This is Frances' final post. This week she discusses the technical rehearsals and adapting to the Globe stage, and looks forward to the opening night.
Transcript of Podcast
This week has been the technical rehearsal. We started early Monday morning and it was the first time that the whole company was in costume which was all very exciting. Some of the women have wigs and my hair is put in curlers so there is quite a lot of preparation. In this production, I have really curly hair which is brilliant because I am so used to my straight hair. It's lovely to have something quite different so that you do instantly feel more in character.
The costumes are amazing. They are so beautiful and elegant. The corset is quite tight so I have had to get used to breathing in it and just walking around in it because it does alter my posture. I can still be quite relaxed in it because it is just down to my waist so I can sit down and bend down and kneel down and so on.
It was very exciting when we first stepped on the stage. It feels much more intimate than when you are an audience member looking onto the Globe stage. I remember when I was an audience member, the stage feels vast and large but when you are standing on the stage the whole theatre feels well within your grasp. Walking out onto the stage made me catch my breath a bit, but I didn’t find it scary – I can’t wait until the first night!
One of the good things about the tech is that there are lots of visitors who come in and watch so you are always on show even though you are just rehearsing. It's quite nice because you’ve got to rise to the level that you would be doing in an actual performance. Also, with the audience you get little reactions and clues as to what response you are going to get with a full audience. I’ve found it really interesting to see people's reactions and I’ve been surprised at how well I can see their faces. I’ve noticed the company has started playing to the audience much more. In the rehearsal room, we all played for each other as actors but in this particular space there is such a strong relationship with an audience member in the yard which I’m beginning to sense. There is massive involvement, which is why it is good to have a little bit of exposure to this in the tech.
Going through a scene
We don’t go through the scene very much, probably only about twice. The most important thing is the entrances and exits which often have musical accompaniment and we need to get the cues timed correctly. We’re also having to work with the new pillars and raised platform which we’re not used to. Some scenes are incredibly technical, like the scene in which Antony is dying and is raised into the balcony to be with Cleopatra – we’ve had to learn how to use the ropes and pulleys very quickly.
Remembering notes on stage
I haven’t been writing down my entrances and exits. Maybe I should have! But we are going through everything so quickly so it's hard to get a chance to record it all. I check where I am on the stage and I judge how far I am from a pillar or I count along the planks of wood. That is just something that I do personally, I don’t know if anyone else does that. Once I’ve done it a couple of times I just remember where I’m meant to be and it seems natural. Or at least if I get it wrong then I’ll remember the next time!
I’ve got one main dress and that is layered with a bussle and a petticoat and I also wear wedge shoes which I was nervous about falling over in but actually they are ok - I can run in them and do different things I need to do in them so that is fine. The main dress has a little jacket that goes on when they go to war. After that, we’ve also got our black gowns for the death scene so overall there are not that many changes. Cleopatra has lots of changes with all her different fancy dresses. I think she has six different outfits during the play.
All of the women have got dressers because we need assistance for getting into our corsets. It takes about five minutes to get the dress on properly which is quite a long time really for just putting on a dress! My hair doesn’t take too long. I have to put it in little roller things for it to curl. One of the mornings in tech I just had my hair in rollers and so I was standing on stage in my beautiful costume as an Egyptian with my hair in Babyliss rollers! I think the audience were slightly confused!
I don’t get my makeup done by anyone. I have to do that myself because there isn’t really enough time. There is enough time for people to do your hair and dress you, but that is about it because the girls are dressing everybody. There are only so many to go around so I just cover my own makeup. I’ve gone with the idea of being bronzed and tanned because we are Egyptian and use strong black eyeliner. Cleopatra will be wearing more make-up. She does her own too, everyone does their own. But I think they do want it quite delicate, even though we are Egyptian. We want something quite natural.
Preparing for the first night
Everyone has different nerves and they affect each person in different ways. Some people talk ten to the dozen whereas others are quiet. I don’t usually talk a lot, although under different circumstances I am quite a talker. When I’m getting ready for a show I’m not very chatty but I’m really excited. I might feel a bit sick or shaky, and I might be a bit shaky over my first couple of lines but then hopefully I’ll get into the hang of it and I won’t be too nervous and I’ll enjoy it. There a couple of moments when I can properly have fun, like when I’m with Cleopatra, and Charmian can be quite exhibitionist so hopefully those kind of things will relax me. There are a few technical things that I might be nervous about, like lifting Nick [who plays Antony] when he is dead and also the dressing of Cleopatra at the end is very important. I’ll just do my warm up and make sure I’ve got enough water and say, ‘Break a leg’ to everyone. I’m not superstitious actually, I suppose it's just a phrase you get used to saying.
All I need to do now is get through the first performance, have a bit of fun along the way and hope that nothing goes majorly wrong. It's just the first preview so it's almost like a little test run. It's obviously a really important night because it's the first time we’ll have a full audience and I’m looking forward to the energy of the first night. The first time you do a play there is a very special energy between the cast. And I think it is quite a special show for people to see, whether or not things go wrong.
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.