The Abbey Theatre of late has started to try out social media with YouTube videos and a presence on Facebook. David from the Abbey invited me along on Friday to have a look at their prep for their Comedy of Errors play. This is Shakespeare with a few modern twists.
We walked around backstage and went up some stairs, passing some famous art on the way and went into where all the ropes and counterweights are, high above the side of the stage. From here all the curtains and scenery are controlled. Lots of nautical links with the ropes and all that. I’ve been watching Horatio Hornblower too much so I was really fascinated by this. It really is like a sailing vessel with curtains instead of sails but rigging and mostly unseen crew making sure those on the deck below can, in a way, sail.
An awful amount of work goes on behind the scenes in the Abbey for a single play to be shown. Weeks upon weeks of nonstop work goes into making a play work well each night. Think about the small amount of time, measured in hours, that a play has on that stage compared to the time that goes into getting it to that moment. An army of people squeezed into a small building are constantly and silently beavering away to entertain the public.
I got to watch the cast rehearse too which was fantastic and the acoustics in the Abbey are really impressive. The play itself is very phyical with the set being quite minimal. Scaffoldings are moved around the stage by the cast and given the size and weight of them, everyone in the cast is going to have strong legs and shoulders by the time the play ends.
Because of limited space they also have other rehearsal spaces outside of the Abbey and again due to space their large collection of art can’t be proudly showed off like they want it to be so they loan it out at times.
What was pretty interesting too is how the Abbey fosters new talent and they recently launched two programmes for this. The first of these launched last month and is the Abbey New Playwrights Programme. Over 11 months the Abbey will support 6 emerging playwrights with a series of workshops and talks with international and Abbey writers, directors, actors and designers. The playwrights are not expected to write a play but the Abbey will give them any help they do need. The second initiative takes place on June 15th this year for a week. Six 20 minute plays from female writers under the theme of ‘The Fairer Sex’ have been commissioned and readings of these will happen over the week.
The Comedy of Errors is running until May 1st. Anyone interested in availing of a bloggers tour of the Abbey, leave a comment here. Names will be picked out of a hat etc.
Update: Here’s the trailer for the play