This is Laura's fourth blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, where she talks about the production's progress, the week's highlights and her thoughts on Lavinia's character.
Transcript of Podcast
It has been a frustrating week this week after having a good week last week: last week I had a lot of breakthroughs. This week we have been on the second half of the play and it has been the first time we have touched on these scenes. I’ve been getting frustrated with the scene with Young Lucius and the books [IV i]. We had the boy playing Lucius a little while ago, and we talked about it, and worked on it, but he has had his SAT exams this week, which are obviously important for him, so he hasn’t been in. That is a key turnaround scene, and we’ve had to work on it without Young Lucius.
The scene before [Act 3 Scene 2] we are setting in a safe house – because there are all these riots going on. We are hiding out. We are having food, and what we have discovered is that Lavinia is in deep trauma. She is a wounded deer with everything flapping and completely unable to focus. She is in a deep catatonic state. It is about a week after her rape, so the pain is still severe. I’ve been talking to a lot of people this week, a psychiatrist and another doctor, about what it would be like. Eating, a week later would be so difficult. She can’t do anything. She has got no hands, no tongue. She is so stricken that, even though somebody is talking to her, she seems to have let go of her soul. There is no spark. After the rape it is as if she is dead. But then in the book scene she suddenly gets one last lease of life – her soul comes back for a moment. Then after that she is gone, for ever I think. Because we haven’t been able to do the book scene properly, I haven’t been able to find where she is. Then we have had to go on to the rest of the play and I haven’t been able to make any sense out of it, because I haven’t got the book scene sorted out. It is such a key moment. I know she is very upset, but I haven’t found it in my heart.
Highlights of the Week
I had a costume fitting on Saturday. That was wonderful, especially the second costume after she has been raped. It is a shroud-like thing which covers all of her head and body.
Another important moment this week was speaking to a psychiatrist. I realised I knew somebody who had just the right background. I did some work for the Foreign Office, doing role-plays and worked with a military psychiatrist, who works for the Royal Navy. All through rehearsals we have been wondering is it possible she will have had such deep trauma she will completely shut down? Is that psychologically possible? There are other questions as well for other people, like the effect of fifteen years at war and then coming back to Rome. How will that affect different men? Suddenly, after four weeks of rehearsal, we realised we needed to get someone in to be able to talk to us about this. I phoned him up and he was a great help. He told me about things like peritraumatic dissociation, when there is complete shut down. We also talked about the wrists. Really if that happened, you would be dead. We talked about the pain, and the extent of the pain. He is coming in to talk further to me and Lucy [the director], Doug [Titus] and a few other people later today.
Thoughts about Lavinia It is a difficult play. We have just been working on the book scene again, and you do look at some of the lines and think that this was one of his first plays. I’m trying to communicate. I’ve got books. It takes so long for them to get it. When I eventually get them to understand it was Chiron and Demetrius they are so surprised, but it is obvious, they are the bad people who have infiltrated our society. How could they not suspect them? It takes a lot of energy to play Lavinia. It started off with my worrying about this big thing that I had to find, and now I know it is there. When you play something you experience it in a way. It has been like a release, like crying. Doing it isn’t as bad as the expectation. I was depressed about the part when I was reading about all the bad things that have happened to all those young girls. While that will always be there, I can’t carry it in the front of my mind, I play the situation.
Doug Hodge, who is playing Titus, has been wonderful. I feel very relaxed working with him. He makes everybody laugh all the time. He told me about his first TV job, years ago, he was working with Judy Dench. They were playing lovers, and he was very nervous. You are like that when you are a young actor – you just want to get it right. You are so tense. She would make him laugh just before a take, he’d have everything prepared, then he’d be laughing, and he find himself doing something he hadn’t planned. He does that sort of thing for me. He knows I’m desperate to get it right, and I’m playing this really dark role, so just as I’m getting into character he does something, pretends to fart or something, and it lightens things. It makes such a difference when the lead actor in the company shows it is alright to relax. He does that with everybody. Today in the feeding scene, when I’m trying to eat and he is feeding me, I’m choking and being sick. He is catching the sick. We are doing it with digestive biscuits at the moment, and he has to catch it. When I cry my nose runs a lot, so he's got this mess of chewed up digestive, tears and snot, he is catching and wiping from my face. He says you’d only do that for your child. I can’t go back to being the sophisticated young actress with him! It's all out!
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.