In her second blog post, Frances talks about starting rehearsals, her first impressions of her character and learning her lines.
Transcript of Podcast
Women in Antony & Cleopatra
In rehearsals, we’ve talked about the relationship between Charmian and Iras and Cleopatra and the other girl playing a servant. We talked about lots of things such as whether there is any hierarchy with Charmian and Iras. We talked about what the relationship was between me and Cleopatra.
Now we are just going through the scenes one by one. We read through a scene together and then we go through the scene again but instead of reading out our lines we say the lines in our own words. It means we can see what we are actually saying. It's quite funny because everyone has a different turn of phrase! But it's quite nice to actually get the ideas in your head, and we quibble over what we think things mean word for word so we end up knowing exactly what we are supposed to be portraying.
The next step is to just get on your feet. Just do it! There isn’t a lot of movement at the moment because the scenes we are rehearsing involve a lot of meandering at the moment; there is a lot of lolling about in Egypt to get the warmth and the sexiness of it. My character doesn’t have the huge big speeches so I have to work on how my character reacts to what other characters say.
First impressions of Charmian
I’m still finding out but I think at the beginning of the play she is quite playful once Cleopatra is gone. When she is with the soothsayer she wants to be told that she is going to have a lovely life and that everything is going to be great, she is going to marry kings, she is going to be beautiful and so on, and obviously Shakespeare is pinpointing through the soothsayer that no, she actually isn’t, because she dies at the end and it's not all rosy. It's important that she tries to make everything he says very positive and make it seem like it is rosy. I’m still finding out how much of that Charmian is pretending to be happy and how much of it she's slightly put out by or wary of. I’m still figuring out how much to give of each emotion. But throughout that there is her warmth; I think she is definitely a warm rooted woman, and I think she is actually very much old beyond her years. She's got an old head on young shoulders.
I’m not sure how old Charmian is. I would assume that she is perhaps 19 or something like that. I say that because it seems that she has maybe not met the love of her life yet or had many love affairs. However, being in Egypt I think she has had quite an open way of living and seeing what Cleopatra gets up to perhaps she might have had a few encounters! But I’m not sure, I haven’t worked that one out yet.
In some ways Charmian is a confidante for Cleopatra. She is the only one that can really pursue a point and really get her into trouble for being flighty and volatile and not protecting her heart enough with Antony. Charmian can act like a big sister, in a way, even though she is much younger. And Cleopatra is a very dangerous woman, and Charmian does tell her off so she must be quite brave! But Charmian does it through love for Cleopatra. She knows what to say and she knows when to step back. In some ways I think she has watched how other people have served her and how you are supposed to do things, and is able to fit with her like a glove. She just knows. She knows her every move and she knows before she even asks what she needs and what she is going to ask for.
There is so much humility in her and integrity. I think that integrity is the big word for her because she is the last one to die at the end and she has to hold the fort and make sure that everything is right and proper and that she does her duty and her job.
Having said that, the friendship thing only goes so far because Charmian is working for her and Cleopatra owns her. But at the end, I think it is really beautiful, and it upsets me when I read it. It's very emotional I think. And it will be lovely to capture that, and to get it right. Not to be sentimental or over the top but to do it well on the Globe stage. I’m looking forward to get working on that, because we haven’t done that yet.
I usually put them on a tape, on a Dictaphone and I usually end up learning almost everyone's lines in the scene because I’ll put my own lines and their lines too. I don’t just learn my cue, I tape the whole scene and learn it all so that I understand exactly what everyone is saying, so I understand the flow of ideas in the scene to not feel lost for where I am in the scene and just waiting to hear the last few words for the cue. It's important for me to be hearing the sense of action.
I don’t learn lines as well or as quickly from just reading the text. Also, I don’t learn very well if I haven’t done the scene so I usually do the scene, and know where I am with that, and then learn it. I suppose if you are playing a part as large as Cleopatra you do have to pre-learn some of it, or at least have a handle on it but luckily I don’t have to do that. I’d rather just do the scene first, learn it a bit from that, and then I know where I am, I understand it more and it goes in quicker.
These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as s / he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his / her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.