During my latest trip to Stratford upon Avon I went on another RSC theatre tour, this time based at The Other Place. The Audition Tour seems to be a successor to the From Page To Stage Tour that I never got round to taking; I’m not sure why they’ve renamed it as from what I can see it seems to be the same.
The tour began at The Other Place, where we were given a brief history of the building and the theatre on the site, from its humble beginnings as a “tin hut” for new and experimental work – where audience members were instructed not to use the toilet while there was a play going on as everyone would be able to hear them – and its growing reputation under the direction of Buzz Goodbody. The tin hut was eventually replaced by a proper theatre, and was added to several years ago when the Courtyard Theatre was built in order to house full-scale productions while the Royal Shakespeare Theatre was being developed.
Now, the main area has been developed into a cafe, while a studio theatre plays host to the biannual Mischief Festival and other smaller-scale productions. We weren’t able to go into the theatre itself, or the rehearsal rooms, but we ventured into the backstage areas, seeing the space where actors can practice ‘flying’, and the area where scenery and props can be constructed.
We watched a video explaining how plays are taken “from page to stage” – hence the former name of the tour, I assume – with season planned several years in advance, directors appointed, designers brought in, and – eventually – actors auditioned. The rehearsal process takes several weeks, and actors have a tough schedule they need to adhere to, including costume fittings and voice training as well as actual rehearsals. We were taken into the costume store, an absolute treasure trove of all kinds of costumes for every eventuality. I found it particularly interesting that armour is often plastic – as it is lighter than metal – and costumes are often part of the rehearsal process, as actors move differently with them on.
We looked into some of the dressing rooms, with more exciting costumes, then headed over to the main RSC building, where most productions take place. The scenic workshop, which has been in use for many years, was pointed out to us across the road – it is now used for costumes, and eventually, tours will be offered here as well.
The Audition Tour (or the From Page To Stage Tour, which it really might as well be called) is a worthy addition to the RSC’s range of tours, and is worth a look if you’re in Stratford for a show.