This is Rachel's final blog post. This week she discusses the forthcoming Press Night, her pre-performance routine and Don John's interaction with the audience.
Transcript of Podcast
We’ve done all our previews and the Press are coming in tonight. I’m feeling quite confident as the audience response so far has been fantastic. I try not to think about the Press being in though. I want to do my best without getting too nervous: a good, tight show is the order of the day. First night is always nerve-wracking, and when I’m not onstage I think ‘Oh no, I didn’t get that bit right.’ I’ll try to avoid that tonight and keep focusing forward. I also have a tendency to rush if I get nervous, so I’ll concentrate on keeping the lines clear at a good pace. Not too fast, but not too slow either; it's really important to pick up on the cues. I tend to leave the actual reviews because criticism about something as subjective as a performance can be difficult to take.
For an evening show (like tonight), I’ll come in and do a bit of a warm up before the jig call. After we’ve practised the jig, I have a shower and get into my costume – my time to get dressed is half past six. Alice helps me to get dressed because the costume needs a lot of lacing, buttoning and tying – then I go see Pam and she sticks my moustache on and does my eyebrows: after that I start to look more like Don John! I try to do a vocal warm up and a physical warm up on stage, but from now on I’m going to jog. Throughout last season [2003, The Season of Regime Change], I went jogging with Jules [Melvin, Earl Rivers in Richard III, Verges in Much Ado About Nothing] for half an hour before each show. Jogging is good because firstly it keeps you fit, and secondly it gets your body ready for the performance; your lungs work hard, and you get an energy boost. I expect that extra energy will be more useful as we settle into the run.
As far as the scenes go, I think I’ve cracked about three-quarters of Don John's part now. I’ve been working steadily through the previews, discovering what does and doesn’t work. We’ve been rehearsing in the daytime this week as well as performing at night: all the time tightening, altering and shuffling the small bits that weren’t quite right. For instance, in the first scene that I have with Borachio and Conrade [I.3] I used to sit down on the bench and now I stand up, further downstage. Also, I was quiet at first because I was still a little unsure about the volume of my voice in the space. Now I’ve lifted the volume considerably; you don't have to shout but you have to be heard over the outside noises.
We made another little change in the wedding scene [IV.1]. After I denounce Hero, Belinda [Davidson, Don Pedro] has put in a moment when Don Pedro nearly touches Don John. I say:
Thus, pretty lady,
I am sorry for thy much misgovernment. [IV.1.98-9]
Previously at that point I’d always gone back towards Don Pedro, to present a united front, and recently Belinda has given me a sort of brotherly ‘Well done.’ I feel pleased that I’m getting some sort of response from my brother then I feel guilty because this is all a lie. It's a strange mixture: Don John has gotten what he wanted, but it's rather false satisfaction.
I’ve still got some work to do in the scene where Borachio tells me his plan [II.2]. The blocking at the beginning still isn’t right. I enter and say ‘It is so, the Count Claudio shall marry the daughter of Leonato.’ [II.2.1] We both come in and swirl around the fountain [positioned centre stage], but then it gets sticky. I sit down on a bench [there are benches positioned in each downstage corner]… that leads us into a tricky moment which we haven’t quite cracked yet. I want to change it, but obviously today's not the day to experiment. Tonight we’ll stick with what we’ve got and change it next week. I don’t think I need to be sitting down then, so that's something to try. Actually, I tend to stand up in all the bits where I used to sit down. I want more activity and sitting down seems to bring stillness which is wrong for that particular moment.
Laughter & collusion
As the week has gone on, audiences have found Don John more amusing. He's getting more laughs. That's good, in a way, because it suggests a kind of collusion between the character and the audience. They can appreciate his point of view and enjoy his irony. Think of Shakespeare's big villains; Richard III and Iago talk to the audience a lot and villainous collusion is very exciting. Don John is a much smaller part, but he's still a villain and the same idea applies. I think Shakespeare's villains tap into the audience's badness. Everybody has a good side and a bad side, audience members included. Don John shows the darker side of our nature onstage, and everyone can understand that to some extent. People will recognise his actions as wrong, but that doesn’t preclude a sense of connection. I think that's why the villain should talk to the audience: to foster that contact. Only in recognising the darker side of things can you truly appreciate the lighter side. The happiness at the end of the comedy is underscored by the fact that things could have been different, darker.
People are always fascinated by others behaving extremely badly and apparently without remorse. Perhaps that's another reason why Don John connects with the audience. His isolation from the other characters also pushes him that way, I think. I’m still unsure whether he would feel sorry for what he's done, after he disappears. Don John probably leaves Leonato's house feeling good about spoiling the wedding, but I’m not certain how he feels later on. It doesn’t necessarily matter. I’d like to think that he doesn’t feel any remorse because that makes him nastier, a much better villain!
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.