This is Shaun's fifth and final blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, in which he talks about the first night performance, Aaron and Tamora's relationship, and coping with problems that arise whilst making the production.
Transcript of Podcast
First night was weird for so many reasons it's kind of hard to describe. What I do remember is that I don’t actually look up at the audience to see who's there for ages when I’m walking around. I literally get on stage and for 10 minutes I just don’t look around. I could just feel this buzz in the air which was really mad. If you ever go to football matches, or any big game that is really important or just that little bit more important than a normal game, then that is what this was like. It was like feeling that buzz around the stadium that something special was just about to happen. That is above and beyond the biggest feeling I get about that night. I was just walking around, not looking up but just feeling this atmosphere. For the first 20 minutes on stage, all I was working out was how I was going to say my first line! I’m not usually worried about things like that and I’m fine with it now but the first few nights I was really thinking ‘Right, there are some noisy people over here’ and working with things like that. I’ve done stuff where you can look at the audience before so you get used to the things that could put you off. Things like having someone yawn in your face or looking at someone just as they are putting their phone off. They aren’t even looking at you or they are chatting to their mate, whatever they are doing it can put you off when you are looking at them and trying to talk to them. You are always trying to affect the audience, and every audience is different. Some have more tourists in, others need the play explained more to them. So you are scoping out the audience as well and trying to work out what is best for them.
What is your first line?
And now climbeth Tamora Olympus’ top… I hadn’t talked to anyone about which words I could emphasise, I’d just done it myself. I worked out what I wanted to say – one of the things I did was think about how I would have said it in my own words. I put different meanings on it and said it different ways. So for example with ‘There is Tamora, climbing to the top of that mountain’, you can say it in a way that means ‘I can’t believe she is doing that, she is afraid of heights’ or it can be that actually she loves heights but doesn’t have any legs so I would sound astounded ! So there are always various ways of saying the same line and you’ve just got to say it the way that you feel about it.
Aaron and Tamora
From being prisoners at the beginning of the play to being higher in status to the people who caught us within the space of five minutes is, for me, just unbelievable. One moment you are a prisoner, the next the people who caught you have to bow down at your feet! So I think Aaron is very pleased with his situation. I think he is pleased for Tamora too because it is just as though your best mate has won the lottery, even if you secretly don’t like them that much, because if you are close to them then you’ll be thinking I might get a piece of something here! I’m pretty sure that is how he is feeling.
Coping with problems
In the last week there have been a couple of things that have gone wrong but it's like there was a massive gaping hole and we have all just closed it off collectively as a company. First, Simon [who plays Bassianus] was ill so someone had to fill in for him. After that, another actor was injured during a production – he dislocated his shoulder – so we’ve had to work around that with people covering other people's roles. He's fine now and back in the production. It's actually quite scary how well everyone has seemed to deal with it. I mean it didn’t really affect me because I am not with those characters for a start, so there were no rehearsals for me to have to come in and change stuff. But everything is going so swimmingly now!
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.