“If you’ve got a part with a lot of text or history or analysis hanging round about it there are so many places you can go to for help. But the minor characters are really hard because you’ve got so little to go on, in a weird sort of way you’re spinning in space – you can do anything.”
In her second interview Emma talks about what’s been happening in rehearsals so far, the key relationships in the play for her character and the challenges of playing multiple roles.
Time: 6 minutes 26 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Phil Brooks: So welcome to the Adopt an Actor Podcast series. This is the second interview with Emma Pallant who is playing Beatrice.
And how have rehearsals been going?
Emma Pallant: Rehearsals have been going great thank you, we’ve been ploughing on. Max [Webster], the director has got a very definite plan on how he likes to, or wanted to rehearse this particular play anyway, which is that we did a week of table work, which I think is when we last spoke, we’ve just finished that. And then we went through each scene one by one, and spent a good couple of hours playing around with different versions, talking about what was really going on, what might be going on, what people could possibly be playing in terms of are they trying to make someone give over some information, are they trying to boost them, are they trying to trick them. You know just basic intentions for each character and varying those slightly to see if that would affect the scene. And getting them to a point of running them. And now we’re off book which means obviously that we know our words, and so we’re running those in a more detailed way, and a bit freer. And Max has given us more specific notes. Having done a sort of sketch run we’re now doing more detailed work.
PB: Is there anything that you have noticed about your characters language and the text?
EP: I don’t know if there are any new discoveries about the text as such I think because I was fairly familiar with it anyway. But there are a lot of interesting game playing – there is a lot of interesting game playing between her and Benedick obviously. But also looking at what she’s doing when she speaks, I think we spoke about that briefly last time, that trying to work out how much of her is a performer, how much of her – that’s just her natural speech pattern, whether she does it when she’s nervous or when she’s comfortable or what level of merriness there is, because she’s described as merry and what level of disdain there is because she’s described as disdainful. Obviously by different people for different reasons, but it’s trying to get that level of, sort of, whether she’s aggressive at all in her humour, or whether it’s just that when she turns that on you, that’s what you need to be afraid of, if that makes sense. So it’s whether there is an overriding quality to her character or whether she’s just completely mercurial and that’s what makes her good company. I don’t know.
PB: Jumps around from one…
EP: Yeah exactly, so just working through that really to try and balance the character out at the moment.
PB: Are there any relationships that are important to your character?
EP: Yeah loads of things in the play, which are very important. It’s been very interesting actually this week, obviously there’s Hero who’s her cousin, she lives with her. Weirdly they don’t have a lot of stage time because that’s the story that happens before the play begins almost, is that they live together and we know that they have been bedfellows, they shared a room, maybe even a bed for a year. So they are very close, like sisters. And then there is Leonato her uncle that she lives with, there’s Benedick, who is an old flame of some description or an old colleague or an old sparring partner or whatever. The level of friendship or the lover relationship is up for grabs really. It’s one of the only stories we have really I think in Shakespeare where there’s an actual story that happens before the play begins. She’s definitely there, but it’s not described in any detail so it’s sort of up for grabs for the actors to make a decision, actors and directors of course to make a decision about what that is and how intense it was. So there is that relationship. Then there are all these new relationships that come in, obviously she knows Claudio slightly but they very seldom speak to one another, its quite brief. Pedro is new, Don John seems new so I think, well obviously everyone is important whoever you come across in the play. But I think they key ones really are Benedick and Leonato and Hero. And Margaret and Ursula as well who are the waiting gentlewomen of the house who would have a very intimate relationship with.
PB: Have you found any specific scenes or moments that seem to be quite important as well, for her?
EP: Yeah, definitely. I think when she first meets Benedick in they play they’ve, in our version we’ve made a decision about how long it’s been since they met. So I think just that first encounter is just important because it revives this old spark that we’ve just briefly discussed. And they’re seizing each other up in that scene. The scene in the church is probably pivotal to the whole play, where Hero goes to get married to Claudio and that’s thwarted. And that’s where the whole play turns, the mood turns, everything turns. The whole event, all of the events of the play are spun on a sixpence, so that’s probably the biggest event of the play, also for the Beatrice Benedick relationship it’s incredibly important because it’s the first time they really speak honestly to one another.
PB: And how are you finding it – You’re used to being on tour as well and multiple roles, how do you find it playing -
EP: I am I’m playing Verges as well yeah. It’s actually far more difficult, I think as soon as you’ve got… If you’ve got a part with a lot of text or a lot of history or a lot of analysis hanging round about it, you know there are so many places you can go to for help. You know the text obviously first and foremost, you can look at the language you can nick other people’s ideas, you know whatever. But the smaller characters are really hard because you’ve got so little to go on, in a weird sort of way you’re spinning in space – you can do anything. So I’m trying to work with Chris [Starkie] who’s playing Dogberry to find a double act because essentially Verges is a sort of, not a straight man but he’s the sidekick of Dogberry and that has to balance well so we’re just looking at that at the moment. But there are a lot of incredibly quick changes in the second half, I’m not even gonna think about them yet, there’s no point! But yeah that’s gonna be technically quite tricky, that is gonna be a real challenge
PB: coming in weeks to come!
EP: Yeah in tech, I think we’ll look at it then. But yeah that’s going to be, I’m gonna say fun, I’m gonna say fun, I’m gonna go with the positive. It’s going to be a really fun challenge for that part of our process
PB: Brilliant thank you very much.
EP: Thank you.