Lower Sixth Swan Up to the RSC
On Tuesday 3 October, Lower Sixth drama pupils took to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see the hometown of William Shakespeare. Starting with a visit to the RSC’s exhibition, ‘The Play’s the Thing’, the group had a great time getting hands-on with the interactive elements. From trying on elements of costume, to using a pulley to fly The Tempest’s Ariel across the stage, and even performing the role of Hamlet opposite a professional actor, they did it all.
Next was a visit to Shakespeare’s New Place, the site where he built his family home at the height of his success. Despite the building no longer existing (a later owner was fed up with strangers knocking on the door wanting to see where Shakespeare lived!) we were able to explore the gardens and beautiful statues that had been erected in honour of some of his greatest works. A special treat came when we were able to see one of Shakespeare’s first folios- a rare sight!
The sightseeing continued with a fantastic backstage tour of the RSC’s Swan Theatre and costume workshops. We were lucky enough to get ‘behind the curtain’ and see a touring production’s set up ahead of their performance that evening. There were immaculately organised props tables, specially designated changing areas, and the odd wig or two. It was a fascinating insight into how a professional theatre operates daily. We were then escorted to the RSC’s dedicated costume building and learned that all RSC productions have their costumes made in house, with each actor having their own customary outfits. As well as the ‘standard’ workspaces, we also saw the dedicated workshops of milliners, armourers and material dyers, and all left feeling in awe of the amount of work that goes in to dressing a production.
To end the day, we enjoyed a startling and provocative production of Macbeth, set in a future where people have returned to a more primitive state and the Macbeths’ lust for power is set amongst a ruinous landscape. The whole production had an ominous, eerie quality which left everyone feeling slightly uneasy, but also impressed by the sheer level of energy and dedication shown by all the actors.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip which gave real insight into how a Shakespeare production comes to life, and the pupils left ready and enthused to begin their study of King Lear.