This is Meredith's first blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III in which she talks about her experiences of the Globe before performing here, the first week of rehearsals and her character, Lady Anne.
Transcript of Podcast
The night before rehearsals started, I was so terrified I couldn't sleep. I guess it was a combination of excitement and anticipation; I had been looking forward to rehearsals for so long that when, finally, they were about to start, I wasn't sure what to do! In the morning, I was ready to leave the house long before I needed to be, and I just stood there with my bag and coat waiting for the right time to go. I didn't want to arrive too early, to seem too keen, but all the same I couldn't wait! I've wanted to work at the Globe for a long time. I'm originally from Nova Scotia in Canada, and the first time I came to London was to audition for drama school in 1997. I was only here for two nights, but while I was here I came to the Globe and saw Henry V. It was an amazing experience; I was blown away by the way that the actors and the theatre combined to break every 'rule' that people often think exists for performing Shakespeare. Mark [Rylance, Artistic Director, who played King Henry] delivered one of his speeches with his back to the audience; you would never do that in some other theatres, and yet it worked. It seemed as though there was an amazing freedom for actors to try things out here, to not be confined in any way, and I decided then that I really wanted to stand on that stage. Of course, everybody says 'I'm going to be there/do that one day' about things, but it was really nice to stand on the stage on our first day of rehearsals and think 'I did it', even if that moment passed and panic set in as soon as I realised that I'll actually be having to perform there in less than two months.
First Week of Rehearsals
For the first week of rehearsals, we did a lot of games and exercises to help us get to know the other members of the company, but Barry [Kyle, Master of Play] also used each exercise to get us to think about the play. One of the first games we played was Grandmother's Footsteps. In this game, one person, (the 'Grandmother'), stands in front of the rest of the group and tries to catch the others as they sneak up behind them to take their place. The first time we did this game, we all had to try and sneak up on Liz Kettle, who's playing Edward IV, and then the second time, we tried it with Kathryn [Hunter, Richard III]. By making us all try and 'become king', playing that game also helped us start to think about how unstable the world of the play is; everyone is trying to gain the upper hand. Since the beginning of rehearsals, we have been working together as a company on movement and singing. Throughout the play, there will be occasions when those of us who aren't directly involved with a scene appear on stage as a chorus, for example, as the funeral procession of Henry VI. We have done a lot of movement work to help us move together as a group, like a flock of birds. This just takes practice; you have to be very aware of everyone around you and of who is 'leading' the group at any particular time (this can often change very quickly).
Our company is the first all-female company to perform at the Globe, but, to be honest, the fact that the some of the company are playing men hasn't really influenced the rehearsal process. Each of us is treating our characters as we would any other, irrespective of gender, trying to find out why and how they do what they do. Because Richard III is a history play, we've all been spending a lot of time researching what actually happened, or what people think happened, leading up to the Battle of Bosworth, and more importantly, who our characters really were. This has really helped me start to get to grips with the character of Lady Anne. I originally thought that Lady Anne was simply a victim, a little like Ophelia in Hamlet. After all, at the beginning of the play, she has nothing and no-one to support her; her parents are dead, her husband has just died and she has no friends at court who can help her. However, to view Lady Anne as a victim is to totally disregard how she is actually portrayed in the text, but if you look at the history of Lady Anne, who she is and what happens to her before the play starts, she, and her relationship with Richard, begin to make a bit more sense.
Lady Anne's father was the Earl of Warwick, also known as the Kingmaker, and perhaps the most powerful magnate in the land. During the reign of Henry VI, Warwick helped the Duke of York (Richard's father) and his son Edward (King Edward IV, Richard's brother) to fight King Henry before switching allegiance to the crown, (hence Anne's marriage to King Henry's son). When Anne was growing up, her father and Richard's father were fighting on the same side. According to some of the history books I've read, Richard and his other brother Clarence were sent to stay with the Earl of Warwick when they were young, so Anne and Richard, to a certain extent, grew up together and must have known each other fairly well. Recently, I have been struggling with my first scene as Lady Anne, act 1 scene 2. Just reading the scene, I found it very hard to believe that a woman could be wooed in such a way, and with such success, by her husband's murderer and I immediately realised that it could be very hard to convince an audience not to dismiss Anne's agreeing to marry Richard as pretence. You could play Lady Anne as a 'victim' in that scene; her reason for accepting Richard as her husband could simply be her own survival, but for me, this interpretation does not sit well with what Shakespeare has written. Some of the conversations between Anne and Richard remind me a little of those between Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing; they are battles of wit:
RICHARD Vouchsafe, divine perfection of a woman,
Of these supposèd crimes to give me leave
By circumstance but to acquit myself
ANNE Vouchsafe, diffused infection of a man,
Of these known evils but to give me leave
By circumstance to accuse thy cursèd self.
Instantly, Anne subtly changes what Richard has just said and throws it back at him; they are intellectual equals and she obviously feels that, despite her weak social position, she can counter him in this way. The scene suddenly becomes more believable if you consider that Richard and Anne knew each other as children; he isn't merely the murderer of her husband, but someone she has known for years. I am now much happier generally with the scene, and I feel that I can approach it honestly, but I'm still working out how we can present the scene to an audience and make them believe what they are seeing is genuine and true.
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.