In Frances' third blog post, she talks about watching a Globe production, developing her character and seeing her costume for the first time.
Transcript of Podcast
Watching a production at the Globe
On Tuesday I had a very good night because I went to see Titus Andronicus which was very exciting. It blew me away. It's so gruesome! I was standing as a groundling in the yard so I was in the midst all of the action. I was excited as an audience member but also as an actor because I was thinking about being up there on the stage in a couple of weeks. It brought it all home to me and made me think it's time to get down to business now. It made me really excited!
Warm ups and exercises
Before rehearsals begin, every actor does some sort of warm up to prepare them for the day. I just do a small vocal warm up and I don’t do any physical warm up at the moment because I’m not being extremely physical. I will do a physical warm up when I do more active stuff during the run. To warm up my voice, I just hum because you have to be quite gentle if it is first thing in the morning. This space does demand quite a lot vocally, so you need to prepare properly.
We are getting to the point where everything is coming together. Rehearsals now involve a deeper analysis of the relationships between characters and it feels as if I am getting to know everything a little bit better. At this stage, we can spend more time with what is actually going on in each scene rather than just the logistics of it. It is such a vast script and there are lots of little scenes that come in as little episodes so it's nice to go over those again. Once you have already done the play you can kind of revisit it with a different eye.
The first scene with the soothsayer has been interesting to look at again. In the scene, he predicts what is going to happen to Iras and Charmian. I think the first time we did it I wasn’t taking on board what the soothsayer is saying and I was being quite frivolous and making a trifle of his words. But I think this time round I have definitely started to take things on board and to portray an underlying worry in Charmian. At the same time, Charmian can’t let the worry show because she is trying to have a good time. There is definitely more depth to it than when I first did it.
There's one line in which the soothsayer says that I’ve already had the best days of my life and the rest is not going to be as good as what I’ve already had, which is quite a hideous thing to say! Charmian tries to deflect by saying that she's clearly going to have lots of bastard children, that they are not going to have a father and that I’m not married…. but deep down Charmian is worried. I think now that she is much more wary of the soothsayer and it's interesting because I find myself connecting much more with Peter who is playing him.
So in rehearsals I’m just being a bit of a multi-tasker, trying to bring more things to the scene. There are many more layers which is good because you don’t see a lot of the inner workings of some characters because they are not the main characters, but as an actor it's good to be able to think this is what is going on in her mind. Hopefully that colours it and makes it more interesting from the audience's perspective.
Egyptian and Roman women
I’ve done quite a lot of research about Egyptian women and more generally about the status of women at that time in Egypt. Women were very much on a level with men, which is terrific. The Egyptians had a lot of foresight in that way and I think the Romans found it very difficult to deal with. Not only were women equal with men but a lot of the women also had their own finances and property and were very much their own people. Women were still in charge of the housework and still had domestic duties but I don’t think women were viewed as second class citizens because of their gender.
Roman women were much controlled by men. They were mastered by their men, whereas I think the Egyptian women probably mastered their men! Apparently, that all ended with the fall of Cleopatra and therefore the fall of the Egyptian reign. The more Roman influence became part of their culture and that equality started to crumble.
The gender equality makes you feel as if you have a bit of status even if you are just a servant. I actually read something on the servants the other day. It was about a servant being much higher than a slave but at the same time a servant is still owned by their master. I think Charmian would have had a lovely life and she would have started being a servant from a very young age. I think Cleopatra would have valued Charmian highly because Charmian would have grown up around her and to some extent Cleopatra can talk to her as if she is her sister.
I had a fitting for my costume this week. It's lovely! I thought the designer would be going for all kinds of bright colours but instead there are lots of greens and browns and beiges. I think when people think of Egypt they think of colourful, highly sensual, voluptuous images and I think my costume reflects some of those ideas. It is quite sensual without being overpowering.
My outfit will complement what Cleopatra wears because we are creating Charmian as a kind of ‘mini-me’ of Cleopatra. Charmian desperately loves Cleopatra and she is the first point of contact for Cleopatra. Charmian is the ‘good secretary’ and I think she very much looks up to Cleopatra. She is almost another version of her.
The costume department are thinking about putting my hair up rather than giving me a wig. A couple of the other girls are wearing wigs but I am dark enough that I don’t need one. They might give me a hairpiece so that it looks as if I have longer hair. I can’t look too done up because it is Cleopatra's reign and her show!
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.