The rain it raineth Saturday. Long and hard, until it had drenched the steeples, drowned the clocks and put pay to any chance of our performing in Merton Fellows’ Gardens last night. And so to Merton Antechapel, and the truly heroic efforts of Jenny O’Sullivan and Phil Aherne to get everything moved and marshalled in time. Sam Roots and Geraldo seemed to spend hours moving chairs, while the other 15 of the cast moved from pillar to post to Mob Quad 2:5 (cries from the non-Mertonians: “But we don’t know where that is!”), Merton’s Accessible Guest Room and now the home of 17 actors and 25 costumes. Not to mention several very wet carrier bags of civilian clothing.
As predicted in my last post, yesterday’s audience were a bunch of smilers – having a great time, it seemed, but not being very loud about it! The pace was much better than the first night & we definitely knocked a good few minutes off the (already reasonably short) running time. Obviously, with an abrupt move from open-air to indoor, thrust staging, the blocking was a little bit hair-raising (we had to reblock the end of Scene 9 while half the cast was on stage) – vocally, though, the move was an interesting one. Outdoors, vocal power is key & usually the girls have a harder time of it than the boys. Men have a more impressive lung capacity & our male actors are, as it happens, predominantly more experienced actors (or singers in the case of Dan McLean, for example) than our women. Women’s higher voices are more likely to be lost in the wind. In the antechapel, however, the acoustics are determined by a high vaulted ceiling, stone floor, and a rood screen leading to the chapel body itself. Suddenly, the men’s voices are far more problematic; their reverberation triggers the echo and, for the first time, audiences said that the girls excelled the boys in clarity (if not always in volume). Definitely something to think about; I wonder, if I was directing an entirely chapel play, what I’d do to ensure good sound. What the rules are, if I’d need/use/be allowed to use deadeners. And whom, in all of Oxford, would be the best person to talk to…
3rd show tonight. Setting off in a second. See you there!
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.