Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

In her second blog post Sally discusses working with the text and movement experts at the Globe, the family dynamic between Lear and his daughters and rehearsing the jig.

Transcript of Podcast


Now we have got up and decided to go through the play with really big brush strokes of colour to see what it is like. To remove the feeling that this massive beast of a play might be unconquerable. We decided we had to commit 100% to everything, no matter how strange our choices might seem. So we marked out the movements in a rough fashion, saying come over here at that point, remember to do this, that sort of thing.

In the third week of rehearsals we went through the play again, and by this time most people were off the book, which means they know their lines by heart. So we could start stitching more material in, and we could begin to see the play coming together, and yesterday we did our first run of Act 1.

The Significance of Prose

Something I needed to work out is why Regan and Goneril speak in prose when they are alone together, which they do right from 1.1. When a character speaks in prose it usually signifies that they are hiding something, that there is something else going on underneath. Even though we are clearly plotting together the fact we are doing it in prose and not verse suggests that there is an undercurrent of mistrust even between us. Giles [Block, the text expert] thinks that it has something to do with the fact that the power balance is different from what we expected it to be. We thought the Kingdom would be divided into thirds but it has actually been divided between the two of us, and that this puts the sisters into direct opposition to each other. I’ve been thinking about when Goneril says to Regan ‘Sister, it is not a little I have to say of what most nearly appertains us both’, and it seems as though at this point she is trying to exert her power over Regan by pulling rank as the older sister. It’s as though she thinks we’ve got half the kingdom each but I’m the older one and I’m telling you what’s going on. Regan still seems a bit undecided about what’s going on, saying ‘We shall further think of it’, but Goneril is pushing for action, ‘We must do something, and i’th heat’. She seems to be emphasising that as the eldest she is the leader.

Working with experts

Giles is amazing. We sit there and go through the punctuation of the text, he’ll refer to the First Folio and say, ‘You see here, that is two words rather than one, and there’s not a comma there, there it is a hyphen. Can you see how that would change the rhythm? That’s the original punctuation.’ And you go ‘Aah!’ He’s brilliant.

Glynn [MacDonald, movement expert] is also brilliant. She is really helping me to develop what kind of physicality Goneril’s going to have. She’s suggested that Goneril should be taking up more and more space throughout the play, until she collapses. As she’s so predatory Glynn has suggested that she should have a very direct, hunter-like focus to her gaze, always watching. And because she acts before thinking we’ve decided to always have her moving forward, never back, and pushing through the air in a forceful manner.

Differences between Goneril and Regan

I think that either consciously or subconsciously Goneril is trying to rule in the same way as her father did, as she seems to be asserting herself in quite a masculine way and takes the men on their own terms. Regan seems to use her sexuality to get her way. I think that she is feeling quite overwhelmed by him in 1.3, when she complains that ‘his knights grow riotous and himself upbraids us on every trifle’, and I think it is here that she decides that she is not going to endure his behaviour any longer. And then when he returns you see her gradual realisation that she can take control, and you can see her excitement at the first taste of her power. And it’s so interesting that her revolt takes place in her domestic space. I’ve come to more of an understanding about why she behaves as she does, everything’s happening so fast and she seems almost giddy with her new found power.

Discussing the family

In the third week Lear, the sisters and Dominic sat down to try and work out the family dynamic, and that was really helpful. It put us all back in the same play, and the relationships became a bit clearer. We speculated about whether maybe the mother had died giving birth to Cordelia, which would explain why the sisters resented her and why Lear was so protective of her. But then we moved away from thinking about the mother, because it is all speculation, as there is only one line in the entire play about her. We thought about how the reaction of the sisters to Lear’s rages, for example when Albany seems shocked by Lear’s cursing of Goneril, she replies ‘Never afflict yourself to know more of it, but let his disposition have that scope as dotage give it’ (1.4.282-3). We all decided that this shows that we used to be terrified of him, and that although they are used to his rages they know that it is on a different scale now, its been taken to a different degree. Something has changed in him since he’s relinquished the kingdom, he doesn’t know how to behave and is all over the place.

The jig

We’re doing a jig. At the end everybody is dead on the floor, and me and Regan get wheel-barrowed in. I thought they were joking at first, but no we come on in actual, wooden wheelbarrows. Then the singer, Pamela, she goes round, singing in Old English, and as she taps people and they come to life again and we all sing a bit in Old English and then we all jump into the jig. We’ve had three jig rehearsals, and we’ll be dancing as actors though we are going to be paired off with our husbands.

My costume

My costume’s a sludgy sort of green colour, and made out of beautiful material, and trimmed with fur. I think there’s some leather as well. It’s very big and will take up a lot of space on the stage, which goes with my character. And I’m having a hat. It’s supposed to look like my hair’s been bound in material. I like the idea of hair, but I’m not so keen on wearing a hat as I can’t imagine storming around with it on. Regan’s is a darkish red colour, and is fitted at the waist because she’s the sexy sister.


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.

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