"You don’t know what the build-up of that story will do to a human being and how they’ll respond, and so to actually have them give you their response is the missing element, so we have to listen very carefully to what an audience is hearing and you hear the story again through their ears."
Emma discusses what happened in Tech Week, playing multiple roles and opening night of the tour and at the Globe.
Time: 11 minutes 5 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Phil Brooks: Thinking back to your tech week... how was that?
Emma Pallant: Our tech week was in Margate – seems like a million miles away – it was in Margate, which was in a theatre, so compared to a lot of places we’ll be playing on our tour which are mostly outdoors, we were very lucky, so we had a controlled environment. It was quite a small, beautiful – utterly beautiful – theatre building, which was a delight to play in, but it was a very small space because it’s one of those incredibly ornate, small, Georgian theatres, which is beautiful for its size and its chocolate-box feel, but it’s quite dinky. So, it was a bit of a squeeze backstage, but it went remarkably smoothly. There was a lot of information to take in. We had a lot of things to do; refining music queues, people’s availability because of quick changes, other actually very practical things were added in like paging curtains, holding things for people while they do their shoes up – so the physical backstage plot became a lot more complicated very quickly, so there was a lot of information to take on. In about two days we had to tech and then we got dress rehearsals, which was great to have a bit of a bash at it, and we learned a lot in those rehearsals, and then we did our first show and the audience were incredibly supportive – very vocal and it was a really special occasion and a very joyous opening to what is going to be the four-five months of doing that play!
PB: Is it really nice having that active, vocal audience for the first couple of ones especially?
EP: It’s really helpful because that is the element that you cannot rehearse – the audience. You can think you understand what a human being will do when you say a line, fall over, fall in love, hit someone… you can imagine what they might think – say – do, but you don’t know. You don’t know what the build-up of that story will do to a human being and how they’ll respond and so to actually have them give you their response is the missing element, so we have to listen very carefully to what an audience is hearing and you hear the story again through their ears, which is very helpful.
PB: And have they been reacting in ways that you expected or have there been some surprises in there as well?
EP: Yeah, I don’t think there’s been anything completely out of what we had imagined… there’s nothing really extraordinary, but I think the force of reaction has been really heartening and that’s been really lovely. There have been moments which we knew were funny or amusing – or amused us, which is very different! And then the audience have picked up on the scene or the character, but maybe in a different way, so things like that have come to light but nothing completely out of our imagination – out of the world of our imagination – has come up, but it’s been great fun to put it in front of an audience, definitely.
PB: And then recently, this week, you’ve been at the Globe as well – back at the Globe! How has that been back here?
EP: We have! Opening night here, at the Globe, was absolutely extraordinary – as it always is. There’s a very particular… I don’t know whether there’s a secret club of people that only come to the first show at the Globe or whether it’s just something about that occasion, but it always – from my limited experience – it always seems to be a really special night, and it didn’t disappoint. It was really extraordinary and terrific fun for the four people who – I think there’s only four – who’ve never performed here before to have that as their sort of initiation into the Globe experience. It’s always wonderful that that first night is always such a warm, welcoming and open spirited occasion. It always surprises me and is always completely joyful. There’s nothing like it – there’s nothing like it indoors and there’s nothing like it outdoors, really. The only vaguely similar thing I’ve ever experienced is the Globe in Neuss which is a very small - very, very small - but almost perfect replica in some ways because it has the same spirit to it – to our Globe – but that’s the only vaguely similar thing. I think it’s because of the proportions and the circular nature of it, so the audience are watching each other as well as the stage. There’s something about the shared light, the acoustic… it’s just a very special combination of elements that’s impossible to replicate anywhere else - certainly in my experience and that’s not extensive - but certainly on these tours it has a quality unlike anything else. Other venues have their own joys, you know, their own sunsets, and lakes, and mountains, and castles, and wherever you go there’s an element unique to that space, but the Globe really does have a special combination of elements, including the audience, which makes it kind of unbelievable.
PB: What would you say are the challenges of putting this production together?
