This is the fourth bulletin from the Friar (Rawiri Paratene). It covers Rawiri's third week of rehearsals, inlcuding his work on the final scene of the play and how research is continuing to help him develop his character.
Transcript of Podcast
We’re at a stage where we’ve done the table work, we’ve blocked stuff roughly and now we’re getting to the meat of the scene. I really enjoy that stage. So the books are down. It is always good to get rid of them and start opening out.
Some time last week, although Dominic [Dromgoole, director] was generally pleased, he was worried I was “a little bit book-bound.” He realised I was here by myself and so arranged for somebody to help me with learning lines. So for at least three of the last five days I’ve sat down with Lotte [Wakeman, text assistant] and basically she has gone through the lines with me and they’re getting stronger and stronger. It’s a wonderful support system; I’m feeling very positive being in this environment. Here at the Globe, there are support systems that I believe should be part of every production company. It’s amazing to have a director say: “You’re a little bit book-bound – do you want some help?” rather than see me struggle. I would have battled away and come through it, but I’m not stupid – if the help is there, I’ll take it! It is so much easier learning lines with someone saying lines back to you. So that has been a huge thing, I feel very well supported.
One of the best things that happened for the company was the big party on Saturday. Most of us got together on a social level. It’s really nice to feel that I’m part of a company that gets on well together. I think that comes right from the top; when you come into these buildings, you’re part of it. It’s just great.
Act 5 Scene 3: The Friar’s Last Speech
In a recent voice session with Jan [Haydn-Rowles, voice coach], we worked on the Friar’s long speech in the final scene. The speech involves me retelling almost everything that’s happened in the play:
• that Romeo was married to Juliet illegally by me on the day that Tybalt was killed by Romeo;
• that Juliet was crying for the banished Romeo, not Tybalt;
• that when her parents wanted to marry her to Paris, she came to me and had madness in her eyes, threatening to kill herself unless I came up with a plan;
• that I gave her these drugs and they made her look like she was dead, and she is buried alive in a tomb;
• that in the meantime I sent a letter to tell Romeo, but the friar with my letter gets held up.
It’s a difficult speech, because even though everything I am saying is new to the other characters on stage, the audience has seen all this. So it can’t be a speech that just recounts – that would be pointless. There has to be some freshness.
Working on that scene with Jan yesterday, we had a break-through, which felt really good. She doesn’t work on advice or telling you what to do, but is very practical – things that actually have nothing to do with voice, but more to do with the text. She gives me exercises to work through and then she sits me down and says, “So how does that make you feel?” It is an intriguing way of working and it gives a sense of immediacy, which is great. For example, with the speech right at the end, she got me to work through moments when I can speak quite boldly and moments of delivering news to everyone onstage, already known to the audience. Dominic was very happy and gave some more stuff to add on to that work. He wants me to keep my focus in the speech within a quadrant – Capulet, Montague, the Prince and the lovers’ bodies. When I keep it within them, within that space, it helps it become immediate.
This week in a session with Glynn [MacDonald, movement] we used the Alexander technique, which is about focusing on the body and letting it do its natural movement and position. There is a lot going on in my life at the moment, but it wasn’t until I went to Glynn this morning that I let go. The session was just so freeing, particularly for my neck and back and to open me out.
Also, Glynn has a real empathy with the character of Friar Lawrence; she was talking about Easter week coming up and why the saints and the friars are painted with halos: because they bring the light. This is exactly what I’ve been working at for the Friar in his first scene (Act 2, Scene 2) I want him to bring with him that sense of light. So after using the Alexander technique and having that discussion, I was feeling about six inches taller, I felt lighter, I was breathing cleaner and deeper; it’s magic stuff. After talking with Glynn, I am planning to go to the Easter service at Southwark Cathedral, which is just along the river from the Globe. I have visited there before to see the tomb of the poet Gower, the character that I played in Pericles, so I have a link with that cathedral already.
I think actors and theatre-people are researchers by nature, and research has always been an incredibly important part of my process. So to have an on-site research team headed up by Dr Farah [Karim-Cooper, Globe Lecturer and Head of Courses & Research] is wonderful. For example, I came into the library and said I wanted to find out about herbs … and the books were there the next day!
I was also able to follow up an appointment with a herb-expert too. I went to the operating museum in London where they have herb gardens that would have been used in medicine, which was a huge help! I met this woman who was a herbal expert; I was at the stage of wanting to get some information about what it is that I give to Juliet, what this amazing drug is, and she was able to steer me towards suitable books. So I feel very happy about that.
I also wanted to know about the politics of the time, because the Capulets and the Montagues are at war, and war is politics. One of the research interns found an interesting article about the Prince and the Friar and the political roles that they play. I had an inkling that the Friar wants to deal with the politics of the play. All of this research gives you a firmer ground from which to operate, even if you’re not going to get that research across on stage. It’s great being in a place that has that capacity.
I also went to a lecture here with Adetomiwa [Edun, Romeo] and Ellie [Kendrick, Juliet] and it was fantastic. In the lecture, one of the things I learned was that the father figure would often be kissed in the morning by the son, either on the cheek or the hand to receive the blessing of the father-figure. Clearly in Romeo’s life I am far more of a father figure to him than Montague is. So I took this piece of information to the rehearsal and Dominic grabbed it straight away. We had a short discussion about whether it should be the hand, but Dominic thought the hand was too regal, so we’ve now got this lovely moment when Romeo comes in during my first scene, interrupts me and kisses me on the cheek. That decision was a direct result of attending that lecture, a reflection of the way that this whole place operates – everything feeds into everything else.
These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as he goes through the rehearsal process - they are simply his own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.