This is Jules' second blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III in which she discusses progressing rehearsals, fight calls, and the challenge of playing multiple roles in a production.
Transcript of Podcast
It's now the fourth week of rehearsals and our main focus has been on the final scenes of the play. It's always tricky with the end scenes in Shakespeare's plays because it feels like the whole company is pulling all the threads together- trying to make everything fit into a lovely bow or knot so that all the stories are clear when we eventually come to the end of the play. Also, the final scenes of Shakespeare's plays often have the most cast members in them; they are the biggest scenes so it takes much longer to put them together. Within these bigger scenes, there are also lots of quick, little scene-lets in which I’m coming on and off stage all the time. I have to be very clear about all the information that I’m giving them in each scene-let because the play is rushing to a crescendo and I have to get it just right. Technically, these scenes (such as v.3; the Battle of Bosworth) are very difficult to orchestrate because there are so many people on stage. In that scene, there are two camps on stage and for the story to be clear for the audience (e.g. as to which army each person belongs to) we have to pay particular attention to staging and where we stand on the stage. As we use very little stage furniture at the Globe we have chosen to use thick ropes (very similar to ones that would be used to pull a boat) to indicate the two camps. The ropes can’t have any canvas over them as the audience would not be able to see what's happening inside but the idea is that the ropes will be a symbolic gesture of an army camp. We have also had to figure out how we’re going to bring the ropes on and how we are going to secure them, so this idea is technically quite complicated and needs a lot of thought.
Also this week we’ve been doing ‘fight calls’ because there are very specific parts of the battle that we have to show in a highly choreographed way in order to tell the story clearly; this has been another whole load of information to take on - the actual choreography of the battles. We have also been looking at the ‘ghost scenes’ (again, in act v scene 3). Quite often, these lines are cut from Richard III. I agree with the director that they should be kept in, but, once again, strategically and position-wise, it takes quite a long time to make them secure. If there are scenes featuring many people such as the ghost scenes, or the sword fighting scenes, the rehearsals become much more of a technical process then a creative process. Instead of thinking of the words and what our characters are saying we take a very structured approach of remembering where to be and when, and this requires lots of patience! I think the role of the director is particularly important in scenes like these because each member of the company has their own wants and needs and there is a necessity for somebody to take charge- it would be impossible for 15 or 16 actors to self-direct at the same time and it is at this point when I think: ‘I’m going to be quiet now and let Barry [Kyle, Master of Play] pull me into position.’ This approach can be frustrating and tiring because adrenalin isn’t running like it normally does when acting, but you have to show patience and goodwill, and once we go through this lengthy process and know where we should be and what we should be doing then we can work with Barry to add the creative input.
We’ve also had our sword fittings this week, we’ve been using the swords in rehearsal in order to get used to them. It's really interesting to have the swords in rehearsals, we now have to be much more aware of other people's space because swords are sticking out of the sides of costumes and it helps us to learn to leave enough space to get around people on the Globe stage.
Playing Multiple Characters
I’m very pleased that I’m playing many characters in the play, although when I first got the call to ask me to play all these fantastic characters I was very disappointed with the parts that I had been offered. I didn’t know the play terribly well and my ego came into play because I wasn’t offered any of the ‘big’ names like Buckingham or Hastings. I remember thinking that playing 4 parts is an awful lot and I’d just been doing a play where there was a lot of doubling-up of characters However, when I went away and looked properly at the parts that I had been offered I realised that actually I was going to be very busy during the show and it would be a positive challenge for me to make these 4 characters completely different from each other. In order to achieve different characterisations I’ve been looking at the various types of language that Shakespeare gives them to speak and the different rhythms that are within their speech. This helps me to discover the ‘physical motor’ of each character, for example, the Scriviner might be very quick and speak in quick, concise way, whereas much of Tyrell's language is similar to ‘reported speech’; therefore I see him to be slow and methodical. As an actor I always remember to focus on the language and rhythm of the text first, and then focus on the physicality. I start from the inside and try to understand the character's psyche, looking at their rhythms which come naturally from speaking the lines. Once I have the character's rhythm it starts to impact on the body and the physical language of the character.
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.