The Press Night is now over,
All cry that "it's a hit, sirs",
The cast are all on top form
and what about those Switzers!
On a Wednesday night in early July 2004, the press-night arrived and we signed in at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Stage Door. The excitement and madness of the occasion had taken hold with cards and presents swapped frantically between the cast. A wild rumour of a "pile-up on the M40" delaying the London-based critics seemed to circulate even quicker than the gifts.
The four Switzers changed quietly in their shabby dressing-room; black quilted tunics (a relic of Antony Sher's Richard III in the 1980's), chain-mail and leather boots (one pair had actually belonged to Robert Stephens, father of "our" Hamlet, Toby). This was a fine costume for mediaeval Denmark but an uncomfortable arrangement for a hot, muggy night in England We walked backstage to our places.
The Actor's were hugging and psyching each other up. The King Claudius strode by quietly practising his opening lines, whilst the Ghost of Old Denmark glided about covered in full body make-up. The disembodied voice of the RSC Director Gregory Doran politely invited the audience to "ensure that their mobile phones were switched off" as we Switzers contented ourselves with a very British series of manly handshakes and muttered wishes of "Good Luck!".
The back-stage prompt light turned from red to green and the opening line of "Who's there?" challenged the darkness of the auditorium