This is Yolanda's first blog entry for the 2005 production of The Winter's Tale, in which she talks about her preparation and first impressions, the read through and starting work on the jig already.
Transcript of Podcast
What's the story?
Well, it's great to be back! This is my fifth season here, so the Globe feels a bit like my second home. I love the space – here we are in the rehearsal room and I’m already looking forward to getting on stage. We’ve been rehearsing for a week now. Working with John [Dove, Master of Play] is quite wonderful – he focuses on peeling layer after layer after layer from the story until we’re left with the bare facts of a character or a situation. That avoids imposing anything on to the text; everything seems very natural. Finding that truth involves asking lots of questions: ‘Where is this character? Where have they just come from? What is it like to be them at this very moment? What's their relationship with this person?’ We’ve been trying to answer the question ‘What's the story?’ behind the characters: how have they reached this particular situation?
In last year's rehearsals for Much Ado About Nothing, we played lots of games to get into the text and the fun of the play. The Winter's Tale is a very different play and John has a very different process: we’ll start on a section of a scene and sometimes just do two or three lines, then go back and start again and again – John will throw in little bits of an idea or he’ll say ‘Even simpler – just be daring, be even simpler.’ It's interesting that he uses the word ‘daring’, because you might not immediately associate that with simplicity and ‘doing less’. But it is quite hard to really get down to the bare bones of a character's situation… you feel there has to be a certain emotion there, but if you dare to leave the moment quite simply, then you have something that you can start to build on.
I didn’t really do a huge amount of preparation for rehearsals – this happens to me every year. I read the play and get familiar with the story and the characters, but I can’t really start work until I get into the rehearsal room and establish relationships with the other performers and with the director – it's now that my work really starts in earnest. Up until rehearsals began, I just made sure that I knew the story and the relationships between the characters. Once you start work in rehearsals, you realise how much you miss out when you’re working through the play on your own! I mean, you try to go back to the text over and over and over again, but other actors or the director always bring up ideas which make you go ‘Ohh, I missed that out of the story, I didn’t realise that!’ That's what's interesting about the process. Read-through We did a read-through on the first day of rehearsals (apparently that's quite rare nowadays) but it was lovely to hear everybody reading their part – the different voices and the words. Then we started working; we work in sections, so we picked one little section of the play and read through it, then discussed it (what we think a character might want from this situation, for example) and then we got up on our feet and started trying out some of those ideas. Then we go back over it again and again until new things grow out of the characters and the situation; eventually you find there are lots of different layers to the story, and you bring those thoughts to the next day's rehearsal – then you move onto the next section. So there's a lot to think about and that's what we’ve been doing. Sometimes directors split the play up into units and give each unit a title, to help everyone get orientated and to break the play down, but we decided not to do that this time because of the nature of the play – we thought it would be better just to work through it and see what happens! Jig We’ve started work on the jig already. Plays at the Globe often end with a dance or a jig, which is a brilliant way to lift everyone out of the world of the story. Sian [Williams, Master of Dance] is working with us and the music is just stupendous; the rhythms sound very Eastern, Turkish almost. Sian brings in lots of different steps which we learn as a group, then we start to make formations or patterns with them, and with her help we begin to mix and match… if something doesn’t quite fit with the music or the rest of the group, then we work together to find ways of changing it: ‘What if I do one extra turn – would it work if we did this?’ This morning, after we did all our choreography work, she said ‘I’d like you all to make up the last bit!’ Our improvisations were really chaotic and very funny, but it worked – some of our improvisations will give her ideas and she’ll come back with something set for us. So inspiration works both ways! First impressions When I first read the play, I kept thinking of a Spanish fairytale called Mamita. It's about a little girl who is left out in the forest. She grows up with peasants and brings up their children, and eventually it turned out that she is the king's daughter. So that was what struck me at first, the idea of abandoned children who were left to the elements but somehow survived – Perdita's story. I also found the patience and dignity of Hermione extraordinary; sixteen years in hiding is a long time. She keeps on living because she knows that the Oracle has said her child is alive somewhere. That's what keeps her going – the desire to see her child again. Leontes’ extraordinary love also struck me: that a love can be so deep and passionate that it turns to a jealousy which is almost hatred. There's a very fine line. It's very evident that he has an immense passion for her which mutates into something much darker. But there's such a mixture of things in there… it's a very odd play. I found the way the story starts in one Court, then goes off to the country for the sheep-shearing, and then returns to Sicilia quite strange. I realised I haven’t seen a performance of this play before – or if I have, I don’t remember much of it. I have visions of Autolycus in my head and I can’t think where I’ve seen him! Lots of people have a strong reaction to The Winter's Tale, especially Hermione as the statue who comes back to life at the end. Lots of people said to me ‘Oh, The Winter's Tale, fantastic! That's one of my favourite plays.’ I find that very interesting because I wouldn’t have been able to say that about the play before we started rehearsals. I’m certainly finding it exciting to explore the story; I think it's too early yet to say anything else!
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.