“Much Ado About Nothing” Spring 2022 Tour: Entry #4

By Annabelle Terry

Sunday 16th Jan 2022

“One foot in sea and one on shore, to one thing constant never” – Balthasar 2.3

We are in Indiana!

Due to the pandemic there have been many moments where it seemed like the odds were against us, but fuelled by pure determination and the ongoing support from the Notre Dame team, we have made it over. We were greeted with open arms and the welcome was both emotional and surreal – a real ‘pinch me’ moment that, despite everything, we were finally in sunny (but still -12) South Bend.

Today I’m a mixture of excitement, jet lag and relief. I should mention that it’s my first time ever visiting America so everything has massive novelty… fire hydrants, stop signs, Chipotle, friendly people – I like it here already. Earlier we took a walk around the Notre Dame campus which was simply amazing, and even more picturesque being covered in snow. The streets were quiet as we learned of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday tomorrow, so it gave us time to get acclimatised and walk off the tiredness.

I still can’t quite believe that just over 48 hours ago we were sat in the British countryside in a quaint little cottage kitchen and now we’re here!

As for the show – I am so proud of what we have achieved in only 12 days together the cottage. We realised that it was the first time since starting the job back in December that we had been altogether as a complete 5 piece. Despite the time and space limitations, we have blocked, learnt, choreographed and composed the whole show! Now comes the refining, detailing and sharpening in our American leg of rehearsals which start tomorrow through to opening night on the 26th. And this, for me, is the best part. It never ceases to amaze me how brilliant Shakespeare is at providing us with everything we need as actors – in this instance, we have the most potent, emotional, witty and playful text in “Much Ado”… all we have to do is deliver and receive it. Thanks, Will!

I’m also looking forward to working with the Notre Dame students and watching them discover this same innovation with Shakespeare’s work. Hopefully many of them come to see our “Much Ado” and enjoy its heart and just how human it feels, even hundreds of years since it was written.

“Much Ado About Nothing” Spring 2022 Tour: Entry #3

By Annabelle Terry

Sunday 9th Jan 2021

“Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your Grace” – Leonato 1.1

Where to start!

I write this blog sitting in the garden of a little farmyard cottage in middle of the Gloucestershire countryside. I am also not alone… with me are the rest of the cast and all our suitcases ready for our flight to the USA in a week’s time. We have been bubbled in the middle of the country to avoid going back to London and risk the remainder of us contracting Covid. This came as a huge relief for all of us; having been apart for 2 weeks on Zoom we were itching to get back to putting the show together in real life, but were equally nervous about travelling around London during the current climate. So after a meeting with Scott, Deb, Jen and Jack, it was agreed that this was the most logical thing to do to prevent anymore disruption to rehearsal and illnesses within the cast.

So here we are! We have been here for a week and, I have to say, it is beautiful! The cottage itself is totally secluded apart from a neighbouring field of sheep. Once we had sorted logistics of divvying up bedrooms and getting groceries delivered, we truly hunkered down; now all negative from Covid and ready to crack on with the show.

Obviously the cottage doesn’t have the space that our beloved London rehearsal venue provided, but we have the next best thing – a kitchen diner! With a bit of Feng Shui we manouver the furniture around and have room to move and finally block the rest of the show. It has been so refreshing to be in the room together again. Seeing how the text has developed after having the time to individually marinade it is exciting, and this first week has been super productive. We have had Jen picking up anything we might need for the show and delivering them to our doorstep, as well as multiple online orders, and we now have pretty much all our costumes and props sorted.  

Of course, living together is not the usual rehearsal set up and it has proven intense, but we have all adapted fast to one another’s needs and taken personal space. We have formed a little team; eating communally and going for walks to get some air and reminding ourselves that what we have overcome is immense. 

We are such a tight knit ensemble now that the show will only benefit. We start rehearsal again tomorrow after a day off today and a big Sunday roast.  

“Much Ado About Nothing” Spring 2022 Tour: Entry #2

By Annabelle Terry

Friday 24th December 2021

“If we can do this, Cupid is no longer an archer; his glory shall be ours, for we are the only love gods.” – Don Pedro 2.1

What a difference a day makes.

We knew that things would likely change due to the pandemic but day by day it seems to be accelerating at rapid speed. And sadly, a day after writing my last blog, it had found its way into our cast. After another 2 positive cases amongst us, and with London continuing to rise in numbers, the unanimous decision was made to stay at home and work for the week on Zoom.

“How on earth can you possibly rehearse on Zoom?” I hear you cry… well… we were apprehensive too. But with sheer determination, we have successfully completed a week of virtual rehearsals. A few of us spent a lot of time on Zoom over the last few years (I was part of a digital theatre repertory season at the start of this year and performed live shows for 6 months + who can forget all the Zoom quizzes we all endured?) and so we are well versed in what you can and can’t achieve. For example: singing in unison is a no go due to connection speeds, however, sharing music and singing individually whilst muted for learning purposes proved invaluable. We had our music pro Ben join us on Zoom and share the wonderful original compositions he wrote for Hero’s “Epitaph” and Balthasar’s “Hey Nonny Nonny.” And after a quick refresher on how to use GarageBand, I also went away and put together the medley for the masked ball to send to everyone. I’m pretty sure they are being driven mad by the sound of my voice in 3 part harmony singing an acapella version of Tom Jones’ ‘It’s Not Unusual’ as we speak.

