Thursday, 3 April 2014

Dying on Stage: Annabel Bates on working with Grassroots

Annabel Bates as Desdemona
The first night was last night and as I sip my cup of coffee trying to come up with something of interest to write, all I can think about it how brilliant and brave the people I'm working with are.

All productions require teamwork, but in this production of Othello, it's on another level. We're all in it together, without a director, working our arses off, and when you work with actors like I've been blessed with, you're inspired to give more and more and more.

The real stars, however, are the production team. From Rhodora, slogging away, sourcing daggers and lanterns; to Rachael and Suzi, pulling all-nighters, clubbing together to sew on buttons and poppers; from Boris papping us so often I'm beginning to think I have a stalker; to Siobhan, tweeting about us so much, she's now got RSI.

Annabel Bates as Desdemona and Emily Jane Kerr as Emilia in rehearsals for Othello

Theatre should be an experience. It's live and there is no way of knowing what will happen on the night. We all have to make ourselves vulnerable, and we all have to do things we wouldn't normally do. People talk about coming to see a piece of theatre to taste the actors' blood, sweat and tears. Well, you actually can in our production of Othello, as the space is incredibly intimate, but when I [spoiler alert!] die at the end of the play, I have a long time lying on a bed, dead (trying not to sneeze), and as I lay there last night, listening to my fellow actors sweating, bleeding and crying, I realised that everyone involved with the creation of this production has 'died' once or twice in order to tell The Tragedy of Othello to our audience in the most engaging way.

It's not that we're always raging against the dying of the light. The comedians out there will know the best clowning comes after just 'dying' on stage too'

We're all scary, funny, ugly, beautiful individuals 'dying' on a daily basis in order to survive and that I think is one thing theatre should be a platform for.

Annabel Bates as Desdemona and James Alexandrou as Iago in rehearsals for Othello

For me, the best thing about theatre is that it's live. We can't control what happens, daggers may fly and we might die on stage, but theatre is like a football match. We've trained hard, we've got our positions and formations, we've got each other's backs, we're playing the game as best we can and we're a team.

Annabel Bates as Desdemona, Emily Jane Kerr as Emilia and Nari Blair-Mangat as Othello in rehearsals

When you go to see a football match or a piece of theatre, you hope you're not going to be let down by your team. You hope they score some goals or take you on a journey. You hope they make you proud or tell a story and give you a golden nugget of an experience to carry around with you forever. It should be like meeting a exciting person you have a real connection with.

I can't say yet that we've achieved that or not, but I know we're aiming to give you an experience to remember and I know we're willing to 'die' for it.

Annabel Bates is playing Desdemona in Grassroots Shakespeare London's Othello at Leicester Square Theatre from 2nd - 26th April. Tickets available from

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