Yesterday was the first meeting, and partial readthrough, for the garden show in which I’m involved, next term! It’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, at Merton College, running from 23rd-27th June – and I’ve decided to blog the process. I’ve never publicly blogged a show before, so this is quite exciting. We’re fully cast and it looks as if it’s going to be an extremely exciting, collaborative process, in a seriously sexy setting. It’s great to be finally working with Krishna (the director) after years of enjoying each other’s work; originally, it looked as if I would be co-directing but the demands of my thesis next term make that more or less impossible (as I have to keep telling myself, sternly). I ran the first couple of days of auditions with him, then left him to it for recalls, so it was exciting to see who’s been cast. One very pleasant surprise was Ellen Buddle as the Princess of France; Ellen is one of my favourite people, my favourite actress to direct and just lovely. We are uniformly rubbish at meeting up so it’ll be good to be together so much at the end of next term. I’m playing Moth and thus will be opposite a guy called Ed White (Don Armado), an English postgrad whom I recognise from Faculty events. I also chatted to Michael Roy (who was quite nervous at audition) – French, teaching at St Hugh’s, and doing a DPhil in (get this) the early history of women’s colleges at Oxford. He seems absolutely lovely and I’m only sorry we won’t be onstage together much.
The setting will be Edwardian/pre-WW1 Oxford, with Elgar, academic lesbians (yes, Chlo, Virginia Woolf-esque women inna play), many many trees and general beauty & joy. Krishna definitely knows what he’s doing and I felt a stab of envy sitting there, looking round at this fabulous cast – I wish they were ours, not just his! But it’s wonderful to be acting again and I’m sure by next term, etc. We did some warm-ups (Joe! who works in a button factory! — this made me really miss Titas), then went and had a look at the space in the fading light. It was cold, and a bit damp (Ellen’s heels kept squelching into the mud), but already prettier than when I’d seen it last – the daffodils are out. Krishna did a lot of gesticulating and explaining that THAT THREE THERE WILL BE GREEN and also plotting the demise of one ‘piddly little thing’ (a shrub, not a cast member) spoiling the veiw. The problem with Merton is that it’s too pretty – there are too many ways we could plot the space. We had a chat about costumes, as well, specifically the issue of corseting for the girls – Ellen and I both think instinctively it’s a bad idea (though one which wouldn’t apply to me, hurrah, although possibly a breast binder will ohgod) given a) the relative inexperience of two or three of our lovely girls, which would make chest breathing more difficult, more likely and less desirable, and b) the inherent problems of projection once you get into a garden space.
Omkar informs us we already have print. The man is a machine. I think it’ll be a very happy company; most people seem to already know one or two people, which helps things gel, but since we’re still mostly strangers to each other, there’s no danger of cliques. There won’t be another meeting until next term, but I wanted to get the blog up and running before then.
LOVE’S LABOURS LOST | by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE | 23-37 June 2009 | 9th week, Merton College, Oxford | dir. Krishna Omkar | THE COMPANY : Phil Aherne, Ellen Buddle, Robert Dacre, Sophie Duncan, Kate Lewin, Eleanor Lischka, Sam Losey, James Lowe, Charlotte Mulliner, Krishna Omkar, Emily Roessler, Sam Roots, Michael Roy, Geraldo Silva Neto, Rebecca Tay, Edmund White.
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.