Quantcast
QUEEN MARY 2
CUNARD

ACTING UP ON
QUEEN MARY 2

A Look at
The Royal Academy of
Dramatic Arts Program

by Richard H. Wagner
Cunard’s ocean liners have a long history of hosting stars of stage and
screen as they traveled between Broadway and the West End.  However,
passengers on Queen Mary 2 can do more than just travel like a star.  They
may also follow in the footsteps of Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir John Gielgud,
Kenneth Branagh, Diana Rigg and Glenda Jackson by participating in the
program offered by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) onboard.  
This program includes not only acting lessons but theatrical performances
and poetry recitals by a company of RADA graduates.
RADA has an unparalleled history of teaching acting and theater-related
skills.    Founded in 1904 in London an early member of the managing council
and patron of the school was George Bernard Shaw who donated the
royalties from his play Pygmalion to RADA.   Over the next century, most of
the major names in acting in Britain studied at the school.  Many achieved
international recognition.     
The program on QM2 is run by RADA’s commercial subsidiary RADA
Enterprises Ltd.  Its stated “mission is to generate income which supports
RADA and its students by making available RADA’s unique skills, expertise
and assets to corporate, institutional and individual clients.”  Thus, it has
considerable experience in teaching acting to non-actors.    
RADA sends a company of six graduate actors to QM2 who are in residence
onboard for nine weeks.  “Cunard employs RADA trained actors so they are
getting actors from what is considered the world authority on theater
training.  They are getting graduates to come onboard, it is not the students.  It
is people who were students and who now actually work in the profession,”
explained actor Will Norris, who was the leader of one of the RADA troupes
that have conducted the QM2 program.   
Actors are selected by RADA to come onboard based primarily on the plays
that are to be performed on the ship during that period.  In effect, the actors
are cast for parts in those plays.  As a result, if the plays have more female
parts than male parts, the six-member company will include more women
than men.
Although they work onboard, the RADA actors have passenger status.  “We
get to go to all of the bars and we get to eat in the restaurants so we mingle
with the passengers quite a lot.  We have met quite a lot of interesting
people.  The people really seem to respond to it.”

The Workshops

The acting workshops on QM2 “give a very brief summarization of what we
do in our three years at RADA.”   Accordingly, the entry requirements are
considerably less rigorous than those for admission to the three year RADA
acting course that leads to a bachelor’s degree.  Candidates for one of the 34
places in the first year class of the RADA degree program not only have to
complete a written application but also have to sing and perform from
Shakespeare in a series of auditions. Passengers who want to attend the
workshops on QM2 merely have to come to the Queens Room ballroom at the
time designated in the ship’s Daily Programme.
Workshops attract from 30 to 50 people a session.  Most passengers attend
all three of the workshops offered during a transatlantic crossing but it is
perfectly permissible to come to just one or two.  Those who do attend all of
the workshops are entitled to receive a certificate stating that they completed
the program signed by the RADA team.
“On the whole, anyone coming to the workshops is coming for a fun time.  At
the same time, it is our responsibility to give them an insight into the types of
things we do.  At the end of these workshops, if someone has the confidence
to actually stand up and do some form of acting in front of people, then we
have done our job.  I think you create that by creating an environment where
they can have fun, which is a lot of what acting is about - - getting over that
nerve of performance.  Thus far, touch wood, we have been lucky and we
have managed it.”
The workshops begin with stretching and voice exercises that break the
tension that generally surfaces when a group of strangers first come together.  
As the group relaxes, the members of the RADA troupe alternate in leading
the group through acting exercises and improvisation techniques.  Almost
without realizing it, the passengers become relaxed and confident enough to
act out short scenes from Shakespeare by the end of the final session.  “There
was one young girl about 12 or 13 who came to the workshops.  She came in
and she was very shy but by the end of it, I wouldn’t say there was a
complete transformation, but we gave her some confidence to go away with.”
 Along the way, there is a great deal of laughter from both the students and
teachers. “We all really enjoy the workshops, it is quite a bit of fun, sort of
reminds us of being back in drama school. Some of the people have said it
was one of their favorite parts of the whole trip.  It is good that they enjoy it
and we enjoy doing it.”

The Play

The RADA troupe typically performs two plays during a six-day crossing.  
One is a Shakespeare play and the other is a more modern play such as Dylan
Thomas’ “Under Milk Wood” or Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being
Ernest”.  They are usually done in the afternoon and are versions that have
been condensed by the RADA faculty in London.
All of the parts in the plays are performed by the six members of the RADA
troupe, which means that each actor must play multiple parts.  “Once you get
used to running around backstage and doing very, very quick costume
changes, then it is great to play two parts and watch other people play two
parts and in some cases three parts.  It is a lot of fun.  In ‘Under Milk Wood,’
we all play about 17 characters.  It is a day in the life of a village in Wales
and so we are all playing endless amounts of characters.  It is great fun.”
 “If you are doing a show in the West End, you finish the show, sneak out the
stage door and you walk out into the jungle that is London.  Here, you finish a
show, you come out and you are probably going to be having dinner with
someone who saw it that afternoon.  I think in that way it is possibly more
gratifying because you are meeting your ‘public’ and you are actually finding
out what people thought.”

The Poetry Recitals

The third part of the RADA program was not part of the program when it
started but came about when one of the RADA companies asked if they could
do a poetry reading.  The performance was a hit and now there are usually
two performances during a crossing held in the Winter Garden prior to
dinner.  One performance will have a musician such as a harpist who
“underscores some of our poems.”  The second performance “which is just a
fun poetry recital of our favorite poems.”                                                   

CLICK HERE FOR PDF VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE

CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE RADA
ACTORS SEEN IN THE PHOTOS
There is more information and photos
about Queen Mary 2 on her profile page.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE
QUEEN MARY2 PROFILE PAGE
Above: Will Norris as Mercutio in
Romeo and Juliet.

Below: Michelle Luther as Juliet.
CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR
LARGER VIEWS
Louise Collins gives a poetry reading.
The RADA troupe prepares for an acting workshop
in the Queens Room on Queen Mary 2.
Cruise ship article - Queen Mary 2 - Cunard - Royal Academy of Dramtic Arts
BEYONDSHIPS HOME

CRUISE SHIP CENTRAL

CRUISE SHIP PROFILES

CRUISE LINKS

CUNARD PAGE

QUEEN ELIZABETH PROFILE

QUEEN MARY 2 PROFILE

QUEEN VICTORIA PROFILE

QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 PROFILE