"The question a lot of us have asked during our very brief rehearsals at the moment, is why Emma chose to have this play in a season entitled The Summer of Love. And I think the answer is that this is the thwarted love play: this is the inverted love play, this is the play in which love is missed and abused..."
In his first week of rehearsals at the Globe, Kevin talks to us about his experience with King Lear, performing Shakespeare, and playing the 'wooden O'.
Time: 4 minutes 26 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Rona Kelly: So, welcome to the first instalment in our podcast series for King Lear. And today we’re joined by Lear himself, Kevin McNally.
Kevin McNally: Hello!
RK: And quite a good day to start on, we’re in what’s probably to be a storm in a few days!
KM: I think so! I’ll get a chance maybe to go out into Bear Gardens and do the, ‘Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks’ [speech], and see what that’s like.
RK: And this is your first time performing at the Globe.
KM: It is. It’s taken me twenty years and I never thought my first performance here would be the very aged King Lear! But it is and I’m very happy for that, because I’m discovering that it’s possibly the greatest part that Shakespeare ever wrote. It’s certainly (and people might find this hard to believe) but [it's] the most accessible and the most direct character of all of the leading characters he wrote. He has a very clear arc, you see every side of his humanity, and it’s a very rewarding part to try to discover right now.
RK: And the themes of the play are very accessible as well. I think we can all identify with certain things coming out.
KM: Yes. And the question a lot of us have asked during the course of our very brief rehearsals at the moment, is why Emma [Rice, Artistic Director] chose to have this play in a season entitled Summer of Love. And I think the answer is that this is the thwarted love play, this is the inverted love play, this is the play in which love is missed and abused. But ultimately, even though it’s a tragedy that ends incredibly badly for virtually everyone, humanity and love is discovered...certainly by Lear himself and by several other of the characters too.
RK: And were you familiar with the play before you started in rehearsals?
KM: Well sort of academically I was. I’ve never seen a production of it, but when I was at drama school while I was doing a production. I was playing Falstaff in When Thou Art King which is the John Barton adaptation of Henry IV Part I and II and Henry V, my very good friend, my late friend James Saxon was playing Lear. So I did get to see him do some scenes from that show, it’s so long ago now it’s very hard to remember it. I remember there was an actor who mentored me when I first came to London, a wonderful actor called David King who had played King Lear. I remember him hosting a night for me and James and the director, Tessa Marwick and myself, and he talked about his experiences. So I got a sort of a glimmer of what the play was about.
I’ve never seen it professionally since, which I find quite useful because it means I come to it like a new text, which is a great way to approach a play. It would be very hard to come to a play that you’d seen eight times and to shake off those, those ‘Lear shadows’ as Shakespeare says.
RK: Have you seen any of the other shows so far, from the main season?
KM: No, I haven’t. I only just got back into the country the day before I started rehearsals and I’ve pretty well had my nose stuck in the script or been shouting in the rehearsal room since! But hopefully as we go on, maybe when we’ve got the show on I shall try and catch all the other shows.
RK: And as we said, this is your first time here at the Globe. How do you feel about entering that space, ‘the wooden O’, and what it will bring with it?
KM: Well, I’ve thought about it a lot because I love Mark Rylance and he came to see a couple of shows I was in and he was always saying, when he was run the place, 'You must come to the Globe!' And I really wanted to, but it never happened. But I knew from him a lot of what was being done here.
I walked on the stage the other day and I’m very happy that we’re being directed by Nancy Meckler, who you know as a founder of Shared Experience is very interested in physical theatre. I personally as I’ve got older am less interested in naturalistic theatre; I think film and television does that for us. So to be there working with her, with a movement teacher, Shona [Morris], and with our voice teacher, I feel like we’re producing total theatre. And what better space to do that in than in this particular ‘wooden O’?
Thanks to Liz for the transcription of this interview.