In her fifth blog post, Patricia discusses the end of the rehearsal period and the start of the performance run: including preview performances, audience responses, and troublesome costumes!
Transcript of Podcast
First performances and final rehearsals
We have had nine or ten performances, and it feels as though we can begin to enjoy them. It has been rather terrifying, but I think this is normal when you first start a run of a production, particularly at the Globe, as it is such a daunting space to act in. You wake up in the morning and you do not feel excited, you feel scared. This is now starting to change.
The period of technical rehearsals lasted for five days. During this time the emphasis for our work was on the music starting, timings, entrances and exits.
We were lucky because we had two dress rehearsals before coming to perform the play in front of an audience. King Lear is a big and complicated play. These two rehearsals gave us the opportunity to consolidate entrances, exits and when to move. Some things did change because of the Globe space. During the rehearsals it became apparent that some of the staging of the play was not appropriate when taking into account where people would be sitting. We had to change the staging to help people see more of the story.
The first preview was terrifying. It was not so bad for me because I have been on that stage before, along with some of the other actors. I think that you have to have great courage in this space. It is important not to let the space dominate you because you can see everyone's face. The audience is usually very nice and they want you, as an actor, to be nice. However, when you are playing Goneril this is difficult. When you go out on stage, you do not want to be unsympathetic. In another theatre you would not know the effect that you are having on the audience.
I do look into the audience when I am on stage. I did not do this as much in the first preview, as you need so much concentration because people talk and move about. It is very easy to get distracted and forget your lines. I know that I am going to adore it, but it is a very challenging space to work in.
The first preview was performed on sheer adrenaline. I cannot remember too much about it. The second preview was a bit less scary, I found that I could start to look around while I was on stage. Then, we had rain for the first time. I am not joking; the noise of everyone taking their raincoats out was deafening. The sound of the rain crashing on the raincoats was really loud as well. We had to speak louder. I found it quite funny and wanted to laugh! It was quite distracting, like someone holding a plastic carrier bag up to your ear and rustling it. It was hard to ignore!
Some things did change during the previews. Some things that had seemed like a good idea in the rehearsal room did not work with an audience. They were too complicated. The Globe is a great theatre for simple storytelling and you have to remember that whilst there is someone at your feet there is also someone high up and far behind you. You cannot be seduced into speaking quietly just because someone is nearby.
At this point, having performed the play nine or ten times, I am interested in how much I can look out to the audience. Last night was the most I have looked out. I found a few points to look at the very inaccessible seats that are very high up. Even if you can do that just once or twice a night it is good, so that the audience know that you know they are there. This is wonderfully challenging.
Things are starting to settle down. We have had a few days to ourselves, as there have not been rehearsals. I now feel more relaxed. I would like to take this opportunity to say how reassuring and touching it was to receive all the messages and cards.
I have a routine before a performance. In the daytime before I come into the theatre I try and do some exercise – going to the gym, stretching and general physical warm ups. When I get to the theatre I like to do a vocal warm up, humming and sharp articulation work, in the theatre. This is to make sure that I can speak quickly. Then I try and go through my lines in the play at least once, in the space that I am going to speak in. At 6:30pm I come in and get my hair done. I then sit in the dressing room and relax, concentrating on the world of the play. At 7:00pm I put my costume on and think about the first scene of the play, who Goneril is, where she is, what she wants and how she is going to get it. Five minutes before the beginning of the play I wait in the wings and clear my mind.
I found that the work I did in the rehearsal room has expanded. This is partly to do with playing in a theatre rather than a small rehearsal room. Everything is more vivid. I am finding more repression at the beginning of the play, and more freedom at the end. It is exciting to play such a vivid character, and I am starting to appreciate this.
Performing on the Globe stage
At the Globe, the space is more a part of your work than any other place I have worked in. I did more detailed work about what makes Goneril the way she is and the areas that she is lacking in confidence. If I was working in a little studio space I could convey all of these things. However, in this space you cannot hint at something, you have to show it fully. If you are feeling sad, happy, angry, or afraid, you have to inhabit these things fully so that everyone can share them. I did not inhabit things as fully as I am now.
During the first few previews I was upset, as it became clear that the audience did not like Goneril as a character. However, the audience is not supposed to like Goneril. As I have looked out more I have seen the audience smiling in recognition because everyone has known a person as bossy or angry as Goneril. I do understand that people can appreciate what I am doing. I have got over my crises of feeling disliked and misunderstood!
I have a bit of a problem with my final costume because although I had wanted it to look a feminine and sexy, it is now too open at the front. I do like it but sometimes it makes me feel self-conscious!
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.