Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 4

This is Eve's fourth blog post. This week she discusses the experience of performing on the Globe stage, the different audience responses the play has received, and the choices she makes playing Lady Macbeth.

Transcript of Podcast

Peforming on the Globe stage

I never imagined in my wildest dreams what it was going to be like. Secretly I thought, oh well, it's the Globe, it will be really scary of course. Seeing all those people is going to be really scary. Deep down I thought, well it's going to be really scary but actually it will be really exhilarating and really fun, and it's all going to go marvellously. I had not bargained for how genuinely terrifying it was and is. It's not like any experience I’ve ever had in my life. It's like being on a roller coaster. It's completely exhilarating, but most of the time my stomach is in my mouth and I want to run away screaming.

The audience

The audience is such a powerful presence; it's as if they are in the play themselves. The difficulty is striking the balance of making sure that you’re communicating with them properly, so that it's neither them controlling you nor you controlling them. It's the thing of them not being in the dark. They are as much a part of the play as we are. They inform you by their response. Things that you think aren’t funny in rehearsal, become absolutely hilarious because the audience laugh at the irony of it. They’re laughing because they’re responding to some understanding of human folly.

If you stop concentrating, if you stop believing what you’re saying, the audience will know. In a normal play it's all in the dark, you can’t see anyone's faces; the audience doesn’t feel like they’re a part of the play. You’re divorced from them. You present something on a plate and push it towards them, and then they take it and either decide to eat it or throw it out. In this performance you’re there with them - finding out about each other.

We’ve had two very different responses from the audiences. On the first night the crowd went completely wild and they adored it. Then on the second night we were probably far more confident because we knew people had really liked it, so they were bound to really like it again. So, of course, they didn’t, and they were very restrained. We got to the end of the show and there was this shocked, stunned silence. It was a very different response. I think it's actually a really good thing, because then it continues to be terrifying and you don’t have the safety net of thinking, ‘well, I know I’ve got a top play and a top cast and I know the reviewers are going to love it.’ There's none of that safety about this show. Everyone talks on about the need to take risks and the need to be brave, but I don’t think that very many people do really.

Playing Lady Macbeth

Normally I would have made some decisions. For example, Lady Macbeth is very upset by the loss of her child, which has left her very depressed. I know that when I say to my husband, ‘I have given suck,’ it makes me want to cry. Although that is true, that information can inform how you say the line very differently each time you do it. David Mamet says it doesn’t matter how you say the lines as long as you know what you want, which is the most ideal situation. You can’t rely on thinking, ‘oh this is the bit when I shout,’ or ‘this is the bit where I lose my temper.’ You’ve got to be so in the moment that you might lose your temper or you might decide to control your temper. I still haven’t got to that stage of being so secure in what you think and feel that you can go in a myriad of different ways. Your emotions and your mind need to be working so clearly and you need to concentrate so hard on what you’re doing, so that you are absolutely on the ball all the time.

It's funny as well because you know that the audience have an idea of what Lady Macbeth is like, so they’re guiding you to behave in a certain way. It's very hard to stay true to your idea of who you are and to take them with you rather than be taken along by them. I feel like there are so many different jobs within this job. The first job is dealing with the character of Lady Macbeth herself. The second job is dealing with Macbeth, because the only things Lady Macbeth has to do in the play are really with him. She has to work out their relationship together and how the balance of power between them changes. The third job is dealing with the language of the play and learning to be comfortable with that so that you really feel that you’re speaking it rather than just reciting lines. Sometimes people ask you to try saying the lines very quickly so that you’re not actually working hard on what you mean, your brain switches off and you just concentrate on getting through the speech. The fourth job is learning about the nature of the Globe and its audience, how the relationship with the audience informs everything you do. And the fifth job in this production is coping with all of the group movement and choreography. Hopefully that will settle down and become second nature. What I think is good about it is that it's such a clear style that eventually, hopefully, it will allow us to play against it, which would be the ideal. Not to do scenes as if we are in dinner jackets and fancy frocks, but to play them as though we are just in jeans, sitting talking to each other.

Tonight I’ll be concentrating on creating a sense of danger. Last night I tried very hard to concentrate on not leaving pauses and on accepting things that happened. I was miserable on Sunday because I was trying to control the outcome of things that happened too much. Whereas on Tuesday night I just gave up and tried to accept whatever happened. As long as you give yourself a job in the moment, as long as you believe that all you have to do is try to affect the other person on stage in some way, nothing else matters. Having a specific intention is very important. If that intention doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and it's not a big deal. As long as your intention isn’t just ‘I want this to be good,’ then you’re all right.

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 change frequently as the rehearsal process progresses.

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