In her third and final blog post Sally discusses the technical rehearsals, problems with her costume and the first two weeks of performances.
Transcript of Podcast
The tech took about three days of rehearsals, lasting until about 10pm at night. Not much changed in the move from the rehearsal space to the stage, only tiny tweaks to the blocking – I suppose because Dominic [Dromgoole, Artistic Director of the Globe and director of King Lear knows the space really well. You’ve got to up your performance when you get on to the stage. It’s quite personal in the rehearsal room – it’s a very small space, very intimate. On any stage, you’ve got to rack the performance up a bit, but in this stage you really have to, so it all became bigger, and we all got worried that we’d lost the details. But Dominic told us not to worry, that it’s just part of the process of tech week and finding our way in a new space. Changes were very minor; I ended up trying to play a lot more up to the upper galleries, looking around a lot more, and trying to take the theatre in, which was quite scary at the beginning because it makes you almost wobble when you’re looking up to the lords’ rooms.
The biggest change from tech week was with my costume. Part of it is a really long heavy overcoat that I was supposed to be wearing for a lot of the play. I did for a few previews, but it weighs an absolute tonne, so we struck a deal that I would wear it in the first scene and the last two, and then I could have the rest of the time off! It really affected my movement as it’s so heavy and long that I was tripping up over it all the time. So it’s just the skirt and I am getting better at moving in it. In the rehearsal room I was walking fast, striding around, and that proved to be impossible in the dress. Glynn [Macdonald, Movement Coach] was saying, ‘Try and move like a duck, so you’re gliding on the top but your legs are moving very fast underneath!’, but I just couldn’t bear to go on tip toes underneath the dress. I’m in flats, so I do pick up my dress from time to time, which I get told off about; her status is such that I should be gliding around and never hiking up my dress, but I can’t go at any pace at all it in it. I figure that Goneril’s got more important things to do than to move slowly. In the one show I did speed up, I fell over just as I was going off-stage so I’m now trying to steer it round, rather than lifting it up.
They’re supposed to be clothes, not costumes, so I’m supposed to inhabit it, but I get tangled. The costume I wore for Heloise [in In Extremis in the 2007 season] was long but it was light, so when I turned it turned quickly; with this dress I turn and then it follows me like a juggernaut! There’s swathes of material as it’s pleated, which makes it hang really wel,l but also means it’s easy to catch on things. Regan’s coat is much lighter, and Kellie [Bright, Regan] seems better at moving around, but then she doesn’t have to go at the same pace. The hat helps me to maintain my posture, as you hold yourself better if you’ve got a big hat on. It does give me stage presence and it works for the character though.
The First Night
I think just going on, saying your lines, and coming off successfully is the real achievement of the first night. Dominic says that there’s always a big difference on the first preview; a lot of Friends of the Globe come, and they’re very excited about it – they are there to support you. Although I found the first preview very interesting, because the audience had control of us, not us of them. There was a lot of coughing and lots of wriggling, and there was a round of applause after the fight. Dominic told us the next day that we need to be in front of them all the time, we need to be fast when we come on stage and always be desperate to say what we have to say; in that way you stay ahead of them, and then they’re happy to follow. And it worked. When we did it the next night, the audience dynamic was completely different.
There were also lots of small cuts in preview week. The wheelbarrows got cut because they were making the audience laugh and spoiling the mood. Even when the play was tight all the way through, there was still a chuckle, so now those characters that have died get dragged onstage in blankets. But I think if you’re in charge of the audience, then you can’t tell the difference between the preview audiences. Although, because it’s a set text in schools, for the first week there were a lot of kids down stage left to the front, who like to chat and this was new to me; we didn’t get school groups in to see In Extremis and it was in a more recognisable language, so it was easier to follow. I had a couple of nights of it in a row and I was starting to find it really distracting and then I just thought, ‘This is a part of the Globe experience’. Also, apparently in the original Globe, lots of stuff would be going on in the pit; people were possibly selling stuff and it could have been that when the rich people would come through, the audience might be more interested in how fantastic they looked. That’s part of what acting at the Globe is, and you can’t be too precious about it.
We’re two and half weeks in, and we’ve got two weeks off King Lear after tonight. I think I’ve hit my stride, though I’m finding new stuff every day. There’s the scene between Goneril and Regan at the beginning that I still find hard to play, where we’re taking the idea that there is no darkness and that we’re a happy family. I find it quite hard to play; it’s the bit I like the least and I still feel like I’m holding back from what I would like to do. But this production is about the family tragedy, and if you can spot that it’s going to unfold straight away, then there’s no journey. It feels slightly against the text but I like the journey.
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as she goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.