On Set With.....Haydn Gwynne
Haydn Gwynne, 51, best known as Alex in Drop The Dead Donkey, is starring alongside Kevin Spacey in Sam Mendesís new production of Shakespeareís Richard III at Londonís Old Vic theatre. Here, she gives us a sneak peek behind the velvet curtain...
Jump on the Tube to get down to Waterloo for our last run-through of Richard III, six weeks to the day since we all first met for the read-through. Iím playing Queen Elizabeth and thereís always something scary about a last run-through - especially in front of people like the director Sam Mendes and my fellow cast member Kevin Spacey. Kevinís playing Richard and Iíve known him since we worked together at the Old Vic three years ago. Sam runs a very relaxed ship though, so it ends up feeling safe and fun.
Straight after rehearsals we all rush off to the gala night of Shrek The Musical, because Sam is one of its producers. I book a taxi to take me and my two young sons across the river to Drury Lane, but - disastrously - a huge fire on the Strand means Waterloo Bridge is closed to traffic. I pop off my heels and run barefoot across town. Everyone is at the gala, from Judi Dench to Graham Norton, but my youngest son is most excited to see Harry Hill and we buy a programme for him to sign. Shrek is the perfect antidote to the murder and intrigue in Richard III.
I share a dressing room with Gemma Jones, who plays Queen Margaret. Ours is the nicest and used to be John Gielgudís. Itís just a hop, skip and jump from the stage. This is great relief as I once missed an entrance at the ESC in Stratford. Thereís nothing worse than realising itís your cue when youíre seven floors up.
For the first time, we all get into our wigs and glorious costumes. Weíre like excited school children whoíve raided a dressing-up box. I knew my long, dark wig (right) would be fantastic because itís made by Campbell Young, the king of wig makers. But Richard IIIís hump is giving Kevin trouble. He wanted something a bit different, but got what looks like an odd protrusion on his shoulder. By the time he gets to his first big scene, sexily wooing Lady Anne, everyone gets the giggles. So Kevin ends up with something more conventional and his appendage gets the chop.
First preview with a paying audience is a bit like losing your virginity - it will always be special, but you hope it gets better. Itís sometimes scarier than Press night, but it goes well and everyoneís very relieved. All the producers are there and they open the bar for us. Suddenly I realise itís after midnight and I run like a maniac for the last Tube, but I get there just as the doors are closing. I get home still buzzing but go to bed because itís up early for the boys and I must be fresh for tomorrowís matinee.