"At the Globe, the biggest character in any play is the audience." James discusses how the eventual presence of the Globe audience has influenced his choices in rehearsal.
Time: 6 minutes 32 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
So, how have the jig rehearsals been going?
Fine! Although, I don’t feel like we’ve done an awful lot of them. But I always sort of feel that. I suppose because I find I always get to tech not knowing the jig at all. And I only really work out how on earth it works during tech. That’s because I’m quite slow at learning these things. But I think it’s in quite a good place – I don’t know. It’s finished; we know what it looks like. It comes out of various bits that are already in the show, in terms of the masque and there’s some gestures and things that are in the masque. So, there’s quite a lot of movement and dance within that dance section. So, then really, the jig is picking that back out. It’s very weird (jigs) always, because you feel what you’re doing is quite simple, but the combined effect of lots of people doing a series of... sort of like doing harmonies in a piece of music. What you’re singing is quite simple, but the overall effect sounds rather complicated. Similarly, with the jig, you’re doing stuff that’s relatively simple but the overall effect of everyone doing their own little bits suddenly makes everything look very elaborate.
What role does music play in this production?
At the moment, I’m uncertain because we don’t have any of the musicians with us, at the moment, in the room. Clearly, the music is connected with magic in the play generally. But there’s a number of bits of confusion that I have. I think at the moment my song (when Caliban sings) is underscored, which, at the moment, I think sounds very weird because I don’t know why it would be. And I think, at the moment, Stephano’s song (as he enters) are underscored, which strikes me as a bit weird because later on we notice music being played by Ariel and go, “ooh” and all get rather freaked out. So, it seems a bit weird that that’s being fed in as a texture. But, as I say, I don’t really know how settled that is. As I understand it, music in the show (and in the play in general) is associated with magic. But that’s not to say that we aren’t, as an audience, able to be more metatheatrical about things and understand that it’s a play. But those balances are things for a director and musical director to work out.
How have your initial impressions of your character changed or been confirmed since the start of the process?
I’ve gone down a long, circuitous journey with it. And I had some very firm ideas before I started that sort of got jettisoned because of the way the design was. Then I immersed myself in lots of thinking about the devil and Caliban’s relationship with devils. I’ve read a lot about renaissance and medieval devils. And then, of course, you sort of drop that – like everything – and then that falls away. And then it’s been formed and you find things in the play that seem to be helpful. But then, ultimately, they all get dropped as pieces of irrelevant research and academe that have no real bearing on the reality of playing scenes with people. But it’s still sort of bedrock. And I’m finding him more sympathetic again. There was a point at which I was thinking, “Well now, screw it! I’ll just be bad. He is just bad. His motives are all bad.” But then, one stops doing that. And anyway, you can’t play that. It would be a mistake to overtly play evil, even if Caliban’s motives are all bad. So, I’ve softened on him and I’ve gotten kinder to him. He’s also seeming to be both more stupid and more intelligent, by which I mean (intelligent is wrong) stupider but swifter in thought, like a dog can be, you know, not very bright. One can want somebody dead and be in love with them and flip between the two things much more stupidly and much more quickly and cleverly than I. Or that is what I am thinking of doing at the moment. And it hadn’t really occurred to me before, meaning that Caliban is much more goldfish-y. It seems that Stephano is quite goldfish-y, but one could allow Caliban also to be quite goldfish-y, in terms of having one idea and dropping it, another idea and dropping it, another idea and dropping it.
I just want to get stuff more up to pace. It means you can start imagining the audience. Because I’ve always thought that at the Globe the biggest character in any play is the audience, you don’t really know what you have until the audience is there. And it’s as well to start thinking about them without actually knowing how they’re going to play. And that’s having a consciousness of how they might react to various bits, having a consciousness of talking to different levels of audience: the audience that are in the gods, the audience that are in the middle gallery, the audience that are in the lower gallery (sitting), and then the people in the groundlings. One can chart a geography of thought amongst them and know, in advance, who you want to talk to at different points and cast them: cast the different tiers and things. I’ve always thought that’s quite helpful in this space because one of the best ways of keeping everybody engaged and warm in the room is to make sure that you make connections all the way around fairly fluidly and constantly. Meeting people’s eyes everywhere and finding reasons to be looking and speaking seemingly to yourself or to other characters whilst also talking directly into somebody’s eyes somewhere else around the room. So, that’s something else that one’s starting to put into one’s imagination because you don’t want to be out there dealing with that without preparation, it seems to me.
What have been the highs and the lows of the past few weeks?
I don’t know. The high is that I think the show is in really good shape. I think it looks really nice. I love getting to a point where you feel a real affection for a production or a show and a concern for it because you like it and you think it’s working and you think you’ve made some good work and you hope that people like it. And that’s a nice sensation: to feel protective of it on some level in your mind. There are some really beautiful things happening in it. One of the nice things about this one [this show] is that it’s very broken up: the courts are over there and we don’t see them rehearsing and we, the clowns, are over here and they never see us. So, all the groups are kept separate and then, when you come to them and you see the whole thing together, you see some really lovely things that other people have made and you go, “oh wow! This is really beautiful.” It’s such a weird play. It’s so endlessly peculiar. And it looks like you can understand it and you can’t. And you think something very profound is happening but you can’t quite work out what the profundity is. And that’s all there, so that’s lovely! And on the down side, I suppose I’ve made various decisions about the way I move and that means that my legs are really hurting. I mean, it’s much more fluid and whatever seems appropriate: to being on one’s stomach at various points like a snake and to be a dog or to be a monkey or to be something crouchy or to be something jumpy or strong or swift or uncomfortable. So, I’m doing all of those things, but it just seems that a huge amount of it is being done by my major thigh muscles.