“I think the nice thing about the part of Benedick is that it changes throughout the play. I think that’s a very delicious thing for an audience, to witness what goes through his heart and mind.”
In his first interview Simon talks about having performed Much Ado before, the changing nature of Benedick in the play, and what has been happening in rehearsals so far.
Time: 5 minutes 20 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Phil Brooks: Welcome to the Adopt an Actor podcast series. This is the first interview with Simon Bubb who is playing Benedick in the Much Ado About Nothing tour.
So how familiar were you with the play?
Simon Bubb: Fairly familiar. I was in a production at the RSC in 2006 in which I played the messenger. So we did that for several months at Stratford and then we did it for a month in the west end at the end of that as well. So knew it fairly well yeah.
PB: And your character of Benedick as well, what did you think of him once you started to read through the play and go through it all again?
SB: To be honest it’s a part I've wanted to play for a very long time. The, for a lot of people the very first time I ever came across this play was the Kenneth Branagh film in the early 90s. Which was in fact one of the first Shakespeare play I ever saw. And I was completely charmed by it and from that point onwards I wanted to play this part. And then working very closely with the play a few years ago I realised how beautifully written it is and how, if it’s not played badly, the audience should laugh a lot. So it’s a bit of a gift to an actor, which, I feel like I should be touching wood from now on, crossing myself as I say that.
PB: Are there certain things that stand out in the play for you?
SB: Yeah well, I think that nice thing about the parts of Benedick and Beatrice is that they change throughout the play. And I think that’s a very delicious thing for an audience to witness as throughout the course of a performance that they’re quite strongly one way at the beginning in terms of being against love and set in their own ways. And then they both have these soliloquys where it’s just them and the audience, just… the audience are the only people that get to see what goes through their hearts and minds as they completely change the way they think about things. And then the irony of the audience knowing why they’re then behaving like they are when the rest of the characters aren’t quite sure. And there’s just some fantastically funny lines. Shakespeare is often criticised for not being funny and that’s true in some plays, a lot of his jokes are just not worn well with time. But this play I do, you know, it’s one of the first ever romantic comedies and it’s brilliantly written in terms of Shakespeare’s sense of comedy in terms of the situation, and then the creation of characters and then a few one liners. Yeah, very well written.
PB: Have you started doing a lot of work looking at the text and those soliloquys and lines?
SB: Yeah, well started. We’ve spent a week as a group going round, sitting round a table looking at the text. And that’s been very useful actually because there’s been a very open and supportive atmosphere amongst the company. So going from the first to the last page of the text as a whole group, everyone’s felt very welcome to chip in and discuss not just their own character but each other’s and everyone has been open to hearing what suggestions there are as to what such and such a line means or what the overall mood of a particular scene is. So that’s been very useful yeah.
PB: A nice sort of discussion and ideas being thrown around…
SB: Yeah and you know people haven’t been offended by other people making suggestions. It’s been a very friendly atmosphere in the room so far. So far!
PB: Is there much preparation you do before a role like this?
SB: There’s a certain amount of research that you can do – I mean it depends on how the director has chosen to set it. We’ve chosen a 1950s Sicily setting. You can do a certain amount of research on that. The Glove very generously gave us each, all actors starting this season a copy of Giles Block’s book ‘Speaking the Speech’ which I’m working my way through reading on my way to rehearsals. And it’s brilliant, absolutely brilliantly written. There is a huge amount of research or just study that you can do on understanding the way that Shakespeare writes and seeing how incredibly detailed his clues and hints are to the actors just in the way he phrases things. I mean, Much Ado about Nothing famously has less verse in it than any play apart from Merry Wives of Windsor. So it’s mostly prose, so there’s not so much work we can do in terms of speaking verse. But still the choice to put things in prose has lots of lessons to teach us.
PB: And you mentioned that you have performed this play before with the RSC. Is there any other Shakespeare you have performed before as well?
SB: Well we did two other plays in that season, Romeo & Juliet and King John. And, I’m trying to think, I think since I’ve ben a professional actor I haven’t done other Shakespeare but I've done various ones at school and university and drama school as well. But its absolutely, it’s a pleasure to be working with such a good writer – that’s a bit of an understatement but it’s been a few years since I've done Shakespeare and its lovely to return to it.
PB: And have you – this is your first time performing at the Globe as well.
SB: It is I’m very excited about it yeah.
PB: Have you gone out onto the stage and looked at the space yet?
SB: Not yet no. We’re rehearsing here near Old Street so we’re not actually rehearsing at the Globe but hopefully we’ll get a chance to go out there. A couple of the people in the cast have worked there before and tell me it’s like nothing else so I can’t wait!
PB: Brilliant thank you very much.