The cast and crew for the annual Shakespeare season are renowned and respected for their stamina – rehearsing one show in the day time and switching to another for performances in the evening. We love them for it and they love the buzz of the full season run and the camaraderie of being part of the full company of actors and crew. But did you know of the perils beyond the tiring schedule and performance pressure? Nicky Goldie returns to our blog to talk cake and booze…!
“The show must go on is a maxim ingrained in all theatre folk and it is up to each individual cast and crew member to make sure they stay fit and healthy, including having the necessary flu jab. They do say though, that “Doctor Theatre” kicks in if an actor is taken poorly during the run, meaning adrenaline kicks in so you don’t look pathetic in front of an audience!
Actors are, in theory, pretty good at looking after themselves – your body is your tool after all – they eat healthily and keep fit, and should be aware (through bitter and hungover experience) of the perils of drinking too much alcohol.
However, as soon as you start rehearsals, especially if you are also doing a show in the evening, and away from home without your juicer and usual healthy routines, it all falls apart. Why? Cake.
There is a huge tradition of cake at stf. If someone has a birthday, there’s cake. If your phone goes off in rehearsals, the penalty is cake. If you’re good at baking (and we have some amazing chefs in the company) you are encouraged to provide cake. Or biscuits. Or sweets. Our assistant director on Hamlet, Peter, has practically had to forgo his university degree to keep up with demands for his legendary brownies.
At home in London I was doing the 5.2 diet and cycling everywhere. Here in Bristol I waddle round the corner to work from my digs (it takes 4 minutes) and do not have the energy to resist the goodies on offer, my excuse being that my body needs fuel to give a good performance and there is often simply not enough time to put together a nutritionally balanced meal. Although, incidentally, housewives’ favourite Paul Currier has equipped our minuscule backstage kitchen with some amazing gastro gadgets – an omelette maker, a panini toaster and a 7 egg cooker!
And it is actually quite difficult finding a feeding routine when your schedule is off kilter. When do you eat? If you’re doing a show, you don’t want to feel heavy and sluggish; you need to fit into your corset or costume, be mindful of not eating anything that might give you wind, and if you’re required to snog anyone, go easy on the garlic. If you eat something dodgy, you might find yourself having to exit the stage in a terrific hurry to avoid catastrophe, as happened to one of us in Hamlet only the other week.
And then there’s the drink. It’s nice to wind down in the bar after the show with a pint or a glass of wine, and it would be rude not to partake of the free booze on press night, and help with the washing up by devouring all the snacks, and we all look forward to Glennys’ seasonal bar night, where a lovely lady and stalwart supporter of stf very generously buys a drink for all the actors after she’s come to see the show and also on Shakespeare’s birthday.
Even on stage, the drink has its perils; John our fight director always keeps a watchful eye out for liquid on the stage before the fight and keeps a renaissance absorbent microfibre cloth with him in case Claudius and Gertrude dribble or spill the wine/water in the cup they use to toast Hamlet in the last scene. Bizarrely, the other day there was a wedge of lemon on the stage at the curtain call. Had Gertie been at the gin and tonics??! And poor Claudius had a coughing fit after the poisoned liquid was forced down his throat, which is not want you want when you’re trying to die.
In All’s Well a few of us will be raising a glass or two during the course of the show. I’m playing Widow Capilet who lives in Florence and I’m particularly looking forward to the scene where three of us ladies are eating together. In fact I’ve got my fingers crossed that stage management will be providing Italian ice cream, though realistically, we’ll probably just do the scene with empty plates as if we’ve just finished eating. Shame.
PS On a Sunday, our one and only day off, it is becoming a tradition for those kicking their heels in Bristol to get together for a Sunday roast at a Bristol hostelry. The text messages start pinging through mid-morning, and on average 30 communications later, after much debate about time and place, a plan of where and when to eat is made. If anyone out there has a guide of where to eat a good Sunday roast in Bristol, we’d love to hear from you.”
Posted on 09 March 2016