In her fourth blog post Sophie discusses the experience of taking to the Globe stage, how the final Act has progressed since last week, and taking inspiration from another play on this season.
Transcript of Podcast
We started doing a few scenes together. It's lovely to start doing that. It's also quite alarming! It's a mixture between lovely and alarming, because instead of working in quite an isolated way, as though your scenes were little islands, everything in the play begins to link together. It's very inspiring to see what other people have been working on. Somehow it helps to “irrigate” what you’ve been doing, to use a John Dove word [Master of Play]. The other scenes inform your work to a degree, although, as a character, I obviously wouldn’t know about the scenes that I’m not in. As an actor it's a very fruitful time in rehearsals; I’m starting to get a sense of the rhythm of the whole piece, which helps to put the particular scenes that I have been concentrating on into context. That's quite comforting.
On the stage
This production is the last one to open so we’re not having a lot of rehearsal time on stage. We have to work around all the performances of Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing. I had an hour on stage with Mark [Rylance, Artistic director] this week, which was really interesting. Quite a few times, I’ve worked in spaces where the audience is on three sides, but every theatre is so different. The Globe is incomparable; three-sided things are always a challenge, but here it somehow feels more natural. I don’t know why yet. We haven’t really got onstage, so I’ve still to find out why the space is different in practical terms. During the session, I watched some of the actors on the stage from different points in the theatre, and I just realised how visually dynamic it is in different ways.
It's also very exciting to be able to turn upstage. I can turn away from someone completely, and still give out the story right there at the side, really helping that section of the audience in. I found that very helpful because part of me was thinking, ‘How different is it from another stage?’ I haven’t been on tour for a long time, but I remember from when I was on tour was that every theatre has its own character – like houses, or any kind of building – and theatres can feel particularly potent just because they’re gathering places, so much goes on there. To watch other people moving around the stage helped me see how movement onstage impacts on different sections of the audience, and so I started to find out about the differences at the Globe. I found that most helpful in my head, in rehearsals, since that day. It's just an extra layer. It's also because you’ve got people up in those little boxes sometimes [the Lords rooms], so there's no getting away from it. You really feel that you’re surrounded by people. I’ve really been aware of that aspect of it. I found the session very helpful in that it liberated the way that I move in my scenes. It opened them up for me, I think.
We’re still really teasing out Act V. The last act of Measure for Measure is like a very dense ball of wool and we have to tease out the threads. I feel that more so with act five, scene one, than with any other scene, as most of the characters involved have to respond to all the threads of the story coming together very quickly. There are so many different things coming together at once and it's tricky to keep up. The real challenge is to keep those threads alive by using the text, and not doing too much awful ‘End of Shakespeare’ play acting, which I find I could so easily do! So we’re still trying to plumb the depths of that one. But maybe time will help as much as anything else. As we spend more time working on it, the scene will seem more familiar and less dense!
I like the unresolved quality of the final scene, although having a few lines would be quite good, quite helpful! I’ve got to be really clear about what I’m thinking if I’m not saying anything, and I suppose at the moment I’m not as clear as I need to be. Every time we do that scene, I stand there trying to work it out as we go along. I think I’m getting a little bit clearer, but it's hard because the character is quite confused. It's like when you’re playing someone that's meant to be boring: hopefully you don’t play it in a boring way – you want to remain interesting – but you know from the story that that person is quite dull. In Isabella's case, I’ve got to be able to be confused as a character, but I can’t be horribly confused as an actor because that means I’ll be unable to put her confusion across. I’m trying to be clear about what my confusion is, and at the moment I’m just confused! I think the feelings in the story are very mixed, and when your feelings are mixed, you do go blank; something in you shuts down and you can’t cope at all. I also think that people often portion down very large, powerful feelings because they’re too much to take all at once. I have to find the balance in what I show as well; when you’re surprised, you don’t necessarily stand back in amazement with your jaw dropped. I just want to make sure I’m not just making faces that are meaningless – that's got to be avoided at all costs.
I’ve seen a bit of Romeo and Juliet and I loved it. I haven’t seen a complete show yet, because we have such long rehearsal days and I have to get home to my children. The bit of the first half that I did see was very inspiring because they were using the space so beautifully. I thought the pace of it was exciting too, and the way they related to the audience. I saw the street scene with Tybalt and Mercutio and Benvolio so it was very action-packed, with brilliant fights. They had lots of opportunities to talk to the audience as well, and they did it so effortlessly: I was full of admiration. I know our story's different and I’m not involved in any action-packed street scenes, but I’m going to work on the opportunities I do have to make a special connection. I’ve got a soliloquy and I’m hopefully going to enjoy sharing that with the audience in the very particular way that you can here…
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.