Silvius, William, Brendan and Adam: a multi-roler's perspective.
Blog post number seven. Cast member Adam Mirsky (second year English student at Emmanuel College) talks about multi-rolling and the daunting experience of being offered a role on CAST.
30th January 2016. Around 11pm. My phone rings. Tentatively, I thrust my sweaty palm into my right-hand trouser pocket and bring out the phone. Unknown number. “Who can it be?” I think, as my hand trembles from the phone’s vibrations. And also from fear. I breathe deeply and summon up the courage to press the green phone button. “H… hello?” I stutter, anxious and desperate to know who it is. Why are they calling me? For what could they possibly want me? A harsh, gravelly voice echoes through the phone’s tinny speakers. “Do you want to tour America?”
Fast-forward just over six months. It’s the start of August and since the frankly sinister experience of Louisa Dales offering me a role in CAST I’ve laughed awkwardly through a number of forced bonding sessions with a cast and crew I don’t really know yet, paid £750 in company fees to perform a play I don’t really know yet and neglected learning any of my lines (which I definitely do not know yet). I’m driving up to Cambridge for a month of rehearsals before we go on tour.
The rehearsal process starts mainly in the sun in the gardens of Homerton (the college in which we’re staying for the month) and feels very much focussed on getting the actors feeling comfortable enough in the rehearsal space – there are a lot of drama games – to experiment, have fun, and even take liberties with the text. As an actor who’s multi-roling a lot in the play, this has been really helpful in making some of the smaller parts feel like more than just background characters: the First Lord has become enough of a character to have been affectionately named Brendan by the cast and crew; and we’ve been able to play with the characters so much that the scene with William, who is perhaps the dullest character Shakespeare ever wrote (he essentially just answers yes and no questions for about a minute and is never seen again), has become a comic highlight of the play, if I say so myself.
But the play isn’t solely fun and comedy (although it is mostlythat). I’ve spent a long time discussing with Lily Lindon (who plays Phebe, among other characters) how we can play the relationship between Silvius and Phebe to try and minimise the uncomfortable ending for the couple, which essentially celebrates Phebe’s non-consensual submission to Silvius’slove. I’ve also spent hours grinding callouses into my fingertips, desperately practising the guitar in an attempt to do justice to the beautiful original compositions we use in the show (penned by Jamie Fenton). And I think it’s these parts that make our production really good. Anyone can put on a funny voice and costume (as I frequently do in this show) but for me, the scene where Adam gives up all his money to run away with Orlando (a strangely fitting parallel to experience with this tour. I knew it would be fateful playing a character who shares my name!) is a much harder scene to play and having the opportunity to do both in As You Like It is what makes this such an exciting show to tour.