Rachel Lea-Gray: Five tips for outdoor touring

Rachel Lea-Gray Rachel Lea-Gray
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Rachel Lea-Gray trained in musical theatre at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Since then she has worked in a wide variety of genres including musicals, plays and pantomimes. She recently completed her third season with Illyria Open-Air Theatre playing Katisha/Pitti-Sing in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. For her next stage role, she will appear in Princess Jasmine in Aladdin at the Princes Hall Aldershot. You can follow her on Twitter @rachelleagray

1. Diction, diction, diction

Never underestimate how important consonants are, especially those at the ends of words. For example ‘ing’ becomes ‘ing-uh’ at ends of words like ‘disguising’. The words should feel large in your mouth. Slow down your speech – it may feel unnatural to you but will sound normal to the outdoor audience.

2. Prepare for any weather

Expect the unexpected. This year we went from frozen fingers in Scotland to slathering on factor 50 sun-cream in Devon in the space of a week. You need to be prepared so it doesn’t affect your performance. Bug spray, waterproof trousers and a sun hat are all essentials.

3. Pick a face per character

Often in outdoor theatre you will be playing several characters per show, for example in The Mikado this year six of us sang the entire score. Pick an instantly identifiable face/accent per character you play as a base. The audience member at the back of a 500-strong crowd then instantly knows which character they are looking at. In Illyria we jokingly call this ‘facting’ (face acting).

4. Embrace the unnatural

Outdoor theatre requires skills that may be at odds with elements of your training. Deliver every line to the front and only turn back to the character you are talking to at the end of your line. Make gestures big. But do remember to turn off your outdoor voice when you’re not on stage.

5. Keep healthy

There are no microphones, so it is essential to keep your vocal health. Good sleep, keeping alcohol to a minimum and not singing along to musical soundtracks on long journeys will all help.