This is Marcello's second blog entry for the 2005 production of Pericles in which he talks about continuing rehearsals, improvisation and the relationship between Simonides and Thaisa, amongst other things.
Transcript of Podcast
It's been a very intense week and we’ve done a lot of work. Time was allowed for me to do some movement work with the Chorus vis-à-vis the storms; I’ve had some group sessions where everyone tried to build boats onstage using ropes and bamboo sticks, in order to create the moment in which Pericles loses all of his sailors and all his possessions before he's thrown up on the shores of Pentapolis. We’re trying to integrate what the aerialists have created with the physical language that I have developed on the ground. Linking that work is complicated because there are so many safety issues to be considered. Our co-ordination has to be perfect.
Good King Simonides
Today I worked on Simonides; he is a good king and he also turns out to be a good actor as well as a good father. His daughter Thaisa doesn’t want to choose a husband for herself. Maybe it's because she's shy or she doesn’t want to decide until I’ve said ‘Now, this is the time,’ but as Simonides, I take the reins of the situation when I see a spark between her and Pericles. I make up this act in which I pretend to be very upset that they’ve got together without asking my permission. I look furious and in that way I force them to take a position. Then I somehow make them man and wife and very forcefully I cheer them; I pretend to be cross whilst I’m actually giving them my blessing. It's a lovely moment to play.
Improvisation: the palace
Hilary [Tones, Thiasa] and I did a wonderful improvisation in which we took the director and the assistant director – Kathryn and Yann – through our palace. We described all the rooms that we had. At first, they thought that we were living in a palace that only had one floor, and we said ‘No no, you’re on the second floor but you didn’t realise; you came up the staircase, and from here you can look at everything for miles around – the sea, the desert and the palm trees. You look through windows surrounded by marble carved with Arabic decoration, and the floor is covered with beautiful mosaics. From the window you can see lots of pools and fountains inside the palace.’ I imagined it like the Alhambra palace in Granada. Also I’ve been to Agra in India where there are beautiful influences of the Muslim culture. Pentapolis is on the coast of Africa and I think Simonides being a traveller has seen many countries, and he built this palace with the Arabic world in his mind. Both my daughter and I had rooms with domes and there were little star-shaped holes in them so you could look through and see the sky; the stars let this delicate light and breeze through.
Simonides and Thaisa
Then we improvised the relationship between father and daughter, and it seems like Simonides isn’t so worried about politics - instead he wants to enjoy life and to be with people. He's late starting the tournament because he's busy greeting all the people arriving; Thaisa has to remind him to get on with it! But also he likes to take over. At one moment in the tournament he asks his daughter and Pericles to dance together, but because they are shy or waiting for each other to make the first move, Simonides decides to push her physically on a chair to come forward in the party. Then he physically lifts Pericles, like in an embrace, and sits him next to her: ‘Dance! Come, Sir, here's a lady that wants breathing too!’ She wants to sweat and have fun, but he has to actively push them together. Then in the second half of the improvisation, Simonides pretends to be totally enraged with Pericles and Thaisa: ‘How dare you choose a husband without my consent?’ Then suddenly he gives his consent and wishes them joy! He's a playful king.
At the moment I think I’m not royal enough, but what I’ve found is that as a father I really look at Thaisa from a distance and I can spot everything she does; I notice the friend that she walks with, I spot how she dresses. I am in admiration of her. So it's as if I have an enormous pride as a father. She is the reflection of what was my wife to me, and I think I’ve probably always told her that she reminds me of her mother. I’m a widower and I’m didn’t remarry because I didn’t want to create a conflict: I want Thaisa to have a sense of love as something very deep and full and constant. What is amazing is that in his kingdom, everyone says what a good King he is: the peaceful and generous kingdom of Simonides, the good Simonides. It's very strange to play someone like that because you can become a bit too soft. Simonides… I imagine him to be quite round and positive and jovial, but maybe that is too soft. I don’t know yet what to give to him in terms of my physicality to get that. Helicanus, on the other hand, is a straight person – like a flag or a strong point of reference.
