The theatre staff cleared everyone from the stalls after the evening performance so we were able to get seats in the front row. Probably only 40 or so people stayed for the talkback.
Tony Bell came out first and talked a little about his role as the Common Man. He said that when he auditioned for his role he used 6 different accents for each 'part' he was to play. However the Director wanted him to do it all in his normal voice.
Then Martin came out, followed by almost all the rest of the cast. He looked good, a little tired but appeared to be in a good mood.
There was a question about how it felt to be doing a rerun of this classic play (challenging!) and one about the relevance of the play to today.
Martin said that he thought personally that if matters of principle and an "exploration of the nature of self" was more important in our society then we would have a better society. He was then asked something abvout whether he would identify with Sir Thomas, and he said did that mean would he take the same stance - "I doubt it very much", which produced a laugh.
The following question related to Cromwell's character and Clive said that he didn't think that Cromwell was particularly misguided, that he knew at the time his actions were going to be his downfall, but that it was the road he took, like Macbeth.
There was an older lady sitting a couple of seats from us who asked what they had done with the warts on Cromwell's face, to which Clive said "That was the Other Cromwell".
Someone then asked Martin what would happen to Judge John Deed in the same situation, whether he would go up or down (in the context of the play) Martin replied that he thought JDD was far more pragmatic, in the way we use the word today, much more realistic (*and gorgeous*, someone piped up, which raised a smallish smile).
The next question was about the rehearsal process & how much they rehearsed as a company and Sophie said that it was a bit of both, that they had done work individually and then they had all come together. Later on Clive said they had 4 weeks of rehearsals before Windsor.
The actor who played Henry was asked if he got to play the part a lot, to which he replied that this was the first time and it made a change from Ginger (or something like that). He said they had taken a picture of Henry & morphed his face onto it, to give it his likeness. A schoolteacher in the audience offered him a free school dinner to come and talk to her pupils, and generously suggested the Judge could come too! Unfortunately they had to decline.
There was a question about the Haymarket run in Dec-Jan and how the production would evolve while touring. Clive said that any production has to evolve. Martin said that it's something that happens naturally. He said this (Cardiff) was their second week and he knew for a fact that the play had not been the same play twice, including the two performances they had already done that day. Also, he said, the purpose of a tour is to see what evolves, and to find bits that work and bits that don't and that there may very well be changes to the shape or position of furniture, or the positions of actors on stage, and that it would continue to evolve, even in the West End, so that the last night would be different from the first.
Someone then asked if the cast would be coming together again for another tour. Tony said that as they were all freelance, they would be cast "according to the whim of fate". A follow up comment about whether we would see him do the common man again was answered that we probably would "because it's my number one performance - it's what I do in everything!"
Almost the last question was about the session itself and whether it was useful or merely torture after the show. Clive answered this one really well. He said that any show, when it's rehearsed, always has one member of the cast missing "and that's you". The play changes every night not only because of what the actors are doing on stage, but what the audience is doing. The audience has a part to play "the only difference is, you're paying for your part" (*insert much laughter*). He then asked if there was anything we didn't like about the play tonight.
One woman commented that she hated the stairs. Then someone said they couldn't hear parts of it very well. Martin said "Oh!" in a very concerned voice. Then Sophie answered and said that it could be "quite difficult for Dad" in that particular theatre, with the gap between the stage and the audience because the actors couldn't see the people and she and the other women in the show had their ears covered. Also because "Dad" has a slight hearing impairment and it can be difficult sometimes to judge whether you're shouting or whispering.
Martin then said he would definitely take it on board. He asked if it was all the way through or just at the beginning. On establishing that it was at the beginning and the person was sitting in the middle, under the dress circle, Clive commented that there is sometimes a dead spot in that area in some theatres. Then Martin said that yes there were sometimes dead spots, but that he would take it on board. He said that it was no excuse, and he was sorry that the person had that experience, but that sometimes smoke was used for some beam effects and he'd asked them not to do it because the smoke gets on his chest, but the used it for the matinee, and he had been struggling a bit in the first half that evening. But he said he thought it was very good feedback.
And he said "I'm not just saying this. It helps us because this is something we very rarely hear, the chance to get feedback. We get feedback from critics and that's useless... " and after we had stopped laughing, asked if we had any other feedback negative or not.
There was a discussion about the size of the theatre and he said that the New Theatre was a middlesized one. He said that in his experience the ideal sized theatre for an actor was 5-600 seats. The Haymarket apparently has about 900 & he said it is a wonderful theatre. He said the New Theatre was a lovely theatre but the shape of the stage with the black gap in front of it was not ideal.
Sophie "but we love it!"
Martin "yes, we love it"
Finally a man in the audience made an impassioned plea for more national tours to go to Wales, and not just Cardiff. Martin replied that he thought it was ironic that a nation with such a rich history of poetry didn't get more theatre.
And that was it! Probably about 25-30 minutes long, but it seemed shorter. Sorry to keep you hanging for so long while I wrote this up.