"But you do that as an actor anyway. I mean I wake up now with a line from four years ago in a play and I go, ‘I should’ve played it like that!’ That never ends. And of course because it’s Shakespeare, this stuff’s bombproof. You can just throw anything you like at it and it’s just the terrifying beauty of his words and the way he constructs them..."
As performances continue, Steve looks back on the power of Shakespeare's words, and the reactions they produce in actor and audience.
Time: 4 minutes 43 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Rona Kelly: And then after Tech Week, obviously, we are now into performances. How have you found audiences have been reacting to the play?
Steve John Shepherd: Well I’ve never played the Globe before, so I had no idea that there was this chemistry that you have with them. I’ve never ever played a house like it or a theatre like it, whereby you have this…there’s a sort of synergy between the two of you and literally down to individual people. You can pick out individual people and gesture to them. Today, for example, I posited the notion that Benedick and Beatrice would be a great couple, and [an audience member] clearly never seen the play before because he burst out into incredulous laughter! And then I played the rest of the speech to him to try and convince him that it was a really good idea. You know, ‘I would have it a match...if you three will minister assistance as I shall give you direction’. And the guy was like, ‘Oh, okay. Maybe it’s not a bad idea’.
And then a baby cried this afternoon and you can gesture to that, it’s in no way conventional. But there’s something brilliant about it and delicious. And what that engenders is a real sense of goodwill and generosity, so the feeling. I mean I’m sure it’s just because it’s a Comedy and Beatrice and Benedick are so charming and wonderful together and it fizzes so terrifically, that there’s this lovely feeling in the house of generosity and kindness. But it’s nice to have that feeling.
RK: And then you’ve got a nice scene with the Beatrice proposal moment. We’ve had quite a few audience reactions from that, I think.
SS: Yes, they really like that!
RK: How have you found playing that scene in particular?
SS: Well I think probably from a selfish consideration personal to me, that’s probably my favourite little moment for Pedro. Because he is…my understanding of him is that he’s lost some sort of terrible love in the past. And so it’s nice to play that scene and it becomes quite electric towards the end with the crowd, particularly on the down-left crowd because they’re there and they can see it. The guys on the other side can’t really see what’s happening, because it’s really close. Yes, it’s a really enjoyable scene to play and Bea [Romilly, Beatrice] is so wonderful at doing it. She’s so clever.
RK: And as you’ve got it on stage, have there been any moments which you’ve unlocked in performance or which have maybe changed a bit?
SS: Yes, my entire performance.
RK: Oh really?
SS: Yes, Christ! But you do that as an actor anyway. I mean I wake up now and a line from four years ago in a play, I go, ‘Shit! I should’ve played it like that!’ That never ends. And of course because it’s Shakespeare, this stuff’s bombproof. You can just throw anything you like at it and it’s just always just the words and the beauty, just the terrifying beauty of his words and the way he constructs them. And I’ll be watching backstage, I’ll be watching the monitors backstage, and just someone in the cast will just say a line and you’ll be like, ‘Oh my God, that’s beautiful’. It really is and there’s a reason why we’re still doing it now. I really believe that. Because this guy must’ve been an alien. He must’ve just been an alien to just write like that.
RK: And winding down, what’s been your favourite moment from performances so far?
SS: My favourite moment has been…well I tell you, I really like watching Matthew Needham [Benedick]. I think he’s really special, I think he’s a beautiful actor and I love the way he keeps striving to find new things. So I guess pretty much every performance I’ll see something that he does which surprises me, and that’s a favourite moment. So, I think him, that’s what I’ll say. Instead of saying, ‘Oh, it was a great bit where I made loads of people laugh!’ I actually really enjoy watching him, because I think he’s pretty good.
RK: And then last, last question, we end with a jig.
SS: We do.
RK: We end with two jigs, technically kind of.
SS: Two jigs for your money. Two for one, baby, two for one!
RK: How have you found that as the final bit of the play? It’s quite a release of energy, isn’t it, for the audience?
SS: Well it is, but I’m an old man. I’m knackered by then! The last thing I want to do is do a jig after all of that!
RK: Just go and sit down on the edge of the stage.
SS: Yes, that’s what I should do and just have a cup of tea or go and sit with the musicians! Yes, I really, really enjoy it but it’s at the end of a three-hour play where you come off stage and you’ve earned your money. It’s knackering.
RK: And the first preview was a lot longer than three hours, wasn’t it. It was about three [hours] fifteen [minutes], three [hours] twenty [minutes], I think, the first time you did it.
SS: Yes. But that house on the first preview night, they were unbelievable! Even the most voluble crowd now is not half what that first preview night was like. I couldn’t believe it. Everyone came off and they were like, ‘What just happened?’ It was like being at a rock concert. Incredible.
RK: Well thank you so much for joining us.
SS: Thank you!
RK: And we’ll catch up in a few weeks!
SS: I’d love that, yes, thank you for your time.
Thanks to Sarah for the transcription of this interview.