Whilst we sorely missed being in the room physically together, we all rose to the challenge – finding corners of our houses to stand in and play the scene as best we could around housemates/family/cats/dogs/deliveries. The resilience of people never fails to amaze me. Despite 2 of us battling Covid, we press on, finding solace in having this wonderful play to distract us for the hours we work. Of course those unwell take much needed rest-bite too. The comradery we have formed at such an early stage of the process – week 2! – is so comforting. Interestingly, what we have been through so far means we have bypassed any hesitancy and have already developed a shorthand with one another; ideas seem to bounce from one person to the next with ease and inspiration. And we know the text now on another level – linguistically, tonally, structurally – we have had time to really delve into it which will only aid our performances when we’re back together.

And it’s Christmas! It seems to have crept up on everyone this year but we are all looking forwards to some creature comforts and relaxation this weekend. Fingers crossed we can get back in the room after New Year, but it’s very much dependant on various factors. Onwards…

(The cast – minus Katherine – on Zoom with Ben)

“Much Ado About Nothing” Spring 2022 Tour: Entry #1

By Annabelle Terry

Friday 17th December 2021
“Shall we go prove what’s to be done?” – Don John 1.3

The first week of rehearsals is complete! And what a joy it’s been.

At the end of the first week, it is typical to find the actors together in the corner of a nearby pub somewhere, sharing a pint together and looking back on what they have achieved so far. But the goalposts have been moved for us Much Ado cast – the Covid 19 pandemic and new Omicron variant rages around us in London, and so we all scurry back to our homes straight after rehearsals. Don’t worry too much, though – the Whatsapp group is still full of banter and we raise our glasses from a distance to a brilliant week against all odds.

We are currently working as 4 of us in person and 1 on Zoom (Will is isolating after sadly catching Covid the week before starting). I can honestly say I have never seen anyone as buoyant whilst working virtually as Will has been this week. Despite not being physically in the space with us, his presence was absolutely felt, and we were able to get stuck straight into ‘table work’ – reading through the script and analysing it for meaning, sense and tone. This proved invaluable and we were quickly into creative discussions regarding setting, music, comedy and much more.

This is my first time working for AFTLS and I’m still pinching myself that I get to be part of this group. I have always been a lifelong Shakespeare nerd and now I get to devise and perform in my favourite of his comedies! It’s my first time in a rehearsal room without a director too, and I jokingly likened it to being in a school room without the teacher and getting to play. They do say that through play comes the best work, though, and this script lends itself to just that. We are very quickly finding the abundance of light and shade in Much Ado; moments of quick wit and barbed retorts followed by the most heart-breaking and romantic dialogue. The characters already feel so relatable and we are excited to discover all their depth and the journeys they go on throughout the play.

Having finished table work we got up on our feet and started trying out ideas. We were joined by the lovely Jen Winter to act as another body in the space on behalf of Will and to give us some pro tips on choreography for the masked ball scene. So far we’re thinking a mashup of 4 songs with a different style of dance accompanying each to serve the feel of the duologue being spoken – sound ambitious?!

All week there has been a palpable sense of gratitude in the air – that we get to be doing what we love, in such good company, at such a tumultuous time. We know there might be more disruption ahead, but we take it one day at a time and as a team.

“The Tempest” Spring 2020 Tour: Entry #8

By David Rubin

Our week at The University of North Alabama turned out to be our final week of the tour.

We had been due to do one more week but, as with much of the world’s activity in reaction to the Coronavirus issues, our tour had to be cancelled. As I write this I am en route back home to London (along with Noel and William… and Molly and Arthur will be flying back tomorrow). Today is March 15th.

We had been due in Logan, Utah, for our final week, but with the escalating worldwide concerns, we’re all agreed heading home at this point is the best/safest option.

Florence, Alabama, was our last location, then, before bidding farewell to the U S of A, and a wonderful week we had! Our host there, Cynthia Burkhead, was fantastic. She met us at the airport, took us out for a couple of fancy dinners, showered us with gifts, and presided over a really special week’s residency at the University.

Florence is a city in the northwest corner of Alabama. A population of around 40,000, and known as relatively liberal in what is an infamously conservative state. We performed the play three times this week…twice at one of the University theatres and once at The Limestone Correctional Facility, about 60 miles east of Florence. The performance in the jail, to around 30 of the facility’s ‘residents’, plus a dozen or so students from the Uni, was a rare experience. One I will remember always. My final words in the play resonated like never before in front of our literally ‘captive’ audience. An audience so switched on to our work and Shakespeare’s words because of the brilliant ongoing collaboration between the University and the Correctional Facility.

‘As you from crimes would pardoned be
Let your indulgence set me free.’

Final Update, Monday May 18th, 2020

So. I got back to London on the 16th March. One week early. But that week allowed me to spend some time with my father for the last time before he passed away. So I’m very grateful to have got back when I did.

Dad was in a care home, and as of March 21st they went into ‘lockdown’ – no visitors. So on that day my mum and I did spend some time with him. After that our only contact was by phone.

He passed away on April 14th. (Not from COVID-19.) He was 86 years old. We’ve since had an odd socially distanced funeral and I’m now living with my mum. I’ll remember this tour always and it will also always be a reminder of loving memories of my dear old dad. We had lots of WhatsApp chats while I was away I’m pleased to say.

Thanks all for reading and sharing my experiences throughout the tour.