A Time to Shine
*I wrote this whilst I was going through my Birdsong phase, which no doubt will be starting up again come Wednesday. Anyway I hope you enjoy*
Everybody at school moaned when we got given our reading list for A-Level. Me included, which was unusual considering I loved to read. The usual books we were expecting were among them, Of Mice and Men and Romeo and Juliet. When the book Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks came up however, I knew, at eighteen that it would stick with me in some way or another.
All aspiring actresses, or not even aspiring, just actors and actresses in general, have a role they consider their dream role and one they wish to one day play on stage. Lisette Azaire was mine.
When I first read the book of Birdsong, I could relate to her in the way most young girls at that age can. When her mother died, her father remarried, just like my dad had, and her infatuation with Stephen, is one that most girls have at some point in their lifetime. Whether it’s a crush on a teacher or someone older than them, we each go through that feeling of thinking we’re in love.
I never thought I’d get given the opportunity to play Lisette on stage, let alone in a touring production, let alone at the age of twenty. In all fairness, I wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for Emma.
I was sat minding my own business, waiting for Stuart to come and teach us about the history of the theatre. The next thing I know Emma had come running into the lecture hall, thrusting the latest issue of The Stage newspaper in my hands.
“Beth. Look at this. You have to audition” she had demanded without even a hello.
“Hi to you too.” I had replied not a bit interested in what she was trying to show me.
“Have you even looked at what I’m trying to show you?”
I looked down reluctantly at the advert, my dream role staring me in the face. My eyes skimmed over the ad. All that went into my head was Birdsong, Lisette Azaire, Original Theatre and the date of the audition. I looked up at Emma.
“No way. I cant.”
“Why not? What have you got to loose?”
“You’ve had plenty of roles before though, why is this so different?”
“Em, this is Lisette, my dream role, plus it’s a touring production”
“I’ll never be able to get out of uni for the audition, let alone if I got it.”
At that moment Stuart entered the room and told us to quieten down. I quickly ripped the advert out of the paper putting it in my bag trying to put it to the back of my mind. That seemed impossible however, as every time I picked up my bag to go to a different lecture it was as though it was burning a hole in the bottom of my bag, demanding to be looked at and thought about.
They say that if you’re not sure about something, sleep on it. That was what I did, or tried to anyway. I ended up tossing and turning all night until I had given in and taken the piece of paper out of my bag and stared at it until 3am waiting for my mind take sleep.
The next morning before I went to my lecture I went to talk it through with Stuart. I knew id’ regret not going to the audition but I wasn’t sure I was allowed being a first year.
“We don’t usually encourage auditioning in first year as youre just starting out but if you really want to go as you say this is your dream role then go for the audition and then if you get it we’ll talk more” he had said.
I came out of his office a little apprehensive but I knew id regret it if I didn’t go to audition. This could, essentially be my chance to shine.
Uni carried on like normal for the next few weeks, lectures and nights of going out in the evenings. As the audition got nearer I got more anxious. Did people just turn up to these things? All the other people going for the audition would have been told about it by their agents. I didn’t have one of those. Would that set me back from getting the role? It was advertised in The Stage though, so they must be looking for uni students or younger people to play the roles of Tipper, Gregoire and Lisette, right?
Needless to say Emma had to come round and calm me down. The thing about auditions, well ones like this anyway was that I didn’t have a script to go by. Instead id prepared a few of the scenes that Lisette would be in. The scene in the drawing room where she cleans Stephens hand and tells him about Francoise and the scene by the river where she forces him to kiss her and a monologue from a similar play so the director could get a general idea of how I acted.
The day of the audition finally came round and it was entirely different than I expected. I thought it was going to be like any other uni production audition. You know the ones where you stand in the middle of the room sing your chosen song or act out a particular scene and then you wait for the list to be put up? Yeah, this was completely different.
This audition was in a proper theatre for a start, a real London West End theatre. Despite it not being a West End show I was told it was to get a general idea of how my voice would project. Instead of auditioning in front of one person, I had the pleasure of it being in front of three, the director of the play, John, the writer of the screenplay, Michelle and author Sebastian Faulks himself. To say I was nervous was an understatement.
“Hi, my names Elizabeth Morgan, and I’m auditioning for the role of Lisette ”
After I’d acted my monologue, John invited to read Lisette’s lines with an actor named Greg who was auditioning for the role of Stephen. He wasn’t much older than me by the looks of it. Twenty-five I would have said with brown hair and blue eyes, dressed in a simple light blue shirt and jeans. He was gorgeous-which made acting with him that little bit harder. I think we pulled it off though.
It’s been a month since I received the phone call to say that I had gotten the role and rehearsals are now in full swing. To say I’m loving it is an understatement. Its everything I wanted it to be and more. All twelve members of the company are lovely and have made me feel right at home. Even though I’m the youngest, I haven’t been made to feel like it. I feel equal to the older members of the cast and know that if I need help or don’t understand something I can ask them.
No day in rehearsal is the same. On the first day we had a sort of getting know you day before getting settled into work. We played games and had a general introduction before going through a full read through of the script to get an idea of how the play would be read.
Over the past few weeks we’ve had various army professionals come in and teach the boys how to march, hold certain weapons etc whilst us girls had dialect lessons to help us perfect our French accents.
The next few weeks will consist of full run through within the space and costume fittings before we have our first full dress run in rehearsal before transferring to the Devonshire Park Theatre in Eastbourne for a tech rehearsal in costume. It’s all getting rather exciting.
It’s strange to think that at the end of last year I was at uni full time studying towards this role and then not even two months later im living my dream. Its crazy. I can’t say I don’t miss uni or my friends, because I do. A lot. Emma makes sure she checks in ateast twice a week to see how rehearsals were going and promised to get tickets to opening night.
12th February. Opening night. The day I’d been waiting the twenty years of my life for had arrived. Tonight we open the 2014 tour of Birdsong and I’m playing Lisette! Everything I’ve been waiting for comes down to tonight’s performance.
After another day in the theatre with a full run through, and some much needed dinner, I put on the yellow dress I’d loved since the first day of rehearsal and made my way to the wings to watch the atmosphere unfold.
As the lights dimmed and the play began I knew in that moment that this was my time to shine.