In her third blog post Ann discusses rehearsing the Wedding scene [IV. 1], exploring Claudio's vulnerability and incorporating the audience into the scene.
Transcript of Podcast
I’m at a stage this week where I’m thinking a lot and I don’t want to be thinking any more! Or rather, I want to play this character and discover what it's like to be that person, so thinking about Claudio in an analytical way is not really very helpful. I just want explore everything from this person's perspective. Why are they doing this, how do they feel? I’m not near enough to Claudio to be able to do that all the time. The text gives you other people's opinions about what this person is like. I might not agree with those opinions but I’m not sure about my own alternatives yet. For example, Claudio knows he's not going to marry Hero straightaway in the wedding scene [IV.1], but how would you play it in that situation: light? The book says ‘sudden aggressiveness is in bad taste’ – that's actually what it says in the notes of my edition. I’m thinking a lot about what I’m going to do. I just want to answer all the questions for that character rather than from an analytical point of view.
Wedding scene [IV.1]
Today we read the scene through, analysing what different people said and putting the lines into our own words to make sure we understood it all. If you have to put the lines into modern speech, you can't gloss over any points where you’re uncertain about the meaning. In terms of a process, though, it felt like we just got up and did it! Actually, I was quite surprised because Tamara [Harvey, Master of Play] didn’t give us as many preparatory exercises to do on this scene as she usually does. It was a very good session; I’ve been thinking about how Claudio should come into that scene because, as I said, he knows straightaway that he's not going to marry her. I really like the idea that he doesn’t come into the scene with the sole purpose of shaming her either. Claudio doesn’t want to be cruel, and he doesn’t approach Leonato with the attitude ‘I’m going to disgrace your daughter’. I didn’t start off along those lines, then I realised halfway through the session that it would be much better to stop thinking about it in terms of Claudio having a go at Hero: that was really nice because I actually took on board that everyone else in the scene was asking ‘Can this be true?’ and I wanted to answer those questions, making my case for disregarding Hero like a lawyer. I believe Leonato has to listen to my accusations: I really believe that Hero has done a terrible thing and I’ve got every right to state my case against her.
I also enjoyed an exercise we did where I had to turn to different people as I needed them – that helped me find out where Claudio's support comes from in this scene. It's especially useful because the thing I want is Claudio's vulnerability: I want him to be very vulnerable and I haven’t got that yet. You can only get at that in a situation where you need other people, so it was nice to be a situation where I needed somebody and there were people there to offer support. It's hard to be vulnerable; you have to find the right actions. Today I held onto both Belinda [Davidson, Don Pedro] and Rachel [Sanders, Don John] when I asked Hero to deny that she had spoken to someone at her bedroom window. That felt like they were supporting me: I needed their help to say what I had to say.
At one point I physically passed Hero around to other people in the scene, which was great because Mariah [Gale, Hero] and I don’t have the same close connection that the characters in the play have. So much of acting is to do with pretending: to hold someone who you’re supposedly in love with and explore your relationship with that person in the context of a scene... it's great. It gave a very different feel to the scene – a vulnerability – and having to say goodbye to her as well – I love that. We could sit down with the lines
But fare thee well, most foul, most fair! Farewell,
Thou pure impiety and impious purity!
For thee I’ll lock up all the gates of love,
And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang,
To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm,
And never shall it more be gracious. [IV.1.98-106]
And we could say ‘Well, you’re saying bye here,’ but to actually physically discover that is ten times better because you see how it can work. It's like you’re more sensitive to the shifts in the dynamic between the two characters. I felt ‘pure impiety’ helped me say goodbye to Hero, but ‘for thee’ took me back to her – Don Pedro helped me step away.
I really like using the audience as the congregation in that scene [IV.1]. I find using Tamara and Laura as an audience quite strange at that point: they're two people who you have to transform into a whole crowd. Also, they’re on the look-out for specific things in the rehearsal room so they don't engage with the performance in the same ways as a normal audience. Sometimes when I look at Tamara sometimes I 'come out' of the place where I am as Claudio. That can't be helped; you can’t really imagine what the audience will be like.
Last year [in Richard III] I had to direct lines out to the audience; I was so frightened, and I was terrible! I think it will be easier this year with Much Ado About Nothing, because I’m using the audience as part of the action. When you just have an aside that seems to come from nowhere and you’ve had no previous contact like that with the audience, then it's a different story. I used to think ‘They’re not going to care about what I have to say.’
I loved rehearsing the scene when Don John comes to tell Claudio and Don Pedro that he knows that Hero is unfaithful [III.2] – Belinda [Davidson, Don Pedro] and I just laughed the whole way through, not believing him. I loved the distance between us, which just felt so right. We spread right over the stage. The laughing was funny because I thought I'd taken it a bit too far and Don Pedro sort of went ‘Come on now, shut up’ – I felt a bit uncomfortable but maybe that's why it worked so well. Claudio is quite young; there probably would be times when he goes a bit too far. Right now, most of my thoughts are more to do with how I’m going to play it and what kind of person Claudio is. I really do like him.
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.