In his third blog post, Bruce discusses running the play, his further thoughts on Kent's disguise and bringing the play onto the Globe stage.
Transcript of Podcast
We had a run-through of the play.The run-through was very useful as it gave us the opportunity to see the overall story. The second run was marvellous and quite strong, but because there are 24 scenes it almost became 24 single act performances. Everyone was individually performing their own bits, but it will slowly come together. The first half of the run-through was 2h 5m and the second half was over 1h.
At this stage of the rehearsal process we have understood what is happening in individual scenes, now we have to look at the play as a whole and find the function of our characters. What is required of the part? Why is Kent in the play? This is a good question because it is more specific to understanding the function of Kent. It is not enough to think that Kent is a good man or a worthy man, I have to try and find his purpose.
In Act I Scene I, Lear is hurt because he thinks that Cordelia has rejected him. How far does Kent consider how Lear may be feeling? Kent cannot prejudge if he will antagonise Lear with what he says. He does not want to confront Lear or bluntly say ‘you are wrong’, instead he is trying to teach him and help him. I think that, ultimately, this is the act of a good man.
I have been thinking about when Kent returns in disguise. I have changed my mind about the nature of the disguise. Previously I thought that Kent might be dressed as a NCO and assume a cockney accent, however I do not think so anymore because his character is not that abrupt. As Kent is a blunt and plain speaking man I thought that I would try a Yorkshire accent, but this did not seem right. Finally we decided on a West Country accent, which will be assumed in Scene IV.
As we have progressed in the rehearsal process I think that the nature of the disguise has come to play a smaller element in the play. There is never a point in the play that suggests that Kent's ‘mask’ might be slipping. If Shakespeare had wanted it to be played like that then he would have written in. Kent holds on to his disguise and the other characters accept it.
I have only realised this after seeing the play as a whole, but before the run-through I was too concerned with accents and costumes. This is not what it is all about. I have to concentrate about what Kent is doing in a scene rather than who he is meant to be. This can be seen in Act I Scene VII in the confrontation between Kent and Oswald. Kent says a list of insults to Oswald and at this point you see that he is not so ‘good’ or ‘kind’. It could be said that Kent acts like this because Oswald has insulted Lear, this may justify his behaviour. I think that the important part in this scene is portraying how Kent is feeling about Oswald rather than him worrying about his disguise slipping.
I think that the stage is frightening when it is empty because it looks so huge. I have already said a few lines on stage when we were exploring the ‘storm’ scene. We are not trying to create a realistic meteorological storm, so we will not be having thunder rolls, or other associated noises. Instead there will be unsettling sounds, like human voices wailing to create the effect of the wind. At the beginning of the storm scene both Roger [McEnry, Gentleman/Curan] and I have long speeches. It seemed very scary to have to do these speeches, however saying the lines in context, and experiencing the acoustics of the Globe space, made the speeches seem manageable and possible to do.
During the run-through, tour groups were passing through the theatre. This was sometimes difficult because we were experimenting with different ideas and techniques, and so it could make you feel vulnerable. On the other hand, it can be very positive to have an audience.
I have had some lovely sessions on verse with Giles [Block, Master of Verse]. He encouraged me to carry on with the way I was working. Kent's speech is interesting, as the lines always end in full stops. I think this shows that he is always straightforward and to the point. He seems to be 100% sure of what he says. This can be seen in Act I Scene IV when Kent is asking King Lear for a job:
"I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly; that which ordinary man are fit for, I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence."
There are points in the storm that Kent seems to be lost like the other characters and this is reflected in his speech. On four occasions he repeats "Good my Lord, enter." I think that it is exasperating for him because he wants to help Lear to get under cover, but Lear is not listening, as he almost seems suicidal.
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 change frequently as the rehearsal process progresses.