This is Paul's first blog post. This week he discusses his research for Edgar, rehearsals and Edgar's relationship with Edmund.
Transcript of Podcast
I have always wanted to work in a theatre that has as much character as the play, or the part you are playing, so I’m delighted to be at the Globe.
It is very exciting to stand on a stage that is the same as that on which the first plays were performed. I was in the company that opened the Globe in Tokyo, which is very different from this Globe, as it is not an ‘authentic’ reconstruction, but it has given me some idea of what playing at this Globe might be like.
I just have to admit that I don’t really know that much about King Lear. I spent ages on the Internet looking at the character of Edgar. I am trying to ask myself lots of questions and explore as many different routes into the character as possible.
When you work on a play and a character you have an idea in your head of how your work will progress and develop. This happens particularly with Shakespeare, as you have often seen or read the play before, this creates preconceived ideas in your head of what the characters are like. I remember reading a review of another actor's portrayal of Edgar, and it spoke of his ‘great dignity’. So all I thought of Edgar was ‘dignity’. But then I began doing my own research, and I started to learn about all of the other aspects of his character.
One of the most difficult things about working on a Shakespeare play is the language. Shakespeare can appear a bit like a foreign language, as it is complex, strange one line can have four or five different meanings. At the moment we are not at a point in rehearsal where we have to decide upon a particular meaning for each line, we are free to discuss and explore different interpretations.
We have been sitting together, trying to work slowly through the play. It is a gift to hear other people speak, and to listen to their thoughts. Sometimes Shakespeare can inspire you and as an actor you can express things that you never ever dreamed of thinking. Shakespeare can put an amazing amount into two lines, and you think ‘that's a very clever man!’
We have started to look at individual scenes. I seem to come up with one daft idea every day! I came up with the idea that everyone should be shot at the end of the play. It is because you kind of know the end of the play, which is to come. The actors know it, so we are always saying ‘oh, he's dead, and he's dead, and he's dead, oh no he's king!’ It is difficult, because you know how the play goes. But, I don’t think anyone liked the idea!!! The end of the play can be difficult as you do get ready for the end and think ‘come on, let's wind it all up’. Edgar comes in and says everything that we have seen - daft ideas aside I don’t want the end to be an anticlimax.
We are also looking at relationships, what has gone on in a scene and how does it link to the next scene. I am amazed by the speed of the play, the way it thunders along and the enormity of the story. We have spent a lot of time in discussion but are now ready to start working through scenes actively, you can only read something for so long. The excitement is when you actually get up and think ‘I want to do the fight scene’.
There is an exercise we use in rehearsal in which we always point at the character we are speaking to. It is a fantastic exercise to do. You realise that in the play characters rarely say anything to themself, always to someone else. The exercise helps you to clarify who you are speaking to and why.
At the moment everything is still possible. What happens when you get closer to a show is that more pressure is applied and things get ‘locked in’, and then some of the magic goes, or can go. You must find ways to keep you performance fresh, especially when you have to perform a play for six or seven weeks.
Edgar and Edmund
We have been rehearsing Edgar and Edmund's fight. I love doing fights. I used to be a fight director for movies. I had to stop doing this because you can get labelled as a fight director and no one takes you seriously as an actor. The main thing to remember is to stay in character in a fight scene. In the fight with Oswald there is a hint that Edgar is quite timid. I remember at school that when a previously seeming timid kid became involved in a fight he would often be more furious than class mates who were associated with that kind of behaviour. This is the kind of effect I would like to explore for Edgar's fight with Edmund. Following on from that idea I am beginning to explore how to develop Edgar's madness. Why does Shakespeare give Edgar this disguise as a mad man? These scenes are very challenging and at the moment I am not sure what I will do. The ‘Poor Tom’ speeches are difficult to understand. I am trying to explore what kind of madman or ‘beggar’ Edgar is – he is always talking about the devil. There is quite a religious side to him. In connection with Edgar's madness I am interested in exploring why Edgar doesn’t tell his father his true identity. One of the reasons might be because I don’t think he has found himself yet – Gloucester says who are you and he just says "I am a poor thing just a poor thing".
I am trying to let things slip into my mind, rather than thinking about them too much. I want to do full credit to the character of Edgar. When I eventually come away from the Globe, in six months time, I want to feel as if I fulfilled the potential of the character.
One of Edgar's most important relationships in the play is with Edmund. Although they are enemies they both have traits in their character that the other one should have. They are brothers and are linked. Edmund needs some of Edgar's soul and spirit. How this relationship develops will be one of the central elements of my performance.
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.