This is Laura's third blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, where she talks about her costume and rehearsing the rape scene.
Transcript of Podcast
Rehearsing Act 2 Scene 2
Last time we talked was the day before we first worked on the scene where Lavinia gets raped and mutilated. It's good to have actually done the scene in rehearsal - to have taken the plunge. We’ve made the scene before the rape quite graphic. It's a very physical scene, with Chiron and Demetrius grabbing at me, ripping open clothes. The bit where you really have to take the plunge is after the rape, because the rape takes place off stage. Afterwards, I came on stage, with Chiron and Demetrius, and I thought, right, now it has happened. We’re using netting. In the first scene they net me and Bassianus, so I spend most of the scene under a net. So the netting will be mangled into the stumps. The first time I was walking forward Lucy [the director] described an image she thought would be good, with me holding the stumps outwards in a Virgin Mary-like image.
They’re prodding me with spears in my bum, and taunting me. I just started walking round the room – nothing was really clicking. At one point I fell to the floor…I think it has to be incredibly raw, I have to find a switch to take me somewhere deep. The actor part of me said jump. So, on the floor, I just started screaming as much as I could, to release something in me – the horror of what this is. Then I started to sob. There was a point where Lucy must have said to start the scene again. Once I’ve found that place, it is easier to go back to it. I felt that I had started from the place I want to start from. I was exhausted afterwards – the first time you do it you don’t know what is going to happen.
After that scene, in all the things I’ve done, I’m always returning to that state. I have to switch off everything around me, and get myself into a state where nothing is logical anymore. It's trauma, deep shock, and in rehearsal I just have to try to physically put myself in that place. I don’t understand enough about it at the moment. I need to do more work on it. It's an out of control place. I’ve been doing it all week now, and I feel really tired, but also, grotesquely, as an actor, I also feel really energised. Now I know I’ve found the place, it's easier to get back to it. Last year we had six weeks rehearsal and then a week's technical rehearsal and this year we have five weeks and a week's technical rehearsal. It's making a big difference – this is such a big play. We are at that point that you get to with most plays where there doesn’t seem to be enough time left and we are all feeling that we don’t know enough about what we are doing. We haven’t even gone through everything once yet. Also, there are the complicated questions such as how we deal with the blood. If somebody has chopped off your hands, there's going to be a lot of blood about. What do you do? There's a woman, she's been raped, she's had her hands cut off – what would your reaction be?
As an actor, you always want to know how you are going to get through the play. I can see that now, even though there are some bits we haven’t done. We’re at Act Four Scene One. Until that point, it's as if Lavinia's system is shut down, but it is only with the picture in the book that she can start to communicate. She becomes a weird creature. Everything that can happen to a woman in a play has happened to her – she's virgin, daughter, wife, widow, then she's used almost like a whore. You can’t be all of those things, yet she is. She almost becomes an animal, lost completely, into the wilderness.
I’ve seen designs for my costume. I start off classically Roman, and pure, white. After it all happens, it goes to a ripped under dress so Lavinia's almost naked with blood everywhere. Marcus is ripping my dress even more for bandages. They won’t make fifty dresses – just tack a bit on to be torn off for each performance. Later there is a binding effect, she's almost mummified there are so many bandages. Finally her dress has lots of material with big sleeves. Though she's so young, she's seems even younger after and not in control so I don’t think she will be able to hide her stumps. It's a really interesting thing about wanting to hide, or to be hidden, so it is that image – women who can’t be seen.
We are going for a company meal tonight, and we are doing a full run of where we’ve got to tomorrow morning. I feel very tired, so I’d like to rest, but it will be good to relax together as well. In rehearsal you do take it home with you at the end of the day. When you’re actually doing the show you get used to it, so you’re able to get away from it. After we start the performances, within a couple of weeks, we start rehearsing A Comedy of Errors. I don’t know how I’m going to do the mood change. At the moment I’m so bound up in Titus Andronicus I don’t even want to think about it!
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.