Due to the delayed nature of this blog, it’s necessary for me to go back & intermittently view various periods of rehearsal in retrospect, alongside more current day-to-day musings. I’m approaching all this as a scrapbook, a collection of snapshots of the whole project, gloriously out of sync & beholden to nothing linear whatsoever. An orderly line of succession is for kings, queens & theatre directors, got it??
Having said that, let us begin at the beginning, Day 1, Tuesday 14th July: the first gathering at base camp, Mount Bastard. It’s just the actors, stage management and Trevor to kick off proceedings this week, saving the meet’n’greet with everyone else til the week following. Lovely to see some faces from previous jobs – Olly Cotton & Jim Creighton – both of whom I worked with on a previous Nunn production: Royal Hunt of the Sun at the National in 2006 (oddly enough, another theatrical monster that involved hairy men with swords shouting at each other for a couple of hours every evening).
During the customary handshakes & back-slapping from fellow actors comes the warm embrace of the ageless Trevor. The man is charm incarnate. Indeed, to be ‘Trev-d’ has become a generally accepted term in the industry, which describes the effect on an actor of an immensely fulsome & simultaneous hug/back-rub/twinkly greeting from the great man which comprehensively reduces said actor to a piece of moist Play-doh capable of learning lines. Suitably invigorated & loved-up, we all gather round the table & get comfortable.
When Trevor gets going, there’s no stopping him. So kick off your shoes, pour yourself a Scotch & listen up…
He begins by talking movingly of his very first encounter with Peter Hall at Cambridge University over fifty years ago. Hall was giving passionate voice at a public meeting to the proposition of what would ultimately become the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. A few years following, Trevor would make the pilgrimage to Stratford to see the RSC’s production of Hall & Barton’s reworking of Shakespeare’s four-play history cycle (Henry VI parts 1, 2 & 3, & Richard III) into the three-play Wars of the Roses. He sat at the back of the auditorium utterly mesmerised, and in a vaguely epiphanic moment, realised that Stratford and the RSC was where he wanted to work and thrive for a substantial part of his professional life. Peter would become Trevor’s mentor and inspiration over the next few decades, with Nunn going on to helm the RSC and National Theatre in Hall’s footsteps. And as the years passed, Trevor harboured a growing desire to one day re-stage in its entirety that original gargantuan production of the Wars of the Roses that he’d witnessed in the 1960s.
Enter stage left the Rose Theate in Kingston, initially run by Peter Hall, and a theatrical space built in the early years of the millenium to the original specification of the Rose Theate on Bankside, Philip Henslowe’s great flea-pit of the late 1580s. This malodorous, Elizabethan barn launched the careers of Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kydd and a certain promising young actor/playwright called William Shakespeare – and therefore was the site of Shakespeare’s earliest works, including the great history cycle that seems to be taking up rather a lot of our time nearly 425 years later. So, full circle, the M25 notwithstanding.
Also, hearing Trevor talk today, it strikes me that with Peter Hall now in retirement, the whole project can be seen as a valedictory salute to the master himself as dusk descends.