In his fourth blog post, Michael discusses rehearsing on the Globe stage, Edmund's relationships with other characters and his effect on the play as a whole.
Transcript of Podcast
Rehearsing on the stage
I have been working through the fight scenes with Paul [Brennen, Edgar]. We had a run-through of the play and I got badly bruised knuckles because I had to wrap a chain around my hand and swing it.
The run through was very positive. The company could finally see which parts of the play would work on the stage, and which parts would not. It took us two days to complete the run-through!
We have also been rehearsing on the stage, which made us realise that many of the scenes, that we thought were strong, would have to be reconsidered. It has been a bit disorientating going from working in the rehearsal room to the stage of the theatre. However, being on the stage is good, and Paul and I have been rehearsing on there together. When we were working in the rehearsal room we found that we were accommodating the space around us. My perception of how the scene should be played has now changed because although the stage is small it is very open. Edmund mostly talks to the audience and so I think that it is important for me to rehearse on the stage.
While we were doing the run through there were tour groups in the theatre, watching the rehearsal. I loved the fact that they were there as it gave us a sense of what it would be like to have an audience. We even got applause at the end of a scene!
Edmund and Edgar
Barry [Kyle, Master of Play] had made a large cut in Act I Scene II, in the speech when Edmund is relating everything back to the working of the stars. I had cut this speech down further. However, while rehearsing we experimented with putting the lines back and the scene suddenly ‘took off’.
Paul and I have been discussing the relationship between the two brothers and the fact that they had different mothers. Who was Gloucester's favourite son? I think that in Act I Scene II there is something of Edgar's character in Edmund.
In the run-through Edmund's nasty character became very clear. It also gave us the opportunity to see the ‘journey’ that each character goes on and how they develop. I think that Edmund is self-evasive, his father talks about him with both shame and pride. Gradually Edmund's ambitions are revealed and he is driven by his strong will not his emotions.
I think that there are points when Edmund may ruin his own plans. In addition, when Edmund finally gets Edgar to leave, he cuts his own arm. Barry suggested that this is because he does not want to go through with his ‘project’.
Edmund, Goneril and Regan
I think that the situation between Edmund, Goneril and Regan is interesting. Distinctions must be made the two sisters, as it would be very easy to generalise them. The way that they act towards Edmund is very different. Goneril is ‘colder’ and damaged. Regan is more ‘strange’. I think that Edmund transforms Goneril, which can be seen after her journey to see Albany. The journey is not shown (it is an unwritten part of the play) but we improvised what might happen: we both came on to the stage wearing sunglasses with a blanket full of half eaten food, as if we had just been on a picnic. In the production Goneril will come on to the stage seeming more relaxed with her hair down.
Patricia [Kerrigan, Goneril] and I have decided that Edmund and Goneril do not consummate their relationship. Felicity and I have not resolved this about Edmund and Regan.
Edmund's bearing on the rest of the play
Edmund seems to be able to exploit the flaws in the other characters in order to manipulate their behaviour for his own gain. Edmund exploits Edgar's imagination; he sees Cornwall's hunger for power, and gives him a letter from Gloucester which insights him to build an army against Lear; he exploits Gloucester's paranoia that his sons do not love him; and he exploits Goneril's need for love. I think that to a certain extent this is a quality that all leaders have.
Many ‘convenient’ events take place within the play, which help Edmund's plans to succeed: the fact that the duke comes after Edgar leaves, that the duke witnesses Edmund's service to his father, and that Cornwall dies. In this sense he is quite lucky.
Edmund is a ‘creature’ of the Yard who spends much of his time in the crowd speaking to them. He is not really a part of the world on the stage. However, at the end he turns on the crowd. I think that one reason for his failure is the fact that he is always on his own and does not make lasting alliances with others.
Something that has become clear throughout rehearsals is that Edmund never develops a relationship with any other character. Usually, when you are in a play you follow scenes through with other characters. However, although Edmund does interact with characters such as Edgar, Cornwall, Regan, Goneril and Albany he does not develop relationships with any of them. Edmund is always working on his own. This was demonstrated after we had a session on movement with Glynn [Macdonald, Master of Movement]. She asked us to pair up with a character that we spend a lot of time with in the play. This was very revealing as there are seventeen people in the company, and I ended up working on my own.
I would like the students to try this pairing exercise. Which characters do they think belong together? I would also like to hear their ideas about presenting the war between England and France, as this is what we are currently thinking about.
At the moment there are so many ideas in my head that they do not make up a coherent ‘pattern’ or ‘journey’. I have to try and draw the best ideas together to make the journey clearer. I have moved on from thinking about ‘who’ Edmund is, ‘what’ he does, and ‘what’ happens in the play. I am now thinking about ‘how’ he does these things.
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.