This is Shaun's third blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, in which he talks about learning lines, understanding characters and rehearsals so far.
Transcript of Podcast
Learning the script
When I’m learning my lines, it helps having a room to myself but I don’t always have the same method for every play I do. With this play, I feel I have to just learn the lines. Usually in a play you rehearse it and the lines go in as you rehearse it, but I am having to learn the lines. Sometimes I just go home because you never know how much time you’ll have in the day to do work by yourself. So every time I go home I try to give at least half an hour to getting something in my head. I find it more difficult to understand Shakespeare than most other plays so the understanding is important. If you understand what this character is saying it will go in a little quicker. You have to kind of paraphrase. Don’t even try learning it if you don’t know what they’re saying. Sometimes you do learn it and you don’t really know what you’re saying but a lot of the time that's when you’re kind of dry on stage because you just haven’t got the thoughts to connect it. So I’ll learn it all kinds of ways: using a Dictaphone or looking at the script. Not that I’ve got a photographic memory but sometimes remembering what the speech looks like on the page as you’re learning it also helps as well. I have a special way of getting those lines in so I’m not thinking about being scared that that line's coming up. I don’t want to be doing that on stage, so more often than not there won’t be anything now that I’m struggling with because I’ll make sure before I learn it that I know what I’m saying. All of it I struggled with when I first started reading it, all of it, all the lines, most of them I did! But now if there's a line I’m unsure about then I’ll set speed and make sure I know what it means before I try and learn it.
Understanding other characters
In rehearsals we read through the scene and then Lucy [the director] will say initiate a discussion about each speech. We’ll go over the scene and everyone who's in that scene with speaking parts will say their line then say what that line means and if they are not quite sure, Lucy will help out or someone else might chip in and suggest something and then it's opened to debate for a minute…or 25! So we’ve been doing that in this production but it isn’t always the way. It can be really beneficial to know what other characters are saying. Shakespeare did a lot of things with balancing. He puts some words in one character's mouth in a situation but sometimes it mirrors or informs what someone else is doing. So more often than not, it really does help to know what other people are saying. Sometimes in Shakespeare, as an acting exercise, you are asked to find out what all the other characters in the play say about your character. Sometimes two or three people will talk about your character and sometimes those lines very revealing, both about the character who's saying it and also the personality of your character, which will inform how you’re going to play it.
I don’t think there is a character that is particularly linked to Aaron. I suppose Tamora is for obvious reasons. There is no other character like Aaron in the play. He's a slave who's is now being treated like a lord. There's no precedent set for that, he's the only person. I don’t even think I know any other Shakespeare plays in which that happens. He's also a moor. The only thing he has in common with Tamora is the fact that they’re scheming, and they’re very, very good at that and I think he admires that in her. I think he likes, if not loves, her for that. It's like she's his soul mate in a way.
Rehearsals so far
We’ve been getting it up on its feet, although we did do that last week too. I think Lucy's trying to get the moves and the speech united for us in our brains which I think is probably quite good. A lot of the time with performances of Shakespeare, you see people stood on stage and they don’t really know what they’re doing, they don’t know why they’re standing there and they look uncomfortable - it just shows, you can tell. The way we’re approaching the play means that the cast is going to know what they’re doing and what their purpose is. They know who everybody else is and they know what they feel about the other people. Sometimes on stage you can see people just not reacting to anything and that's frustrating to watch. If your character hates another character, you talk to him showing your hatred - even if you’re not spitting venom, you hate that guy and you need to remember that. Sometimes you can forget these things because it's Shakespeare so you deliver your line very well but then you stop acting. I think what we’re doing with this is delivering our line and knowing where your place is on stage and why you are there so you know what to do when you’re not saying anything.
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.