Another improvisation was on the tournament of athletes. Everyone came to these games with a gift from their country and they also brought a love song in their own language which was translated to the Princess. They carried flags and did a kind of martial display – everyone used the flags in different ways. Some people threw them and other people used it in a sort of pelvic thrust – that challenge of love was very sexual. Some people sang beautiful romantic songs and someone brought dry reindeer meat in a box! It was very funny. We laughed a lot and it made us want to come off the text for the actual performance at the Globe! The athlete from Finland cried and cried, then offered the princess a small box, saying ‘Love is this…’ She cried some more as she opened the box: ‘Love is… dried reindeer meat.’ We couldn’t stop laughing, it was fantastic. But then she told us a poem in Finnish and we could feel that she was so serious. We could tell that this present was actually a very precious present. So the improvisation was about display and competition, but at the same time everyone brought something very specific to show what love is. Love can be so many things. One person from France brought a French saying which translates literally as ‘Can I fart in your bed?’, but the translation for the princess was ‘Love is: never having to say I’m sorry.’ It was brilliant – everyone came out with fantastic proposition. That gives us an impression of what's going on in the tournament without being real knights in armour. It's much more to do with wanting to bring our personal sense of love instead of a display of military pride.
Earlier in the week, we did a wonderful improvisation on Ephesus: that's where Cerimon the healer lives. Cerimon saves Thaisa [III.ii], who has been found dead in the coffin that Pericles threw overboard during the storm. She's revived by his persistence – he makes her come back to life. We thought the storm and the way the coffin arrived on this beach – perhaps it's like a Tsunami or an earthquake has happened, and everything has been washed up on the beach including Thaisa's coffin. Kathryn set up the idea of a beach: it's a holiday destination and there are quite a lot of English and American and French tourists. We all built up the situation: people are putting suntan lotion on and there are deckchairs and coastguards and sunbathers. Then we improvise that this earthquake happens: there's a storm that affects the entire coastline, as the tsunami did. People panic and there are some wounded people in the landscape. Immediately the doctor (Cerimon) arrives with first aid and he tries to save the wounded, so there's not only this coffin; there are more things, more distractions. He comes across Thaisa as another person who has to be saved in the midst of a catastrophe and we don’t know that she's a queen.
Everyone stayed in the improvisation for forty minutes to get a sense of what the situation might feel like: what does it mean to see a body come to the shore? What you do? The curiosity, the morbid sense of looking, and then the doctor went to work in a very practical way. After a while, he started to pray and cry out. It was interesting to see how the doctor thought of the lines; it was very human, as though he was asking ‘How do I fight for the life of this person?’ It was a very long improvisation and it worked very well.
At the moment we are in a very creative process. Everyone works together when we improvise to give us a flavour of each land. Kathryn is leading us in a very light and open way, with lots of encouragement. She helps us to understand that these situations are real and not just something that Shakespeare wrote about long ago: these things happen. Very often people fall into doing Shakespeare without the parallel to our own situations and experiences today. Kathryn is great because she brings you back.
Work at the Globe
We came again to the Globe and did different work with the Master of Voice and Movement and Text. Giles [Block, Master of Words] helped us explore how Shakespeare shifts between prose and verse in the wrestling scene of As You Like It [I.ii]. The prose was much more formal than the verse and hid what was happening in the heart of people; Duke Ferdinand begins to speak in prose as he asks Rosalind to persuade Orlando not to fight. It's as though he's pretending to be cool about the fighting: he says formally ‘Please, don’t fight!’ But perhaps he says this in prose not verse to hide his emotion – he really doesn’t want Orlando to get hurt. Then we looked at the second part of the scene. The Duke speaks in verse after the wrestling match and perhaps that's because his feelings have been released. So we analysed what was said and how it was said.
Then we worked on stage with Stewart [Pearce, Master of Voice]. We played with the volume on stage and tried speaking from different places in our body (the head, the throat, the chest, the pelvis). When we spoke from lower down, our voices lowered too. We spoke from a certain spot on the front edge of the stage which is precisely at the centre of the Globe. When you speak there, you can really feel the theatre resonate. Stewart asked us to see how far we could move away from this point and still keep that resonance within that entire theatre. The Globe is made of wood, so it's really able to vibrate with sound.
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.