This is Laura's seventh blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, where she talks more about her character, and about the reactions the show has recieved from the audience and from reviews.
Transcript of Podcast
Audience reaction to Lavinia
I feel that audiences have been sympathetic to Lavinia - even last night when the audience were really bloodthirsty. It started last night when Douglas [Hodge, playing Titus] gets on stage after his procession and he shouts, ‘Hail, Rome’. The audience all shouted back, ‘Hail, Titus’ and then Douglas couldn’t get on with the speech because they were all shouting and clapping and stomping. They were really bloodthirsty. During the banquet scene [Act 5 Scene 3] they were going mad and I was worried it might trip over into the wrong reaction when Titus kills Lavinia, that they might laugh. Usually the audience go really quiet at that point and I take that as showing how the audience have been feeling with Lavinia. Even last night it was so quiet. I’m so glad that even an animalistic audience can stop and react like that. I think Lavinia has to affect the heart of people. I think it is what Lavinia wants, it is the only release that she can have.
Just after the reviews came out, discussion around the play was about how Quentin Tarantino-esque this production is. I could really feel the expectation of the audience, wanting the spectacle and the blood. I felt very self-conscious about it. I felt people weren’t following the story, they were just waiting for the next big thing to happen. Now that seems to have gone away again. I think the audience needs to be asked questions such as, ‘Is this how I should feel about all this abuse?’ Even with an audience like last night’s, who were really hungry for the humour of it, I still feel that there is something serious getting through.
I did a couple of press interviews about people fainting, but it was getting ridiculous, so I stopped. Usually I don’t notice, peripherally I’m aware of movement and that's all. I’m surprised when I come off if Doug or someone says somebody fainted. Sometimes I think people can be affected by seeing somebody else faint as well. In a moment like Lavinia's trauma, because I’m being quite physical at that point, people are shocked by what they see and they are drawn into it because it's quite a visual thing and the shock can come after that.
I read the reviews and I was pleased with them. When I read reviews, I feel exposed by them - are they going to say something nice or something bad? As an actor you are massively concerned abut the production, but also as an actor there is this weird thing where you are concerned about yourself. Your name. What are people going to say about you? People pretend it's not like that, but I think somewhere it is. Acting is a self obsessed profession.
Even when a review says something really great, there is a bit of a let down once you've read it. It is horrible, but that is what acting is. You are putting yourself out there for applause every night. There is so much weakness and vulnerability in actors because of the nature of what we do. It is about our emotions, we are opening our hearts. It is weird for every actor to ask themselves why do I do this? It is not just about giving something, it is about what it is to actually live this life. It is like a drug, which is why actors are so often miserable when they are not working. Adrenaline is a drug.
There have been some shows where the way I approach things has changed but my view of Lavinia hasn't really changed. Some nights after the rape scene I do the rest of the play almost in automatic. Because it is very physical, it is almost like a dance and about hitting the right points.
We did Titus last night and we haven't done it for five nights, and I was really nervous before the show. The energy and the emotion was really raw again. Towards the end of last week, when we had done four weeks with loads of shows, I was really miserable. On Friday night, after the show, it hit me. Sometimes the play really gets under your skin, because it is so unforgiving, there is no hope in it. On Friday, after Doug killed me, after he says;
Die, die, Lavinia, and thy shame with thee,
And with thy shame thy father's sorrow die. [5iii 45-6]
I let it in. I felt really low after the show. I sat on the stage and had a glass of wine and just felt depressed. That night I had the worst, the most violent, dreams, mainly mages from the show because we have been doing this show so often. On some level, every night being taken off stage and being raped and being mutilated, and then walking forward downstage, especially in the Globe space, you get a sense of the reality of it. You can't really push it away, which I try to do a lot, I have to go through those emotions every night.
With repetition, any scene can become less real to an actor. Because you’re doing it again and again, you start to do it the way you did it the night before, which isn't experiencing, it is just repeating something that worked. You know it will work for the audience, because they are seeing it for the first time. Last night, because we hadn't done it for four nights, I was really getting into it and focussing on it. It is horrible what it leaves you with, especially after the rape scene with Tamora and Chiron and Demetrius. I can be so nasty when I come off stage and I'm getting all bloodied up. Last night Louise Ricci, who puts the blood on me, just held me in the wrong place when she was applying the blood and I was foul. I was really angry and upset. It took me about an hour just to be able to let it go, and to calm down. It is horrible. There is also a lot of release in playing the deep grief, but it is hard. So it is lovely to be doing The Comedy of Errors.
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.