This is Laura's fifth blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, where she talks about putting all the scenes of the finished play together, adding music and costume to a performance and recruiting specialist help when preparing for the role.
Transcript of Podcast
It has been a big week. You can tell from the bruises all over me that I’ve been acting a lot. [Laura's forearms and shins are covered in bruises, with a plaster covering a graze on one elbow.] I do so much on my arms and knees after the rape, and this is from working on carpet. I know from last year that anything kneeling on the Globe stage is especially hard. I don’t think I’ll be able to wear knee pads under my costume, because, after the rape, when she is first revealed to Titus, we have this image of a wounded deer, flapping limbs. It is so frantic. I’m like a wounded bird that needs to be held.
The run of the first half is relentless. I’ve hurt my neck from the shaking in the first half. Physically and emotionally so much has happened to me, I’ve got so much tension in my body. I need to find a way of playing it without putting this much tension in my body, or I’ll be hospitalised by June. It is my fault. When you do stage combat you don’t actually hurt the other person, but I don’t seem to be able to do that for myself. When I’m caught in the net I don’t just pretend, I actually try to fight my way out of it. Then when I come out of it somebody says, ‘What have you done?’ because it is real blood from a cut or a graze.
Putting Everything Together
I’m really looking forward to doing the full run. Now that we have done a bit more work on the first half I have a better idea of the overall journey. I feel a lot more concrete about what is happening. Seeing all the other bits is important too – because I haven’t been in rehearsals for the scenes I’m not involved in.
It is a really exciting play, and the way we are doing it is really good – it is going to work. At the end of the first half I’ve played a curve going from completely pure and fresh and expectant to this mutilated woman, going off in this strange procession, with my father's hand in my mouth, while he is carrying two severed heads. That's just the first half of the play. Everybody else's characters have as big or bigger journeys.
Hearing the music for the first time has been a big thing. It is quite off the wall! Django Bates has composed the music, he is a jazz composer, he is using Elizabethan instruments, but it's not what you would expect. We have weird horns – about 12 feet long, which we’ve had made especially – which produce the most amazing sounds.
Last Saturday, I had my second costume fitting, for the ‘shroud’. To feel what it is like to be enclosed in that way helps me take another step towards what I feel on the inside. Some actors work that way – from the outside in – and the right pair of shoes or the right hat is the key to becoming that character. Other actors are more in to out. I’m probably more in-out than out-in, but it is another layer which helps.
I’ve also been looking at pictures of Roman women while I was over in the costume department having the costume fitting. That helped. The way they held themselves in these beautiful paintings was interesting. I hadn’t looked at anything like that before and when I did I thought, there she is, and there she is again.
Does Lavinia present special problems because for so much of the play she doesn’t have any lines?
I don’t think so. It feels like a gift. The way the play is written, so much of what Lavinia is saying is written in what other people are saying around her. For example in the book scene [Act Four, Scene 1]
[LAVINIA turns over with her stumps the books which Young Lucius has let fall]
TITUS. How now, Lavinia! Marcus, what means this?
Some book there is that she desires to see.
Which is it, girl, of these?- Open them, boy.-
But thou art deeper read and better skill'd;
Come and take choice of all my library,
And so beguile thy sorrow, till the heavens
Reveal the damn'd contriver of this deed.
Why lifts she up her arms in sequence thus? [IV,i, 30-7]
It is clear from this what I’m doing. Even if I had lines, the most important thing we do as actors is to react. When I’m a character in a situation then I’m reacting to that situation. In the original Elizabethan production actors were usually just given their lines, with their cue for each speech. That must have been very hard for the boy playing Lavinia. We rehearse for six weeks and we feel we don’t have enough time. Back then, people didn’t have very long at all – perhaps a day or so. I wonder how good it was. They must have been like stories that were told. They must have been reacting a lot – being in the moment. In a scene like the book scene when Lavinia is driving the action, she would have to know what they say before they say it, because it is their actions which make them say what they say. The boy must have known what they were going to say.
We had a good session with the psychologist. I was nervous because I was the person who found him and I was suddenly worried that it would be a waste of people's time. It felt like my responsibility. But he was wonderful. He knew examples from so many different modern wars. He was able to give us firm evidence about different conditions. Doug asked lots of questions about when he kills Mutius – could it be Titus is such a trained warrior that it is like a reflex. He talked to me about different disassociations after trauma. I’m still texting him most days with extra questions.
I’ve had a movement session with Glynn MacDonald – I need more time with her. She is helping me with relaxation. The movement I do is excessive in this play. Giles [Block, who does text work at the Globe] is wonderful. I say the line and then he has all these ideas. ‘What if you just…’. He hears so clearly how a line works. A good example is in the first scene. I say:
Not I, my lord, sith true nobility
Warrants these words in princely courtesy. [I,i,275-6]
I was breaking it up and he pointed out I didn’t need to. Then he got me to pick out the ‘t’ in nobility a bit more, and link the Ws in warrants and words. Lavinia is choosing her words very carefully at the time, and very articulately. It is strange how it works, but he seems to be able to open a door without actually doing anything. He helps you make it happen through the words without labouring and putting things on top. Once we start previewing, Giles works with a book with all your lines – he makes a script for you. After each show he gives you a copy of the script, marked up in different colours, with a glossary of what his marks mean. It might be that you missed that word out, or he didn’t hear it clearly, or you mispronounced it. He also marks emphasis. He has listened to every word you say and he can give you these notes. Then you can argue with him. I can get a line into my head with the wrong emphasis, he’ll ask if it wouldn’t work better with another emphasis, then we will argue. I get very attached to things. He is normally right, which is annoying but useful.
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.