In his fifth blog post Mark discusses Gratiano's journey through the course of the play and how this production uses the Yard space in the performance.
Transcript of Podcast
Journey and Transformation
There is a real journey and transformation for Gratiano in the play. Up until the masque scene Gratiano is wild and loud. After the masque I realise that I want to go to Belmont and perhaps I need to grow up. The next time you see me I am getting married. So after this big moment, at the end of the masque, I have these three scenes where I say I want to get married to Nerissa. I am quite keen to play it that it really is love at first sight. Maybe I am surprised by the fact that it has happened, but it is kind of amazing and I like it.
The director is trying to emphasise the fact that Bassiano and Gratiano are quite unreliable and the girls should be quite wary of us. We are not perhaps, certainly not initially, going to be very good husbands. But when the whole trick with the rings, we give the rings away and then Portia and Nerissa shame us and show us up, is perhaps where we learn another lesson about being faithful.
In the trial scene I am quite nasty. My instinct is that even when everyone else is forgiving Shylock, I carry on being nasty. I think my intention is that it should be a bit uncomfortable. That maybe people will think: ‘Why is he still being nasty?’
At the moment I feel that Gratiano thinks that his behaviour is fine. From his point of view, at the end of the day, Shylock has tried to kill one of his mates. It’s logical he would think that is the worst thing ever, and just because Shylock’s been caught out by the law, Gratiano is not entirely sure why he should forgive him. I wonder if Gratiano doesn’t buy into the whole ‘mercy’ concept. I am hoping that it is richer if some people do, and Antonio is very forgiving and very Christian about it, and if I am not, that says more.
Because it is quite hard to recover from, at the moment the end of the trial scene does feel a bit funny to me, I don’t have any lines for a start, I mean basically the last thing I say in the scene, is I say to Shylock, ‘If I was the judge I would have had you hanged!’. And then that’s it and then they all make up and there’s this comedy with Portia getting the ring from Bassanio and I just kind of stand there. Everyone else either talks or goes off. But I stand there and he says we off with the ring, so there is that moment there where I haven’t really solved whether I … I mean when I have played it and tried to really get in to the emotion of the trial scene I am still quite pumped up and pissed off and even though it has worked out well I am still kind of … it seems quite hard to then go, Oh hooray everything’s funny. And I not quite sure what the right thing is to do, whether I can shake it off quickly.
Act V is kind of a funny thing, because although it is a joke and although we discover that the girls are teasing us, they do actually say that they have gone off and slept with other men, when we’ve just got married to them. We were initially playing that quite jokey and quite a bit sitcom, but actually the reality of that is quite upsetting. The temptation often in a lot of acting is to under, because something isn’t real, or like if you are lying, or a character is lying to you, to kind of undersell it, so for a while we were kind of , we were almost doing this comedy crying, when they were saying they had going with these men, we were going ‘oh NO its Sooooo terrible’, and actually I think that we were kind of underselling it and at the moment I think it could be better to genuinely play upset. The audience will be laughing because they know it’s not true, but we should take it quite seriously. And that will help us to learn a lesson. I mean it slightly makes a problem because then we’ve got to forget it quite quickly .. and be kind of up again at the end.
My instinct is to try and go to these extremes to try and get it incredibly nasty and then come back with some gags and try and get upset and then come back and you know not smooth out those reactions. Whether it works, we’ll see!
Using the Yard
We are making a lot of use of the Yard space. We’ve got a bridge, a Venetian bridge that starts in the yard and comes up onto the stage. That’s being used quite a lot, people are entering over that, but I also think in the first half there are some scenes that will happen entirely on that bridge in order to allow the caskets to stay on the stage. There are three casket choosing scenes and I think the little scenes in between them are going to happen on the bridge, so almost entirely in the Yard.
The Gondola song will happen in the Yard, it will dock on the stage. We are still working out how it will happen. The last idea is that the Gondolier is on stilts. So he’ll have a big pole and he’ll be high and the two of us Gratiano and S in the gondolier are on the shoulders of two stage management guys and then Vivienne, I mentioned, the singer is carrying the prow of the boat, so you don’t maybe see her so much, because she is on ground level. That might be too dangerous so there is now talk that we could be on a trolley, singing with flaming torches, so that will be interesting in the tech!
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.