This is Yolanda's first blog post. This week she discusses the experience of returning to the Globe, the work the company have done in rehearsals and her first impressions of Beatrice.
Transcript of Podcast
Back at the Globe
This time round I was asked very early on if I’d like to play Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, so I didn’t go through the process of auditioning. I was just offered the part and I really wanted to play it so I said ‘yes.’ It's great to be back – it's a very special place and I loved being a part of the first female company last season. I’m excited to see how we’ll move forward as an all-female company this year. We’ve only been in rehearsal a few days, but I think it does feel more natural this time round… having said that, I never found myself thinking ‘Where are the men?’ so last season can’t have been too odd! When we were doing our first read-through, the fact that we were all women never struck me ‘Ooh, look a whole bunch of women’. It does just feel absolutely natural. It's a fantastic company and I’m thrilled to be part of it.
First thoughts about Beatrice
It's such a famous part; everybody seems to have their favourite line and strong opinions and their favourite Beatrice moments - ‘Isn’t it wonderful when… Isn’t it extraordinary when …’ - which is lovely but it can also be quite daunting. When I first read the play, I realised I was reading it with all those people's thoughts in my head and I didn’t actually have a pure core of what I thought she was like, of my own first impressions about this person. Obviously I did have certain ideas, but through the games we did yesterday I found that she is a very, very lively person. Some people say that she's a feminist or that she's like a spinster- my idea is that she's full of joy. They do say of her that she's a very merry woman but it's not just her wit, it's not just the use of her words, it's also the way she conveys them – that's what I became aware of yesterday. We did exercises that involved going through the lines quickly and cue jumping and I found out that her mind works very quickly – somehow it made me think ‘What's she trying to hide?’ So now I’m thinking that her exterior involves playfulness and sharpness – but immediately I feel that there's something hidden and my task is to uncover this.
This is our third day and everything is going well. We had our Meet and Greet on the first day, so actually this is only the second day of proper rehearsals, but so far so good! We’ve mostly been going through different aspects of the rehearsal process here, for people who are new to the Globe. The process here is a bit different because you have sessions with the Masters of Voice, Movement, Dance, and Words, as well as rehearsals were you look at the play, so it's good to get an overview of all those different elements at the beginning. We’ve had our first group sessions with Giles [Block, master of Words] and Stewart [Pearce, Master of Voice].
I found comparing verse and prose with Giles very helpful, because a huge amount of Much Ado About Nothing is written in prose – I can’t remember whether it's only twenty or thirty percent verse – and we’ll need to be aware of the differences. We looked at the reasons why characters suddenly start to speak in different ways … if someone switches from verse to prose or from prose to verse, there's always a reason. We talked about the idea that Shakespeare often uses prose for scheming and plotting while verse seems to come from the heart and express a character's inner feelings. The few times that people do speak verse in Much Ado About Nothing, is when they talk about love or themselves. Beatrice speaks in prose until she decides to love Benedick, and then I’ve got a short piece of verse that's almost a sonnet:
What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true?
Stand I condemned for pride and scorn so much?
Contempt, farewell! and maiden pride, Adieu!
No glory lives behind the back of such.
And, Benedick, love on; I will requite thee,
Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand.
If thou dost love, my kindness shall incite thee
To bind out loves up in a holy band.
For others say thou dost deserve, and I
Believe it better than reportingly.
I think Beatrice realises she's got to change and therefore I will love Benedick; her feelings change and so the way she speaks changes too.
We looked at individual responses to voice work during our session with Stewart this morning. The people who had played at the Globe in previous seasons shared their experiences of that stage and what had worked for them, in terms of voice. Something new came up: Belinda [Davidson, Don Pedro] was in the first season and she said that women's voices on this particular stage can be quite difficult to hear sometimes. I think she mentioned it was something to do with the general quality of the sound, which is interesting because the original Globe theatre was made for a company of male actors. Belinda's idea really set me off thinking: what is the different quality in a woman's voice within the structure of this theatre that makes a male resonance work better? Is it something we’re not doing, or are there acoustic features of the building that mean a male voice is more resonant? Is a male voice really more resonant?
Having said that, Sarah [Woodward, Dogberry] commented on a performance of The Taming of the Shrew that she had seen last season – she had been able to hear the female company perfectly. The possibility of difference is something to bear in mind. I’ve also just started individual voice work with Stewart (as well as group work, we all have individual sessions with the Masters). Right now I’m trying to find my personal note; where ‘home’ is for my voice and where I feel comfortable.
We didn’t have a normal read-through in rehearsals yesterday. Tamara [Harvey, Master of Play] decided that we should sit in a big circle and the centre of the circle became the stage. We went through the play and when it was your turn to speak, you got up into the middle of the circle. Every time you referred to another character, you had to point at them: it wasn’t just names that you had to point out, but other referential terms of address like ‘he’, ‘thee’, ‘thou’ and ‘them’ … each time, you had to point at who you were talking about. Sometimes ‘them’ referred to characters that weren’t in the play and we had to invent them: we had to decide who ‘they’ were and you pick them out of the group. Whenever you pointed to someone to make them a character, they had to stand up and then sit down again. This was a really good game because it meant that we got to go through the whole play and really understood not only who the people in our lines were, but also that there are different characters like Cupid and Hercules that we had to invent.
It took a while to go through the whole play, but doing it in this way meant that there wasn’t the pressure of having to make a performance out of our first read-through: we were trying to bring a greater clarity to the play instead of ‘performing’ it. One thing which we all discovered is that in this particular play, people onstage are always talking about people offstage; they’re not just talking to each other but always talking about somebody else- almost as if they’re always gossiping about other people. We very rarely found ourselves pointing at people in the centre of the circle. I’m interested in how this gossiping and eavesdropping links to the work we’ve been doing with Giles on prose and verse: as I said, Much Ado About Nothing is largely written in prose and perhaps that's because, in Shakespeare, verse is often spoken directly from the heart. Very few people seem to be speaking directly to each other in the play.
We did another great exercise when we went through the whole play again. This time we moved all the chairs out of the way and stood touching the wall. Whenever we got to one of our lines, we had to run to the centre of the space to speak. We also had to interrupt each other and speak the lines very, very quickly … we were never allowed to have a pause. You had to jump in and start speaking just as the person before you got to the last two words of their speech. This meant we got through the play very, very fast – I thought this was interesting because sometimes with the speed and interruptions it seemed incredibly natural. Perhaps this is because saying the lines in this way brought them closer to natural pattern of speech. I think we’re going to be playing games for a while, until the end of the week when we’ll start to look at individual scenes. I can’t wait to start on Beatrice's scenes.
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.