Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

In her second blog post Sarah discusses this week's rehearasls, rehearsing the jig and her favourite moments of rehearsals so far.

Transcript of Podcast

Getting started

My week's been good. Actually, I’ve been at home for three days of it! Dogberry makes his appearance half way through the play [III.3] and we haven’t got that far in terms of working on specific scenes so I haven’t been called very much. This is quite nice in some ways; I’m getting used to the whole play rather than concentrating on my scenes straightaway. It's good to know where Dogberry comes in the scheme of things, and a slow start also means I’ll be itching to get on it when I do start rehearsing, instead of feeling ‘Oh, I’m not ready’. In the meantime, I’m enjoying our work as a group. We’ve been working with Tamara [Harvey, Master of Play] on putting the scenes into our own words, to make sure we’ve really understood what's going on in the lines. We got to the beginning of Act III and Dogberry doesn’t come on until the third scene, so I had a dilemma over the Easter period about whether I should look at my scenes and work out how I’m going do the lines in modern speech before we got back into the rehearsal room! I decided not to – it's not a competition, after all! But I think everyone half thinks… well, not that it's a competition, but that they want to get it right. I was talking to Yolanda [Vazquez, Beatrice] and she said she’d started to look at her scenes in advance too, but thought ‘No, it's cheating!’ We have to have the confidence to fail, which sounds strange, but at this stage we’re trying things out and some of those things won’t work. It's a really difficult thing to admit that you don’t know exactly what your scenes are about, but I don’t know what they’re about yet.

Yesterday we looked at Act IV, scene 2 and I didn’t know where to position myself or what I was doing. It could have been quite scary, but actually it was really interesting to stand there and think ‘I’ve no idea what's coming next in this scene’. I’d always thought Dogberry manages the examination of Conrade and Borachio but when we did the modern speech exercise, I saw that it was the Sexton who was in control. I don’t know whether this was because the Sexton is actually the authority in that scene, or because I had no idea what I was doing and Lucy [Campbell, the Sexton] had more of an idea about what she was doing … perhaps that meant she could take a more authoritative position which fed into the Sexton's character. It's probably a combination of both those things. I don’t know how it would have been different if I’d done some cribbing at home! I’m becoming aware that people tend to think that I know exactly what I’m doing, which is very strange. I do put on a silly voice for Dogberry so maybe I seem cool and collected the rest of the time by comparison. [laughs] It's a complete cover-up, this calm exterior! Well, perhaps the sense of calm isn’t really a cover-up at the moment because I haven’t properly started rehearsing – at this stage, I’m calm but I certainly don’t know what I’m doing with Dogberry. It's fascinating, the impressions everybody has of everybody else.


I’ve noticed a few people know their lines, which is a quite frightening because I haven’t even begun to learn mine and I don’t think I could start memorising them at the moment. I tend to wait until my first rehearsal at least, but this time I’ll try to get familiar with Dogberry's first scene before I go in because my first rehearsal will be next week and that seems a bit late to begin from scratch. I won’t be doing the part without the book next week though. It's a slow build up, but I’m in every day doing movement sessions or voice sessions or verse sessions or working on the jig, so I feel very much a part of things without having done any proper work yet! I like having time for things to take shape in my head – I read the script a little bit every now and then and that's quite good for me: normally I go home and read ‘Hello’ magazine! I suppose not having worked out my character might look as though I’m pacing myself but it's not part of a carefully planned process: I just let things take their course. Maybe people think I’m very much on top of things because I’m quiet. It's not like that at all. In fact it's just the opposite. The Company are a lovely group of people though so I don’t really feel worried or insecure about what people think of me. I always look forward to coming into work and I can’t wait to start rehearsals properly.


Every time I’ve seen plays here, the jig at the end has been spectacular. It's the most uplifting, amazing thing. However much you’ve enjoyed the show, the jig just takes you out on a high so to be part of that is very exciting. Of course, at the same time we’re all nervous about getting the steps right. In some ways, I’m glad I’m not involved in the dances within the play – at the masked ball [II.1] – because learning the steps is tricky, even though Sian [Williams, Master of Dance] is a great teacher and breaks all the movements right down for us. We’ve already started to put some of these steps back together and run bits of the jig, but there's obviously a lot of work to do. Hearing the music for the first time today was very exciting and when we’re all doing it at the same time, I’m sure no one will be thinking ‘Oh, she missed a step’. Patrick [Woodward, Sarah's husband] was a member of the all-male company last year and sometimes after a performance he would say ‘we missed out that bit and they missed out that bit…’ I suppose you do make mistakes in the early days but the audience never notices.

