1623 trainee Lucy Daunt played Juliet in Joseph Wright's Shakespearean Soiree at Derby Museum in February. Here, she shares her thoughts on rehearsals and performance.
This week, we moved into the Joseph Wright Gallery in Derby Museum, where Wright's Romeo and Juliet painting hangs on a wall.
After running the lines a few times we did a warm-up which was weird because there were members of the public walking around looking at the paintings and we were doing some warm-ups in the middle of a gallery. But once you forget that people might be watching you, it’s all okay.
When we rehearsed the rewind sequence (in which we move backwards from the moment in the painting to the scene of the play when Romeo and Juliet first meet), it was interesting to see the response we got from the public who didn’t know what we were doing. Some people just pretended that we weren’t there whilst others sat and watched some of it. One mother and her little boy sat and watched the whole thing and the little boy was completely absorbed by it which was great to see.
Just before lunch we went over to BBC Radio Derby to talk about the performance. I was really nervous because I haven’t spoken on the radio before although I’ve been in there. I think the thing that make me most nervous was that I had to just talk without knowing what I was going to be asked and I was scared that I was going to say something stupid. It does happen quite a lot, although not usually in front of all the people listening to the radio. Luckily I didn’t say anything stupid and it was all fine.
After lunch we got into costume and did a run of the rewind sequence. It turned out that the dress I was wearing was a little too revealing when I was laying on the floor so a shopping trip was in order. We ended up finding some crazy stretchy short things which were really weird but did the job.
We did one full run and then had something to eat and did make-up and hair. Amy/Ava did my hair so beautifully. It look amazing.
Then whilst the audience were coming in and getting ready to watch the animation which was on before us, we did another line run mostly to keep us calm.
The animation was by Darius Powell and was based on Wright's painting of a scene from The Winter's Tale.
From our dressing room upstairs, we could hear the audience applauding downstairs in the gallery for quite a while at the end of the animation, so it sounded like they really liked it.
And then it was our turn.
I thought the performance went really really well and all the feedback we got was positive. To be honest most of the performance was a bit of a blur but I think that’s because I was concentration so hard on what I was doing that I didn’t have time to think, “Ohh that was good” or something.
I can’t believe that it’s over now but I’m looking forward to my next project. Thanks for reading my blog.
I started off this week's rehearsals by trying on some dresses to see which one looked best for Juliet. Such a hardship. ;) After trying on three dresses we decided on a beautiful white lacy one. Whilst I was having fun trying on clothes with Ava Scott (the assistant director), Adam went through some of his speeches with Ben Spiller (the director). Then Adam and I came together to rehearse the tomb scene.
For the first half of the scene I have to pretend to be dead, which is a lot harder than you’d think! Once Romeo has died, I wake up and find him dead and then kill myself. The beauty of my bit is that there is loads of stuff that Juliet doesn’t say and I try to make it clear what she thinks and feels between the few words in the script. I wrote down notes on Juliet's thoughts and emotions next to the lines so that I could remember what to think and feel in the scene when I rehearsed it again. Towards the end of the rehearsal, we talked about the effects of different poisons (because Romeo drinks poison) and how to stab yourself (because Juliet kills herself with a dagger). Adam and I decided to do some research on both of these things so that we can die realistically. You don’t want to see my Google search history!
The next step was to try to do a run of the whole production. Some of it went really well, but there were bits that didn't feel right; so I know what I have to work on before the next rehearsal. But for a first attempt of running the whole show, it went pretty well I thought. Adam and I had notes from Ben and Ava and we wrote them down on our scripts to help us improve next time. Some notes were good and some pointed out bits that didn't work so well; but it's all fine because we still have another week before the performance and I have a clear idea of what I need to do to take Juliet to the next level.
So far, we've been rehearsing at QUAD. Next week, we're moving over to Derby Museum and Art Gallery to rehearse in the Joseph Wright Gallery where the performance will take place. It's quite scary how close the performance is now, but I'm sure it will all be fine. I'm pleased with how rehearsals have been going and, although Adam and I are still getting notes from Ben and Ava, I'm hoping that we'll be pretty much perfect by the time we move to the gallery.
I need to work on my soliloquies, which I perform on my own. They're such beautiful and complex speeches that I want to get them spot on. So excited about getting into the Joseph Wright Gallery, where the Romeo and Juliet painting hangs on a wall. Really want to try a run of the show there!
So this week, we had to know the first two scenes without using our scripts. After doing a quick line run, we did some warm-ups and then tried the scene. The first run was okay, although some of the lines were a bit iffy.
We then tried doing the two scenes using modern language. I found it really hard to begin with because I wasn’t sure how to translate what Juliet is thinking into words, but as we went into the balcony scene it slowly got easier and I found myself becoming more comfortable with my character. I then realised how high the stakes really are in that scene: if Juliet's family - the Capulets - find Romeo they will actually kill him and then Juliet is talking about getting married after knowing Romeo for a few short hours. It’s pretty serious stuff but at the same time there are moments when they forget about the danger and are just being teenagers.