EP: Of putting this production together… I think that the main challenge is playing multiple characters and playing multiple spaces, because all the elements change all the time. I think when you have to learn multiple characters in a play – in any play, which happens quite frequently in this country – I think you are always trying to remember what your character knows at any one point and often you’re guardian of different bits of information or to a scene where you have to show the audience that the information has weight as you learn it, so it’s trying to un-remember things through the play as one character because your other character already knows that thing’s happened, or to hold the emotion of that character as you drop that to become a comic character if you’re playing a sort of – a rather more emotional route, or to not let there be a hangover from a previous scene if you’re having to come in as a new character. I think that’s quite a challenge because they always go cheek by jowl in these productions. You go off as one and on as another quite often, and I think the other things is trying to imagine the challenges of each space and allowing your production to be elastic enough to take all of those elements into consideration while building it, while allowing it to be solid, so it can stretch and change in different directions enough to accommodate each challenge, but not fall apart. So I think those are the main challenges.
PB: Are there any scenes that are still proving difficult to unlock or are challenging in those sort of ways?
EP: I don’t think there are any scenes that are particularly difficult. I think places like the Globe are wonderful if you have a comic scene because reactions like laughter travel very quickly through a big group of people when they feel encouraged to respond, like the Globe, therefore it’s quite hard if you’ve got quite a sincere scene or a plotting scene, where you’ve got to get a lot of information over, or if you have a very different sort of comedy all of a sudden – so if you have an audience that are very into slapstick and you suddenly have a lot of wordplay – I think that those are some of the challenges, but then again when we play outside where we have that beautiful effect of the dusk coming down at different times through the year, you have a sort of natural focusing where those scenes become easier and in those cases sometimes the comedy is more difficult because the temperature drops and people are getting snuggly in their blankets, they’ve had a couple of glasses of wine, or have eaten half their picnic, or whatever, you know… so there’s a different sort of focus because the human being who’s the audience is always going to change wherever you go so I think the elements that are coming to us from the outside will always make certain scenes seem trickier, but there’s no one scene that we’ve not quite cracked. I’m sure there are little things about the whole play that we’d like to get better, but no-one thing that sticks.
PB: None of the ‘ah this bit’s coming up now’?
EP: No! None of that, weirdly! I mean there are things like the masque which is trick because we’re – not me, so much – but a lot of people are playing instruments and dancing, and speaking dialogue, and that’s an intricate web of timing and energy and breath – but I’m hoping we’re going to get fitter, so that becomes easier! So I think things like that are tricky and quick changes are getting easier, but there are sequences of scenes with quick changes in between which before that run of scenes begins and certainly I sort of go ‘oh god, it’s those six scenes back to back where I don’t really stop’. But no, I think we have a handle on the story and the emotional world and the social world of the play now – really tightly – and we’re just trying to get it better and slicker and funnier and more truthful as we go, I think.
PB: And then – sorry, jumping out a little bit – thinking back again to... I think you were just about to see the whole thing come together. How was it, now that you’ve got it all together as an entirety?
EP: It’s great – I don’t really know what it’s like... I think because I experience the play from inside it, but also from behind the set. It’s very hard to know what the arc is because of a lot of the show, for me, is taking shoes off and putting other shoes on and trying to get a hat over my hairstyle and do up buttons and not get my bracelet caught in my lacy dress and things like that. So there’s a lot about the play which is practical tasks backstage where obviously I’m trying to keep my character’s emotional life rolling in some degree, but there’s a whole play going on while that’s all going on, so it’s very difficult to know, but you can hear the audience are with it so I’m assuming it’s in great shape! Everyone else seems to be doing brilliantly! So, yeah, I think it’s a good story that people understand very readily. We’ve had a lot of responses of people have saying ‘I understood all of it!’ It’s the ‘I loved it, it’s the first time I didn’t feel afraid of Shakespeare now’, or ‘it’s so clear, I really understood the whole plot and the twists and the who knew what, when and...’ So that’s really gratifying… that it’s clear.
PB: My final question is – what is your favourite moment in the play?
EP: Oh god... my favourite moment in the play... I don’t really know, actually. That’s really hard. There’s something really special about walking out at the very beginning, here. There are moments... it’s different in every show because I think some nights an audience hears something in the play and they will all gasp, and you think ‘oh god that’s brilliant’, or there are lovely moments when there are laughs which you haven’t heard before when an audience suddenly gets it or an actor finds a way of playing a line differently, or you’ll see them find something on stage in the moment and so I don’t really think I have a favourite moment, actually... That’s terrible and not very committal, but yeah I think walking out for the first time and seeing everyone’s faces going ‘okay, what have you got for us?’ It’s quite an exciting moment, which is a good place to start, I suppose!
PB: Brilliant, thank you very much.
EP: Thank you.