The songs are astonishing too. We’re using Eastern singing techniques involving a ‘calling voice’ which means singers ‘call out’ when they sing and that creates the powerful sounds we recognise from Eastern and Islamic songs. I think they used the same techniques in Eastern Europe and also in England, though in England this type of singing was part of subculture. In our first workshop with Vivien [Ellis], we all sang a Czech folk song and the room vibrated in the most amazing way. After singing all together, we had to sing our names on our own and suddenly I felt like I had no voice at all. There's none of the lovely resonance you get when you all sing together. It was a strange feeling; it made me think I only ever want to sing with fifteen other women! All the jigging and singing is exhausting – I actually find the singing harder work than the jig. Watching the plays though, the songs and the jig are the things that often impress me more forcibly than the acting… everyone can sing and dance, even the people who aren’t singers and dancers. It's such a privilege. Sian [Williams, master of Dance] and Vivien [Ellis] make it a joy to come in and sing and dance for the first time. To get round the piano and sing an aria doesn’t feel like work. When I get my payslip at the end of the week, I always think ‘Wow. Okay!’ I think the whole atmosphere of the place helps with that: even this odd building [rehearsal rooms at Park Street] doesn’t feel like it's separated from the Globe. It doesn’t feel modern and different … it just feels like home!


We went into the tiring house with Mark [Rylance, Artistic Director] for our voice session. We worked while lying on our backs with our heads touching. That was great because you could hear other people's voices. I felt very relaxed and centred. Often in voice sessions you can feel yourself trying too hard to do what the teacher wants you to do, a bit like being in school, but it doesn’t feel like that here. You can get things wrong, but I do have the feeling – and I think everyone does – about being a bit scared of the voice in this space, and of not being heard. Some people have asked for solo sessions on stage. I don’t know if I want to do that. On the one hand, that's a bit scary, but the last thing you want is get on that stage in the dress rehearsal and go [sharp intake of breath] ‘Oh my goodness.’ At this point, I’m sort of thinking ‘Do I have to go there yet? Do I have to test the voice yet?’ because not being able to make yourself heard and straining your voice is the worst feeling. I think Dogberry does shout a bit at times so I’m going to be careful with my voice: I’ve hurt my voice in the past and you learn that it's just about relaxing really, which is the last thing you do when you’re doing previews. I’m looking forward to a lot more voice sessions, and it's getting easier working on stage because you stop being frightened of it. It was great today; a really nice little session. As we get increasingly familiar with the space, things will keep getting better. I’ve sat in the Gentleman's rooms [boxes on either side of the stage, top gallery] and although you do see quite a lot of the actors’ backs, it's amazing how some people's voices do come out of the back and sides of their bodies. Other people's voices are muffled as soon as they turn away from you. I think the most important thing is to be aware that the audience is all around you and you have to try and play to everybody.

Favourite parts

The best bit of rehearsals so far has been watching the others doing their modern day improvisations. I’m not in the first two acts of the play and when you read them, you don’t read try to understand every line, so to listen to it in such a clear form was great – even though they were fumbling their way through because it was improvisation. It was really interesting to watch and see what happens… to have fun and to appreciate how terribly sad the church scene is [IV.1]. I was really choking up; I thought they did that beautifully. I was so impressed and it's such a beautiful, beautiful scene – just so tragic, but beautiful. I also enjoyed the exercise where we directed different scenes. We could stage it anyway we chose, using props and furniture, and some people came up with really interesting things. We might even get a fountain out of it! Jules [Melvin, Verges/Friar Francis] and I did the wedding scene with the congregation and all the presents. I thought it really freed everyone up and probably gave Tamara [Harvey, Master of Play] a few ideas [laughs]. It got everybody involved in the play together. Basically, although I haven’t had many more thoughts about Dogberry, I’ve enjoyed thinking about the scenes and the play as a whole. I’ll start to think about character more when I start rehearsing next week.

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.

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