This is Liam's sixth blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard II in which he talks primarily about moving from Middle Temple Hall to the Globe and the implications of this.
Transcript of Podcast
Performing at the Globe
It is the first night of Richard II at the Globe tonight. We’ve got a dress rehearsal at 1.30pm and then the preview at 7.30pm. I’m feeling OK about it just now. I woke up this morning and was all nervous but then I thought to myself ‘Come on Liam – just go for it’. It's a funny way to come into a show because it's not our actual first night – that was at Middle Temple Hall – and so it's a weird half and half feeling. Half of me is nervous, and the other half of me is just feeling weird. It feels oddly unfair! I mean, I did all that work and we opened at Middle Temple and I’d just reached a degree of confidence, comfort and assurance, and then it has suddenly all been taken away from me and I’ve had to change to another space. It seems a bit unfair – although that sounds really childish! I just want to wave a magic wand and have done with it so that I can get back to that feeling of confidence again.
Hopefully we’ll bring all of the character work and relationships with us to the new space – that shouldn’t be lost just because we’ve changed venues – and so it is the really mundane things left to worry about such as whether are you coming on and exiting through the right door, where is your sword, whether I can find my props in time, and so on. All that stuff. We’ve only had 48 hours to practice all that really and so I’m quite nervous about it. Obviously it's going to be easier for those of us who’ve played the Globe before; at least we’re familiar with the tiring house area backstage. I guess the guys who haven’t played at the Globe will be more even more nervous than me! But the nice thing is they don’t show it. They seem just the same. There's no difference between those who have and those who haven’t in the way that they carry themselves whilst on the stage.
Adapting to the Space
It has been fairly easy to move the performance from one space to another. We’ve had to adapt bits obviously, but on the whole it has been quite straight forward. The main difference is the size of the playing space: we had been playing a long, narrow hall and now we’re playing a fat, wide stage. It's kind of about spreading things out sideways. There's also the height of the Globe to remember as well: I think that can get neglected sometimes. That upper gallery is a long way away, especially for the people who are sat up at the sides. And as ever, first and foremost the main difficulty has been coming to terms with the pillars. At Middle Temple Hall we were lucky in that it was a big open floor space and everyone in the audience could see everyone who was in the scene at any given time, but it's not like that here. The group scenes are the trickiest to perfect where we are all on stage at once, and also the jig, just because of the volume of stage traffic. The scenes where there are just two or three people speaking are fairly straightforward to re-set as there is plenty of room. They kind of look after themselves really - you just go on and hopefully find a good position. A lot of exploring will happen over the course of doing the previews and the first three or four shows. We’ll begin to experiment with the space once the audience are in.
We are using most of the same stage furniture that we had at Middle Temple Hall. The throne has been a little bit tricky because we have to trundle it on and off as required. It was fine at Middle Temple Hall because the shape of the stage meant we were able to leave it positioned at one end, but here it would block the main double door entrance. So that took a bit of work but I think we’ve cracked it now. It's scary if you enter through the same entrance in front of it because the stage management team push it on really fast and you almost get run down by it! The jousting scene is OK too. It wasn’t too tricky and we’ve actually simplified it a bit. At Middle Temple Hall Bolingbroke and Mowbray actually started the fight but now we don’t do that – we just square up to each other and then Richard stops the action immediately. Tim Carroll [Master of Play] decided that was better. I suppose most of the tension should be there in the build-up anyway. If anything maybe doing the first couple of moves of the fight were a release of that tension. So I think I know what Tim's doing with it and hopefully it will work. I think his idea is basically that, in terms of telling the story, if Richard can’t take the gamble by letting us do even a couple of moves or the pressure of either of us dying (which is basically what we’ve decided for this production as to the reason why he stops the fight) then why would he take the gamble of us even doing a couple of moves? You could always just get lucky with the first move and kill the opponent. I think we had just slightly misjudged that originally. Why would Richard take that chance if it's such a big deal and one of us could easily kill or badly wound the other?
I’ve been thinking over the joust again recently. I believe Bolingbroke is sure he can win. Obviously there's a flesh and blood human being at the centre of this and there is a certain amount of fear and adrenaline and nervousness that it is natural for him to be feeling, but aside from that I think he believes in going into a fight to the death that he will be the one who comes out alive. That is a necessary part of the whole preparation for it. I guess that in sporting situations like this (and modern day boxers must feel the same) self belief is eighty percent of it, if not more. I think that aspect runs right through Bolingbroke's character – we don’t see or hear him having any internal debates about the rights or wrongs of his actions. He's never less than whole-hearted in everything he does and while he has concerns about where all this is going to lead, in the heat of the moment he feels he has no alternative. He is instrumental in bringing about changes which are extreme but necessary. There's a certain amount of personal ambition tied up in his actions, but I think to reduce his motivation to personal ambition alone is wrong. Ambition is a complicated thing. People have all sorts of motives for doing what they do and often they don’t understand these reasons – they just feel some kind of destiny. History does throw up the right person. Sometimes you look at history and think that if a particular person hadn’t been around, then things would have been very different. That is true of Bolingbroke.
Middle Temple Hall
The best thing about performing at Middle Temple Hall is the place. It lends itself to certain scenes so beautifully; the parliament scene, for example. It occurred to me after a few shows that in that scene, when we’re sitting in those magnificent red and white robes on those wooden benches, we could almost be on a film set. People would have sat on benches like those in Richard's time. The Hall's beauty and antiquity also leant itself to certain court scenes as well – the wood, the stained glass, the atmosphere, and the smell meant we felt like we fitted in comfortably there. The backdrop and surrounding supported us. The audiences were really close to the action, too. When we start here [at the Globe Theatre] I expect we’ll get a different feeling again from the audience – a blast not of irreverence but roughness. There’ll be eating and drinking and fainting and commenting. I hope it's busy. I’ll remember tonight!
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.