RADA me than you

Not sure I have a lot to say about this one. I’ve been to RADA before after all and don’t really fancy repeating myself. So let’s do ourselves a favour and keep this one short.

Monday night and I’m back at the RADA building on Malet Street. I was off to the see some new writing at the Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre, which was all rather exciting. The play was Gig. I did have some concerns about the appropriateness of asking a pile of graduating drama students to play the roles of newly graduated, out of work actors, but hey - they’re keeping it real, I suppose. Living their art. Or at least, their future. I mean potential future. And a very small potential at that. They’re all talented kids. They’ll do just fine, I’m sure.

On this marathon of mine, the most frequent question I get asked is “what’s been your favourite so far?” to which I can honestly answer - the drama schools. I’m hit up but RADA and LAMDA so far (with a few more trips to both still to go) and they have all been absolutely fantastic.

I mean, yes - the queues at box office are so slow moving I do wonder whether the staff are busy making sandwiches under the desk which they are looking for our tickets. And yes - I do frequently get lost in these places despite the fact that they really are doing the absolute most when it comes to signage.

But seriously, those kids.

I really shouldn’t call them kids.

They are all grown-ups, graduating from some of the most prestigious acting schools in the world.

But man… those kids.

I love generation z, I really do. It’s less, the children are our future, let them lead the way. But more, the future’s only hope is the children, and then are going to smash it. We just better be prepared to get out the way.

Even with this half-awed, half-terrified view of the youth of today, I don’t think I could ever love them more than when watching RADA and LAMDA graduation shows.

So talented. So enthusiastic. So damn earnest.

They really are the greatest generation.

Anyway, where was I?

Right, RADA.

“Which show is this for?” asks the lady on box office when I eventually make it to the front of the queue.

Err, that question again. I don’t know. I never know.

“Anyone here for The Philosophy Shop,” asks a front of houser. We all shake our heads. “That’s it,” he says, in his radio before wandering off.

“Woman and Scarecrow?” suggests the lady on box office.

No, it wasn’t that one either.

We finally land on Gig as being the play I’m seeing that night.

It was a full house at RADA. All the theatres pumping out performances at full steam as they process their graduating class.

Ticket acquired, I wondered off into the main foyer. Some sort of event was happening there, as there was a table with wine and nibbles, surrounded by important looking people.

At the other end, there was queue composed of decidedly less important looking people.

I join the queue.

A few minutes later, the doors open and we start shuffling in.

“Oh, umm,” said the ticket checker as I reach the front of the queue. “Gig, sorry, no.” He pointed away from the queue. “Can you wait there?”

I do as I’m told. Waiting there as the queue disappeared and then a new queue formed in its place.

Was I supposed to join it? In the end I decide that I should, and as I walk down to the end I creep on the tickets of those waiting. “Gig.”

Good. I was in the right queue.

Doors open and I make my way past the ticket checker.

This time he lets me pass.

Up the stairs. Ticket torn. And in I go.

In a first, not just for the marathon, but for life, I’m in a theatre with multiple levels and unreserved seating. I’d never thought such a thing possible. But there RADA is, breaking down boundaries once more.

I plump for the stalls. Well… you would. Wouldn’t you?

The Jerwood Vanbrugh is a funny space. At first glance it looks like a scaled down Royal Opera House. I mean, it doesn’t have two-and-a-half tonnes worth of red velvet curtains, and is lacking a bit in the gilt department, but the shape is the same. The seating is arranged in a horseshoe shape. But instead of having stalls seating in the gap, they have an extended stage-space. Like a thrust stage, I suppose. But softer. With all the hard edges sloughed off.

RADA (or should I say, designer James Cotterill) made full use of this extra space by sticking an entire living room in the extra space, while the more traditional stage area took up the role of kitchen (with an extra surprise lurking behind a screen just above it).

Very nice.

Even nicer, there was a programme seller right there on the stage. An improvement on my last visit to RADA when there wasn’t one to be found anywhere except when I was leaving, and even there I had to hang around like a friggin numpty for minutes on end before I was able to snatch her attention away from the person she was chatting shop with.

And even nicer still, by 9.15pm I was out of there and on my way home, so I had time to get a few hours on my other gig (err, this blog) before crashing face first into my pillow.

Right, how long was that?

940 words.

Crap.

So much for a short post.

Oh well. What can I say? I write a lot of words. I’m sorry.

Best sign off before I think up any more of them.

