MEMBERS from Stratford’s Bear Pit Theatre have realised a dream.
They swapped their usual stage at the The United Reformed Church for the stage, and the rather grander surroundings, of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
The Bear Pit players were selected for the RSC’s ambitious project to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s passing, which pitted together a professional cast of actors, with a cast of 14 different Mechanicals, each drawn from amateur theatre companies the length and breadth of the country.
And the Bear Pit six had the shared task – with the Nonentities from Kidderminister – of the opening three week run at the RST.
The biggest compliment that can probably be paid to the Bear Pit players was that unless told beforehand, most would never know they were amateurs.
The experience for the Bear Pit, compared to their own productions, was one of scale – being involved with the mammouth task of technical rehearsals to make sure the lights, scenery changes and queues are all perfectly timed gave them a taste of life on the professional stage.
Director at the Bear Pit, Nicky Cox, told The Observer: “It has been a brilliant experience for us as a theatre company. It’s been a year in the making really since we first sent off our application.
“Because we were one of the two ‘home town’ groups it really feels like we’ve helped the RSC and their professional actors to create the show.
“We were there with the Nonentities for technical rehearsals which is an experience the other groups won’t get.”
And it was a particularly memorable experience for Dominic Skinner who played Flute the bellows mender.
He juggled the upcoming birth of his second child with performing and his wife went into labour on the evening of the first preview performance, unbeknown to Dominic.
Nicky, who helped out through the auditions and rehearsals, said: “He checked his phone and found out the baby was on the way. He had to leave part way through the show and the Nonentities’ Alex Powell took his place.
“Dom lives in Stratford but only made it home in time for his wife to give birth in their lounge.”
The Bear Pit Mechanicals – David Mears (Bottom), Dominic Skinner (Flute), Roger Ganner (Quince), David Southeard (Snout), Charlotte Froud (snug) and Shirley Allwork (Starveling) – will be back on the RST stage when the production returns to Stratford in June after its two month nationwide tour – together with the other 12 sets of Mechanicals who will be given a turn on the RST stage.
Visit www.rsc.org.uk for further details.