getting psyched for ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ with David Tennant
The RSC’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost — starring David Tennant as Berowne — debuts with its first preview on Thursday night. And I will be there. Where I was last night was at the Dirty Duck, the RSC’s hangout pub down the street from the Courtyard Theatre… and also there for dinner, at the table right behind me, was Greg Doran, who is directing both Hamlet and Lost. He was chatting away very seriously about the “tech” they’d just finished — that is, the tech rehearsal, at which things like the lighting and sound cues would get ironed out — and about the “dress” (dress rehearsal) to come today.
It was difficult to overhear any details, but I’m guessing things went fairly well at the tech, because he ordered a bottle of champagne. Or maybe he was just celebrating the almost-end of the odyssey. Because I refer you to Geoffrey Rush’s wonderful scene in Shakespeare in Love, in which he explains how it always seems, just before a show is about to open, that it’s going to be a disaster, and then, the first performance is always perfect, and no one knows why this is: it’s a mystery.
I can tell you from my days working in theater that this is absolutely true. Our tech rehearsals were always catastrophic. There was always at least one actor who could never remember his lines, and another who would never remember her cues. None of the costumes would be right. The set would be falling apart. Props would go missing. The programs wouldn’t be back from the printer. None of it would matter, of course, because we’d be certain that absolutely no one would show up for opening night.
And then the curtain would go up on opening night, and it would all be perfect.
So I can imagine Doran yelling at his cast and crew last night, just before the champagne. They were hopeless, he’d be screaming — or, to be more terrifying, perhaps he’d whisper his disappointment. They’d bring shame to the great and storied name of the Royal Shakespeare Company. They’d be the first production in the history of the RSC to have audience members demanding their money back. And the press! The critics would rip them to shreds.
I can hear it as if I were there myself. Because I have been.
And tomorrow night will be perfect.
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