"Having (like most actors at some point) in my life suffered from stage fright, it clarified and reminded me that it's not seeing the audience that give you stage fright. Having the acceptance that they are there in the theatre watching you is actually a great feeling. The thing that often gives you stage fright is pretending that fourth wall, the audience isn't there..."
With Tech Week under their belts, Kevin talks to us about opening night and stage fright.
Time: 4 minutes 44 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Rona Kelly: We can get started on the last, the very last, in our series of podcasts for King Lear. And today we're joined by King Lear himself, Kevin.
Kevin McNally: Hello!
RK: And it's been a while since we've caught up actually. Why don't we kind of flash-back: can you tell us how Tech Week went?
KM: Well, the Tech Week was very interesting to me, because obviously it was my first time on the stage. It was then I started to realise that there are actually two different productions of King Lear that I'm in. One is the very Elizabethan one that begins at 2.00 in the afternoon. And the other is the very dynamic, lit performance that we have in the dark in the evening. There was actually a third performance of King Lear, and it happened in August and early September, which is the one which went from dusk to dark, which I really quite enjoyed. So that's one of the joys of working here, you have these very different feeling performances. And in fact, I had a friend who came yesterday to the matinee and liked it so much he's booked a ticket for this evening to see what it's like in the evening.
KM: So it's an interesting thing to do, I think as well.
RK: It's an interesting dynamic at the Globe, because even just the lighting (like you say) completely changes performances. But also, even just the weather can completely change how you perform it.
KM: Yes, indeed. We started off complaining that we were too hot, and now all the girls are complaining that they're far too cold! Interestingly enough though, it's been quite a dry summer. So I've only had one storm scene in the rain, which is a minor disappointment to me. But as I then ended up in bed for three days after, I think it was probably quite a good idea that there was only the one!
RK: Oh no! What was that [performance] like?
KM: It was just brilliant. While doing the 'Blow winds and crack you cheeks' speech, I wanted to give the clouds a thumbs up. But I thought that would be too celebratory!
RK: So we had Tech Week and then we had the Open Dress Rehearsal. I think you didn't have any groundlings for that one?
KM: No, it was a shame. And interestingly enough, I had some friends come along to see it and I thought it was going to be more of an introduction to what the show is like. And it wasn't, because we didn't have groundlings, I think because there was stuff going on (they were still doing tech stuff, so it wasn't safe).
But a very funny thing happened, a friend of mine came to see it and said that he particularly loved the last scene and was very moved by it...which was interesting, because I didn't say the last scene! I was so tired by then, my brain was so mush, I think I just went, 'She's gone!' I think I said, 'She's gone', about twelve times! I didn't introduce myself to Kent, I didn't shout at anybody! So for me, it was a little bit of a disaster. But the people who saw it seemed to enjoy it, so I knew that we could only go up hill from there.
RK: And then after that, we had the first performances with the groundlings there, getting that final piece of the puzzle. What was it like, actually getting it before an audience who are really all around you for the first time?
KM: Well, it's wonderful. It's one of the joys of playing here. And interestingly enough having (like most actors at some point) in my life suffered from stage fright, it clarified and reminded me that it's not seeing the audience that give you stage fright. Having the acceptance that they are there in the theatre watching you is actually a great feeling. The thing that often gives you stage fright is pretending that fourth wall, the audience isn't there. That's the thing that can freak you out a little bit. So I instantly learned to enjoy having the groundlings there, having those people so close to us, and rapidly found that I had the opportunity particularly in the mad scene to do things with that...what's a nice word I can use about the performance I'm giving there? A slightly vaudevillian aspect to it, which you couldn't do in a regular theatre, because this theatre, the Globe, invites you to include the groundlings. I think Mark Rylance once described them as 'the guts' of the theatre, while [those] seated are the brains of the theatre. So that was a great opportunity to be able to really take him at his maddest, directly into people's faces. So that was a very great learning experience, and indeed continues to be so.
RK: And you have quite a few scenes where you have to push your way through the groundlings (well, hopefully not push them too much!) But like when you and your knights are coming on at Goneril's house...
KM: Well, the worst one is actually the exit after the end of Act 2, Scene 2 after, 'Fool, I shall go mad'. And I have to plough through them. But I've never had actually to touch anybody yet, I think there's something to do with the beard and the eyebrows! If I just stare intently enough, people are worried enough about what's going to happen to their shins from my great big military boots! Self-preservation gets them out of the way.