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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

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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  • Jan Willem

    Et ego in Arcadia. Meaning, I have similarly fond memories of my exploits in university theatre companies and beyond: Much Ado in Durham, Winter’s Tale and As You Like It in Amsterdam… Those were the days!

    By the way, The Dirty Duck features quite prominently in Anthony Sher’s wonderful book on his preparations for his star turn in Richard III: The Year of the King (1986).

  • Tara

    Can you really imagine Greg Doran doing any sort of yelling? He seems so affable and calm the times that I’ve seen him in person. lol. Although I suppose that sort of stress could make anyone lose it!

    I will be there next week for LLL, and will also be going to The Director Talks to hear Greg himself chat about the production! I am very excited.

    I can’t wait to read your review!

  • Sara

    Oh! I am so envious of you! I know exactly what you mean about “tech week”, always a disaster. But it will all be perfect, I saw Hamlet this August and it was spectacular! I can only assume that Love’s will be just as amazing.

  • kathleen

    Hi, Oh alas I just came back so I didn’t get to see Love Labours Lost – but I did see Hamlet 3 times and the who cast is amazing . It is killing me to be missing LLL as Tennant will be using his native Scottish accent . I did meet many of the actors though and they were so kind . I don’t think Greg would yell like that . From all I have seen of the man he is wonderful and brilliant . I did get to see him briefly .
    I was so impressed with the actors having to go into rehearsal at 10:30 am and then preform Hamlet that night . It just amazed me. You are in for a treat with this show , I promise you.

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