Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal 2

Phil talks about the importance of the audience as a silent character and how movement sessions have enabled him to give Claudio more of a physical openness.

Transcript of Podcast

Paul Shuter:

Is there a scene that has turned out to be pivotal to your view of the character?

Phil Cumbus:

That’s a very good question. I think the scenes you come to rely on, and find incredibly useful, and turning points in the characters journey, seem to shift around the more you rehearse with them. You discover new things and new scenes as you go along. But certainly, the scene that for me, that seems to be very important and very tricky, is the first scene that Claudio has after the wedding scene. So he’s shamed Hero, he’s publically denounced her, he’s called off the wedding, he’s stormed out seeing her collapse. And meanwhile, on stage, they come up with a plan that - we then, Don Pedro and I, come back on and we have a scene where we’re confronted by Antonio and Leonato and I’m informed of Hero’s death and we enter into this sort of battle of power between Antonio and myself. And then they leave and then Benedick comes on and we have this strange, very odd taste of the old banter they used to have, which is now much more difficult because of what’s just happened. So that seems incredibly difficult to judge because you’ve got – it’s very easy for it to seem incredibly callous because of Claudio hearing that she’s dead, and he doesn’t really respond, he doesn’t reflect on the fact that he’s learnt that she’s now dead, he sort of just ploughs on through and deals with it in a very aggressive, a very military, soldier-like, way. And the difficulty was about finding the flavour of the text between Don Pedro, myself and Benedick, because it’s reminiscent of the early stuff they have, but you need to give it a completely new slant otherwise it just doesn’t really fit in the play because it needs to incorporate the knowledge of Hero’s death with – and then the dual that Benedick offers to Claudio needs to be all under the surface. You can’t just play it as some straight comedy, you need to add in all these other sort of layers. So that’s quite a tricky thing just to piece those layers together, to make sure that it doesn’t seem out of character and doesn’t seem out of joint with the story, but it needs to enhance all the things that have gone before it and to make sense of it. So we’ve had to do a bit of working out but I feel we’ve got it to a place now where it manages to hold everything; it’s like an onion, it’s got all those different layers to it and so it’s nice when you find that in a bit of text.


Is that harder to work through without an audience? Is that something that in the pre-rehearsal wouldn’t be very important?


I think that’s very true, yeah, I think that’s very true of the whole play as well. Every scene, every line, every word, every breath, is actually going to be fuelled by the 1,500 people in this theatre. And 1,500 people that you can not only sense but that you can see, and watch, and hear, every movement that they do. So the whole play, I think, is going to be given that wonderful gasoline when we come to perform it for the first time. Some of the scenes don’t quite lift off in the way they should maybe and I think that’s something only an audience can give it, that sort of final character in the play that’s going to come into the story when we open here. I can’t wait for it.


We talked a little bit in the last session about the work you had done with Giles Block who’s the text expert here. Another part of the specialist support is Glynn MacDonald who has done movement work. Can you talk a little about how you’ve worked with Glynn and what difference that makes?


Glynn has a very special place in this theatre, she’s in charge of movement, which is not choreography and dance, it’s about character movement, and the use of space, and the use of the stage here, and the auditorium, because the whole building is a wonderful base to work from as an actor. So she sort of allows us to become aware of those sorts of things. She talked to me a little about – I was coming back to that beginning scene, that first moment when we meet all the soldiers coming into the story, and I was finding it a little odd, I didn’t quite know where to place myself, I didn’t feel physically in the right sort of place. She asked me where I had been, in terms of the story, so we talked about he’s come from war, he’s come from victory, he’s come from battle. And she was like, ‘why don’t you try and incorporate that into the eyes?’ She was saying, ‘at the moment you’re physically showing it through the lower half of the body, using your feet and legs and really finding your space. Bring it up into the eyes, that sense of a military outlook being very focused, very tunnel vision, very soldierly, very action orientated in terms of fighting, and suddenly that war is over. Suddenly that soldier’s job is done and so the eyes can be free to explore the world that we’ve now encountered, and see it in a way that he’s never done before.’ And that was just a nice way of opening up physically a little bit, just being aware that we can discover things with the eyes as these men would have done now that they’ve finished the war. And that was a nice physical openness that I could then play with. And again these are things that you – what’s brilliant about working at the Globe is you take it on board, you explore it and you might go too far, but always you’re taught something with having experimented with it, it’s nice to play around with those things and keep just a little bit of it if it’s useful, or all of it if you want to. But it’s nice to have those options here, which we do.

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