions by “corpsing” – (the act of laughing instead of being professional actor like) during “to be or not to be” (Sorry)! As the weeks went on I’d really notice a difference in my speech and the vocal exercises became an everyday habit. Because we often worked in smaller groups I’d often forget who was part of bard. At the beginning of 2018 our plans became more focused and the show dates were set for may, and the show would be a medley of four different Shakespeare plays, I would play the ghost of Hamlets father and the show itself would make use of Ego’s bar area as well as our performance space, with the audience being guided into the different spaces to observe the different scenes. The show was named Two Weddings And A Funeral.
About a month before the bard show, I took part in the production of The Green Room with the Big Ensemble, going into tech week, I was feeling really confident as I felt that the months of vocal work with John would pay off in this show. However although John is a great vocal coach and although I put the work in. during the tech week for green room I would go to do my lines and it just wasn’t working, it was the same as it always was. I was really disheartened by this, it says a lot about ego that I genuinely forgot that my speech was part of my disability, I have brain damage and you can only work with that. It was a valuable experience even if it was extremely upsetting. I had a chat with Corrine and Georgina about this and we all agreed that Kimisha would act as my enforcer in this show, which meant she would repeat my lines. This worked excellently, it added to the show and it could have took a way from my role and cancelled out my performance but it enhanced it, having Kimisha repeat my lines took the pressure off me and without that pressure and worry of not being understood, I was able to relax and speak clearly.
After my experience in the green room I told John and Katy that I was very concerned that I might struggle with my voice in two weddings & a funeral given that my role in this show was much more significant and in terms of dialogue it was much more than I had ever done before. Both Katy And John assured me that they believed in me and that I’d be fine, it was also decided that I would use a microphone in this show.
Tech Week for Two Weddings and a Funeral was very revealing, I can’t adequately explain how it felt to see the show come together. The structure of our rehearsals meant I hadn’t really seen a lot of the show a part from my scenes. The progression in performers ability and the discipline of the group was outstanding. When I started bard, I don’t think I could have predicted that we’d come so far together in such a short space of time. During tech week a lot of us were nervous as is to be expected but this time I felt more able to help others with their lack of confidence. I was really proud of everyone. With that being said I wasn’t exactly confident in my own ability. I was terrified of getting stuck mid scene with my very noticeable stammer. Katy And John told me that if this did happen that I should just skip to the last line. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to do this as it felt a bit like cheating, I struggle with accepting that adjustments might need to be made for my roles to work in any given performance, in my mind I want to be just like everyone else. The reality is that at times I will need help and that’s fine because it would be very selfish if I allowed myself to struggle and delivered a bad performance. I want to be part of great shows, regardless of whether I need help or not, as long as it works with the show, it really shouldn’t matter.
Two Weddings And A Funeral was performed 6 times over three days (if I remember correctly!) and I am immensely proud of the group, I really can’t overstate how far the group progressed in such a small amount of time and from tech week onwards I don’t recall doubting that we would put on a great show. I personally gained a lot from working in bard, I have noticed a massive improvement in my vocal clarity in my everyday life as well as in performances, in fact I’d say that my last show with Big was probably the best I’ve sounded in a show, my speech is probably my biggest issue disability and confidence wise so to have had the opportunity to work with John to improve on that has been amazing. I’m also immensely grateful to have been able to contribute musically to this production, Music is what I love and I do aim to do more with my music so to have had the chance to work on the music for the show under the direction of Katy and John with input from my fellow cast members and Tim has been a very valuable experience. I think it goes without saying that I absolutely Loved being part of Two Weddings And A Funeral and I can’t wait to be part of Bards Next show!