In Bruce's fourth blog post he discusses the final stage of rehearsals, the first performances and the experience of performing at the Globe.
Transcript of Podcast
We have gone from technical rehearsals to performances. Previously we had been running through the play in its entirety, getting the general feel of the story, but once the technical rehearsals began the play was taken apart again for various reasons. I began to think that I would never remember all of the technical points. You can feel swamped by the technical details and that is when you lose site of the play. By the end of the technical week you feel like you cannot remember the first scene.
After the tech we had the dress run. At first this is always very shaky and difficult. Then, slowly, you begin to reclaim the play and all of the emotions that go with it. Everything slows down because people start dwelling on moments, trying to recreate the feelings they had in rehearsals.
The first preview was a good show, but two things became clear after it had finished. Firstly, it was played in a very safe way. People seemed to be ‘tip-toeing’ around being very careful to get things right, which was not good considering the nature of the play (as I think King Lear is a play with huge emotions). Secondly, the play was very long because people were being so careful.
The second preview was also long, but it was a bit better than the first. Barry [Kyle, Master of Play] has a saying, which he kept saying to us: "Let the dogs out". He is encouraging us to get back in the flow of the story and the extraordinary things that happen to the people in it. I think that we have to forget that we know what will happen next, and not to anticipate what is to follow.
At the next preview, everyone got the message that the play had to be faster. Indeed, we lost about fifteen minutes off the end of the show. Nothing was cut out; it was just due to the sheer pace that we performed, because we had got back into the rhythm. The play is now running at 1h 49/50m for the first part and 1h 6m for the second half.
King Lear is a huge play. In some cases the audience stand in the yard for nearly two hours before there is an interval. When should the breaks come? The play is such a ‘roller-coaster’; it is difficult to decide where to put it. We could put the interval before the storm, but this would detract from this sequence of scenes. So the interval has to come after the storm scenes. The first scene of the second half of the play is the ‘Dover’ scene. This marks the next part in the story, which is more political and personal to Lear. It is a change of gear in the story. I hope that the audience will take this huge journey on board.
Kent's role in the second half takes on a different quality. In the first half he takes on the role of the Lear's carer, a job that no one else wants to do, however the Fool takes his place in Lear's affection and attention. In the second half, Kent's role becomes more political with his involvement in the French army.
Playing at the Globe
In a ‘regular’ theatre a play like King Lear is clearly categorised as a tragedy, and from that you can expect it to be very serious. At the Globe the dynamic can be slightly different as the audience is involved with the story and there is more love and response to different situations. The audience sees more of the quirky side to people's behaviour. Sometimes moments that can be very shocking, at a conventional theatre, are not at the Globe. There are many entrances made from the yard, with some horseplay from the knights who run through the audience. The fact that the play is happening all around the theatre keeps things alive. I join Lear from the yard in the storm scene. There is no signal that I will appear, and I have to yell at the top of my voice "Who's there?" The audience standing in front of me always jumps in the air out of surprise!
The circular shape of the theatre makes you turn around to face all directions, as you are aware of people surrounding you. However, there is no scene where the audience can see everything due to the pillars and other objects that restrict the view. I think that the audience gets the feeling that they are eavesdropping on the events on the stage.
These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as s / he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his / her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.