In her second and final blog post Ellie discusses how rehearsals have progressed, working on music and text, and preparing for her next role while still rehearsing Anne.
Transcript of Podcast
Anne Page has three suitors, who are all quite wealthy – Slender, Fenton and Dr Caius. Slender is her father’s favourite suitor; he knows the family well, so her father won’t lose touch with his daughter and he’ll have quite a hand in how the marriage works. The problem is Slender is a bit weird! We are not sure if he is completely unaware of just how he comes across. For example, he says he women are weak and easily scared, but what he really means is that he simply does not like the way women respond to dogs. She has never contemplated marriage with him at all, and is surprised when the proposal is made. Whereas she’s really fallen in love with Fenton, and can’t imagine being with anyone else. I’m trying to get a balance between feeling like a real person and the stereotype woman that everyone fancies.
Today we were rehearsing the scene with Slender (1.176-294). I’m just telling him to come in as dinner’s ready. But it turns into a miscommunication conversation, with me saying ‘Will you come in? They want me to come and get you, I can’t go in without you.’ It turns into this awkward situation of him making a big deal out of everything. I hope we can make it as funny as it’s meant to be. The way Anne is written is very direct and I think that’s quite Elizabethan – you say what you are thinking. It’s quite easy for a modern person to go ‘My goodness, what on earth is this guy doing?’ Trying to bring what’s happening across to a modern audience is quite hard.
Rehearsing on the stage
We’ve had a chance to go on stage, where I had to think ‘Gosh, where am I supposed to be in this scene?’ I have little movement because my scenes are so short and spiky. My temptation is to throw myself around; with the audience all round and the blind spots caused by the pillars I get paranoid about not being seen, so I find it much harder to be still. One morning I got a bit panicked about the re-blockings, thinking that I didn’t remember them. But with panic, you don’t connect, so I just tried to remember it.
We’ve had a costume fitting. I’ve got a proper dress with three layers. It’s really little and neat and cutesy. It’s gold with a gorgeous doublet in a lace design. It’s actually really helped me to allow her to feel more girlish.
Music and Dance
In two weeks is tech week, and I think we might run the whole show for the first time this Saturday. We blocked it quite quickly. Then we put in the music, which was good because it showed us where Chris [Luscombe, the director] is coming from. So next week there’ll be more joining up. We must be starting jig rehearsals tomorrow. I can’t wait. I love dancing.
We all sing and do our fairy dance, which is fun. And I’ve got a tiny duet with Fenton, which is really sweet. One day the composer came in. He’s underscoring some key moments to heighten them. It doesn’t feel like a musical – more like a sound track. Then there is the drinking song in the tavern, which becomes the jig.
Text work and voice work with Giles [Block, text expert] and Jan (Hayden-Rolls, voice expert] is so key. Initially, I think I was imposing too much on such a small amount of text; I was doing fifteen things more than necessary! I did try to make her a bit bitchy at first. You can completely turn the text on its head, but it’s just completely wrong for my understanding of Anne; I think she’s got to be true to the written text. So it was really good being simpler, constantly remembering the words and grammar and punctuation your character has chosen, and why. For instance, she uses really short sentences like ‘Not I, sir’, which actually mean, ‘This is what you have to do if you really want me.’ There is one sentence when her mother is trying to convince her to marry Fenton, and she says ‘I had rather be set quick i’th’ earth, / And bowled to death with turnips.’ (3.485-86). It’s quite weighty and muscular and I thought it was quite an imaginative description of death, but then the research team told me that this saying was popular in Shakespeare’s time, and the audience would have recognised it immediately, so it’s not quite as original as I first thought.
In the end...
The bottom line is she simply loves her parents. She doesn’t want to cause trouble, which is why she doesn’t want to elope. Whereas Juliet rushes to marry Romeo, I think she doesn’t have a relationship with her parents and Anne really does. She just loves them. The idea of going against her father she is like ‘No way. We can’t do that. We’ll just have to wait. He’ll get to like you in the end!’ She really is an optimist.
My next role
I start rehearsals for Liberty in mid-July. That’s enough time to let this show settle in. I think doing it this way round means I’ve got space. Anne is second to Elodie [the part she is playing in Liberty]. It’s interesting coming from Juliet [the part she played in the Globe’s Romeo and Juliet on tour in 2007] to all this. Juliet’s an amazing part and I felt so honoured. But I didn’t have much time to think about it on tour. We just had to do it, and deal with the cold weather and all, including me freezing in a bikini!
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as she goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.