In her second blog post Philippa discusses how difficult it is to get out bad habits while rehearsing, the 'lover's scene' (Act III, scene ii) and the experience of playing a fairy
Transcript of Podcast
Running the play
We’re starting to do runs of the play on Saturdays now, and we had our first one last weekend. It was nice to see the whole play, but at the same time I’m at a stage where I don’t really know what’s good or bad about the performance; I have no way to gauge whether anything is working. Thankfully, Mike [Alfreds, Master of Play] seemed to think it was quite good, so that’s encouraging.
I’m working to try and cure some really bad habits I’ve picked up as I’ve been working on my lines. When I was younger I had piano lessons, and would get into the habit of playing wrong notes in certain places. My teacher would point them out again and again, but I couldn’t, (or wouldn’t) correct them. I think I thought what I was playing sounded better than what was written! Anyway, it’s the same thing with my lines. I’ve got into the habit of stressing particular words in each line, which makes them sound very jagged and nasty. One of the worst examples is when I say to Demetrius "Thou drivest me past the bounds / Of maiden’s patience" (iii.2.66). Hermia is really upset at that point; she’s worried that Lysander might be dead, but I am putting too much emphasis on certain parts of the words, so that it comes out as "Thou DRIVEst me PAST the BOUNds / Of MAIDen’s Patience." It sounds awful. So, Mike [Alfreds] gave me a note telling me to say my lines "more horizontally", more smoothly; I have to make the point of the line come across clearly, rather than let it get lost in the words.
The Lover's Scene
At the moment, we’re spending a lot of time working on the lovers’ scene (act iii, scene 2). It’s by far the hardest scene in the play for me, not only because of what Hermia says and hears, but also because of what isn’t said and the tension in the situation. When Hermia asks Lysander "why unkindly did thou leave me so?" (iii.2.183), at the same time, I have to consider that she’s in a wood, it’s pitch black, and if she is found by other Athenians or returns to the city, she faces the possibility of being put to death. She’s put all her trust in Lysander and their elopement, and she can’t quite believe he’s going to leave her like this. It’s quite a lot to consider, and then Mike [Alfreds] tells us: "Don’t think about it." It’s a puzzle. The important thing is to consider all of these "extra" thoughts early on in rehearsal, and then push it to the back of your mind. If you think about it too much, you tend to relish the words at the expense of the story. In the end, it’s the story that’s the most important thing, and I’m really enjoying working on that scene, as I feel it’s all slowly coming together.
I’m also enjoying working on the fairies scenes. I’m part of Titania’s train, and we have to move her around a lot, including lifting her above our heads. I don’t get to do that – the height difference between me and the rest of them would make it a little dangerous for her. So instead, I focus on what’s happening. We’ve agreed that the fairies are quite alarmed by all the things that are happening in their wood. It’s bad enough that Oberon and Titania are fighting and that the seasons are muddled as a result, but having humans, who aren’t particularly nice people, in the wood as well is a bit much. We’re all quite happy at the end when they’ve left, I think.
The Globe stage
We’ve started to do a little work on the Globe stage, which is good, as you begin to get aware of playing to others. That’s the thing about this stage, it’s incredibly empowering if you are prepared to think of your performance as a chance to give energy to the audience. I’m a big Gene Kelly fan, and if you look at a photo of him dancing with other people, the difference between him and the rest is incredible. The reason for this is that he seems to be exuding energy, giving it away, whereas the others are much more restrained and are keeping their energy inside themselves. Working on this stage helps you give your energy away to the audience, and the performance works all the better for it.
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.