This is Laura's sixth blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, where she talks about technical rehearsals, moving from the rehearsal room to the theatre, and performing on the Globe stage.
Transcript of Podcast
This week we spend all our time doing everything technically. How do we make the blood work in this bit? How do we move the towers? It starts to feel like we haven’t done the play, just the technical stuff and then all of a sudden it will be the first show. It is also very exciting. You get your costumes to wear for the first time. We move into the theatre – and after all, the reason for being an actor is to dress up and prance about on stage! It is a very important transition time. The discoveries of the rehearsal room change with new discoveries in the theatre. Working in the rehearsal room can be quite small and you are trying to discover things for yourself, but moving on to the stage things usually get bigger because you are trying to discover them for other people.
This is a technically complex show for the Globe, although the Globe itself isn’t usually a technically complex theatre. There aren’t any lighting cues, and lighting is usually one of the main things for the tech process. We don’t have a lighting board. We don’t have any electronic sound cues, but we do have music. We have wonderful musicians who come onto the stage and become part of the action. We have all of our entrances and exits including some complicated ones; we have moveable towers in the yard and people are carried in on a palanquin [a chair carried between two poles at shoulder height.] and they can be quite heavy and difficult to manoeuvre.
Once it all fits together I think it will look like quite an impressive show technically. It certainly has taken a lot of time this week, and it has felt like it has gone quite slowly. We have come up with a lot of problems but so far we have solved them all. The Globe isn’t like a conventional modern theatre and so it makes things a bit harder. For example, there isn’t somebody sat prompt corner with a board controlling everything so you can wander off to get a cup of tea because they can’t just call you on the tannoy. There aren’t many people backstage either, but that is great. It is like we are a small family, and we are all up against it, but we pull together.
Working with the music has been a big part of this week. I love it. It adds to the performance rather than changes it; you learn something new about the tone of the scene. Often the music is the opposite to what you are playing. So when I have a very sad scene the music is quite up. It's the opposite of that patronising music you can get in films where the music at a sad moment is telling you to feel sad, and you feel annoyed because it is over the top and so sentimental.
There's one moment just after I’ve been raped and my hands have been chopped off when Marcus comes on and calls for me to come back because I’m running away. There's a big pause, I walk forward, the music comes in and blossom falls from the roof. I just stand there, I’m not really doing anything. It is like a frozen moment. The first time I did that scene with all the blood and my bloody costume on, I literally didn’t do anything, I just stood there. People came up to me afterwards and said it was incredible, but I wasn’t doing anything, the music was doing everything.
Sometimes to do less is a lot more. That is what I’ve learnt especially since moving into the theatre. There is a sense of energy in this space, and if you do too much, you fight against that energy. All the shaking I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks is too much. When somebody is in pain they try not to show their pain; they try to hold on to their dignity. I spend a lot of time being in pain, so that has been a big change for me this week. I have spent a lot of time thinking about Lavinia as an animal, that she is in complete chaos, with a breakdown of any sense of humanity that she had. But I can’t let go of who Lavinia is, so I’ve been trying to get that back. What I was doing was feral and very physical. That is still there, but there is something about the sadness that I need to keep. If she turns into something else the audience will be repulsed it rather than see her pain. And they need to see her pain to understand Titus.
Moving the Production onto the Globe Stage
This isn’t what usually happens when you move from the rehearsal room to the theatre. Often you have been playing it too small and you have to move up a notch, but what I’ve found this time is I’ve needed to pare it down. The rehearsal room we were in was a modern office building and a lot of the physical heavy work I was doing was trying to make it work in that dead space, whereas now I’m in a space which has a sense of energy. This theatre feels so intimate that to just see somebody walk a couple of paces on stage is so incredibly magnified. If you do too much, it can go the other way. Also, for this production we have the tiring house draped in black and it creates a greater focus on the actors – usually the colour of our costumes blends more with painted background, almost like camouflage.
I’m not liking the blood at all, and I get covered in it. I need a shower in the interval, because in the second half I’m not so bloody, and I’m in a different costume. I have to hold a lot in my mouth. When I’m first revealed after the rape I come on and it's not until Marcus says to me, about five minutes after I come on stage, ‘Why dost not speak to me’, I vomit out all the blood. So I have to hold this sugary, disgusting stuff in my mouth. It's like eating too many sweets when you are a child – times a million. I’m in danger of a sugar rush at a very serious moment.
We have been thinking about the audience reaction a bit, particularly after I’ve been raped. I’m doing a lot of grotesque movement and initially the reaction might be to laugh, which is the wrong reaction. It is a reaction you are more likely to get at the Globe because people get very excited and involved. Any reaction is good, and reactions at the Globe are incredible.
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.