Oh wait… if you’re wondering what my second most asked marathon-question is, it’s “what has been the worst so far?” My peeps love them some drama. My answer has been static at Thriller Live at the Lyric for a long arse time now. But I think I may have a new winner. Yes, I’m still salty about the whole thing.

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Damn and blasted

After venturing to LAMDA on Friday night, I was off to RADA on Saturday. Comparison wasn't my intention, but hitting up two major drama schools back-to-back, within a single weekend does rather beg for it.

And if there was a race between the two mighty institutions, it was RADA who got their running spikes on first - sending out a booking confirmation email that detailed the entrances to use for each of their venues, followed up a few days later by a reminder email packed full of access information, content warnings, bus routes, tubes stops with step-free access, and basically everything else a visitor could possibly need.

There was even a rehearsal shot featuring all the actors looking relaxed and happy - which was, if anything, an anti-trigger warning considering the play they were rehearsing was Sarah Kane's Blasted. 

"See?" their sweet, smiling faces seemed to say. "It's all fine. We're fine. You'll be fine."

I wasn't so easily taken it.

Still, that didn't stop RADA from trying to hold my hand. Metaphorically, of course.

Everywhere I looked were signs giving detailed instructions on where to go. Not just arrows vaguely pointing the way, but step-by-step instructions. Turn here, go past one staircase, take another staircase, right, than left.

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They really didn't want strangers wandering around and getting lost in their warren of a building.

I can't blame them.

Knowing my predilection for getting lost. they'd have probably found me, three years later, dazed, confused, clutching a diploma and muttering about the Stanislavski technique if it weren't for their signage.

So it was rather a relief to make it to the GBS Theatre and discover that I had indeed taken the right staircase (which is to say: not the main one, but the next one) and wouldn't have to make a life for myself in the RADA basements after all.

There were plenty of ushers down there. No doubt for when they inevitably needed to send out a search party to track down any missing audience members. Two on the door. One inside. Another busy making up the bed that composed the sole piece of stage furniture. I watched as he plumped a pillow case, rearranged the cushions, smoothed down the sheets and tucked everything in neatly. He made a much better effort than I can ever manage of a morning.

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But what the front of house team had in numbers, they lacked in programmes. There wasn't a single one to be had.

Ah. I had neglected to buy one while upstairs because the one person I'd spotted selling them had been busy talking to someone who sounded very important.

I looked back at the door, debating whether I dare risk the return journey up the stairs to get one, but I decided against it. While yesterday I may have been all for becoming a theatre ghost, starting a second career as the Phantom of the RADA hadn't been exacting what I was going for.

Programmes would have to wait.

I had a seat to select.

At LAMDA, I'd noticed that the bench seats varied in height so that the floor didn't need to. Here at RADA, they did have a raised dais for the seats to sit on, but still found the need to utilise the same multi-height trick. I'm beginning to think this must be a drama school thing, because I haven't seen it in action anywhere else. 

The first row of seats had legs as short and stubby as those of a Corgi. While four rows back we had their Great Dane cousins.

I made the Goldilocks choice of the third row (what would that be? The Labrador row?). Not very adventurous of me, but I've always been the sort to keep both feet on the ground.

And I have say, I got through the play easily enough. 

Perhaps it was those cherubic rehearsal shots sent out in advance, or the anxiety-reduction of the intensely detailed signage, but I made it through to the other side of Blasted with only a minimal amount of trauma.

Feeling pretty pleased with this personal success story of mine, I found my way back upstairs and went in search of a programme.

The programme seller was busy. Talking to someone who sounded even more important than the very important person of earlier on.

I waited, checking my emails.

He was still talking about his next project.

I moved closer, put on my best I-would-like-to-buy-a-programme-please face and waited a bit more.

Nothing. Not even a nod of acknowledgement from the programme seller.

The very important theatre person wasn't running out of steam. He was still talking about his project.

Would it be rude to cut him short? And if so, is it more or less rude than monopolising the time of someone at work?

Fuck it.

"Sorry to interrupt," I said, interrupting. "Can I just... quickly buy a programme?"

It turned out I could and that they were a pound.

I decided not to comment on how they are free at LAMDA. But, like, they are totally free at LAMDA.

I left them then. The programme seller and the important person. I wonder if they are still there. Talking about his project. With a line of people queuing up behind him. Unnoticed, unseen, and without a programme to occupy their time.

As for me. I had plans.

I was going to head home, bash out a blog post, squirrel under my duvet, and snooze.

I managed the first two.

And got half way through the third.

But then I started thinking about Blasted.

And those sweet faces from the rehearsal room, screwed up and tortured on the stage.  

And I cried, and I cried, and I cried.