With just two weeks until opening night, actor Simon Muller blogs from from the Epsom Downs rehearsal room.
“Hmmmm….so where are we at the end of week 2/beginning of week 3? Well, obviously, I’d like to say we are primed, taut, focused and ready to race to the finish for the May…but I would be lying of course.
It feels absolutely right to be writing this blog now, after a run of the first half of Epsom Downs, especially after all we have covered in the past two weeks.
So, what have we learned so far?
One of the great joys of being an actor is in accumulating a random skill set – usually badly and incomplete but still… so, to my (very patchy) knowledge of St. Petersburg in the 19th Century, fencing in 15th Century Italy , politics of the Falklands war and Ancient Greek, I can now add that I know something of Tic-Tac (thanks to Jeremy Martin of Salisbury Racecourse), of the Stable Lads strike of 1975 (my own research), the sweet taste of success and the feeling of despair that are the stakes on Race Day, alongside how bloomin’ beautiful horses are and how passionate their owners are (from our visit to a Horses First Racing), and now, how difficult it is to carry another actor on your shoulders for a length of time and still retain the quality of a race horse (trial and error corrected by our very patient Movement Director Aidan Treays) and the size of a certain now-famous-actor’s manhood in the original production (thank you Max Stafford-Clark).
Of course, the last point is a joke, to a certain extent – there will be no nudity in this production of Epsom Downs (“NO!” I hear you gasp…. “Surely?”). But, on the back on an amazing, informative, and humbling session with Max Stafford-Clark who visited the rehearsal room here in Salisbury last week, I can tell you that we discovered that this amazing piece of writing by Howard Brenton was born of dissent, anger and a discontent with the political environs of the time. But we also discovered that the play you will see is born out of a generosity of spirit and love – of the event itself, discovered by the original company, against their preconceptions; and also out of the way of thinking about theatre that Joint Stock discovered. Max is Artistic Director of theatre company Out of Joint, and director of the original production of Epsom Downs at London’s Roundhouse for his then theatre company Joint Stock in 1977.
So, the play you will see in a couple of weeks will be political. It has to be. And we hope it will be relevant. But we also hope it will be as full of passion, pride and diversity as the original production was famed for – and, therefore, entertaining and A Good Night Out. None of which would be possible, I can already say at this early stage, without the input we have had from the people who have come into our rehearsal room and/or put up with us invading theirs.
So, just got to work out how to carry Mark Meadows on my shoulders for two minutes without looking like a donkey as opposed to a racehorse…..”