After doing the scenes using modern language we went back to the script and we found it loads easier to find the real meaning of the scenes and found new ways of saying the lines which brought out new meaning into the scene.
Later in the week we worked on the scene where Romeo has gone off to fight Tybalt and Juliet is on her own waiting for Romeo to come back. In our version of the play, there are two monologues for Juliet in this scene.
The first one is Juliet talking about her wedding night. Most of the speech is Juliet talking about being intimate with Romeo and there are some beautiful moments when she’s talking about night and describing night as if it is a woman, 'sober-suited matron all in black'. And when she is saying that day can ride on the wings of night looking like snow on the back of a raven.
The next speech is a little shorter and is after she’s got the news that Tybalt is dead and Romeo, who killed Tybalt, is banished. (Hopefully everyone knows the story already…) At this point though it hasn’t quite sunk in that Romeo is banished and she’s just shocked that Romeo actually killed her cousin. I really like this bit because she’s using loads of oxymorons to describe Romeo calling him things like, 'a damned saint, an honourable villain'. The language that Shakespeare has used here is so beautiful that I can’t help but love it.
But then she is left alone again whilst the character of the Friar, which we’ve changed into Shakespeare, goes to find Romeo for her. Then the news she’s heard starts to sink in and she realises that not only has Tybalt, her cousin, died but Romeo has been banished. She finds it very hard to come to terms with the fact that Romeo will have to leave tomorrow morning and he might never see her again after that.
This is one of the moments when, as an actor, it's really important to find the depth of emotion that Juliet must be feeling. Romeo might as well have died because she will never see him again after he leaves and she will be forced by her parents to marry someone who she doesn't love.
I thought that the next scene wouldn’t be too hard but somehow I found it the most challenging yet. It starts with Juliet setting a light, playful mood, as she tries to take Romeo’s mind off the fact that he must leave soon. But Romeo is quite depressed, fair enough, and doesn’t really play along with Juliet. When she realises that he is really going to have to go and maybe never come back, she becomes much more serious. Then she has a moment where she predicts the future of Romeo being dead in the bottom of a tomb, she’s so clever. ;) Then Romeo leaves.
The part when Romeo is leaving is very hard because I have to show the seriousness and desperation of Juliet’s situation. But after running through it a couple of times I started to get the hang of it. Then we quickly staged the part when Juliet is given and takes the potion which makes her seem dead.
I can’t wait to do the last scene next week because it’s one of my favourite scenes ever and also we’ll have staged the whole thing and we'll be able to see how the whole thing looks which will give us an idea of what the performance will be like. Although I’m sure it’s going to be amazing. Yeah, I know I’m biased…
This is the first time I’ve ever played a leading role and when facing such a challenging character as Juliet, who has been played millions of times before, it was pretty intimidating before rehearsals started!! Luckily though I have a fantastic director, assistant director and fellow actor to help me through.
Okay, so our version of Romeo and Juliet is inspired by the 1790 Joseph Wright painting of the tomb scene. It captures the moment just before Juliet stabs herself. Although it’s a very dark painting, both in colour and in the emotion that you can see has gone into it, it completely captures the moment in the play when you can ask yourself “What if someone stopped Juliet now?” and there could still be a molecule of hope for her. I don’t want to give it all away, but we are going to start our performance in a freeze frame of this moment."
So, Shakespeare… Okay, I might as well put it out there but I love this guy. He is honestly the most talented, amazing person who ever was. Who else has written so many plays that are still popular over 400 years later? However, some of his writing is so beautiful, all in verse and loads of alliteration, that it's a real mouthful to get out. But after a readthrough and a detailed talk about all the bits that I didn't really get at first, it made loads more sense, I started to get used to all the old language and we were ready to start rehearsing on our feet.
The first scene was quite hard to rehearse because it’s the most important, so I was tempted to play it how I’d seen it done before; but I knew that was kinda cheating, so I had to think about how I’d feel in Juliet’s position. It’s difficult to imagine what's going through her head when she first sees Romeo. Is it really love at first sight? Has she ever flirted with a boy before?
I love the balcony scene. But playing it is quite another matter and probably more challenging than the first scene. I think it's because the stuff that Juliet is saying is much more intense than anything I’d ever say. I mean she’s only just met this boy and she’s already asking him to marry her. There seem to be two ways to play Juliet in this scene. One would be love sick and a little bit pathetic. I guess you can already tell that I’m not going to choose that one, so what’s the other option? Well, I'm going to play her deadly serious and, whilst in love, a little wary because she knows that Romeo has been partying and he might forget about her by morning; so I think that she wants to keep him on the same level as her, a practical level. That’s not to say that she doesn’t love Romeo and she is still really romantic. It’s clear that she is crazy for him.
For next week we’ve got to have the first two scenes off the page, so no scripts allowed! It will be fine though and I’m really excited because it will, hopefully, give us a good idea of how the characters are developing. I’m a bit nervous for the third scene because I’ve got a massive monologue to learn and perform with just me on stage. I like monologues but Shakespeare has decided to make this one super hard … still love him though!!!
* BSL-interpreted performance
** Dementia-friendly performance
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