In his second blog post Danny discusses working on the text, the Fool's physicality and the technical difficulties of the storm scene and the jig.
Transcript of Podcast
So that the company as a whole always felt that they were on top of the play, and that the play was never unmanageable, Dominic decided to put very crude shapes to every scene by roughly blocking it without too much detail . This helped us to arrive at the same point of what is required of us in terms of where we’re coming on, where we’re going to, exits, and entrances. Also it was a great opportunity to sit down and watch all the scenes that you’re not in, which I found extremely useful as you really do forget that the plays were written to be heard and not read. It was just lovely to hear fellow company members doing their bits, as I think once we’re up and running, and definitely when we’re in tech week, we won’t get to see the parts we’re not in, because we’ll probably be in our own world doing our own things backstage, or running around panicking. It was also useful in helping to develop my character, as I could watch how King Lear interacts with his daughters, his servants, and with Gloucester and Kent before the fool arrives, and then how he interacts with them after the fool has gone. Dominic wants me to enter from the balcony, and to jump down onto the stage at the beginning, so that’s another technical thing that can’t really be looked at until tech week. It’s very high and that floor is the most unforgiving oak wood floor there is, it’s not sprung, it’s not soft, there’s no bounce to it and I think the last person who did that broke his legs! But if I can get down by some kind of rope then that would be great. I’ve never done any aerial stuff before so it will be interesting.
Everyone’s now off book, we found it useful to be off book pretty early on. Extraordinarily David [Calder, King Lear] who obviously has the most lines, was pretty much off book to begin with. But that’s another tap at trying to always feel that the play’s manageable I suppose, it means you can walk into the room and know that you’re free to play, and again that helps to make the play seem more manageable. So we’ve run the first Act from beginning to end, and worked in more detail on scenes 1 to 5.
We’ve worked with Giles [Block, text expert] personally in one-to-one capacity, which for me has been very useful. I’m trying to get more time with him than I’m allocated because he’s so good. I was having difficulties with 1.5, particularly the part that goes: ‘The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.’ The fool is talking to Lear and realising that he’s rapidly losing his mind, and the Fool’s trying to bring him back into the present. I was having problems with that scene in that when you read it it’s very funny , the Fool’s making these punchy remarks which always have a pay-off, he tells jokes, he’s moving from one thing to another so quickly. But it was only by working with Giles, and understanding how to drive through to the line have I arrived at something which I’m half pleased with. He’s helped me unearth that it really needs to be quick and light, like a little twittering robin, moving around quickly.
The Fool’s physicality isn’t like mine, I’ve found his centre is more flexible, I can be quite laconic whereas he’s lightning quick. I’ve found in terms of his physicality he gets very close to people and then recoils, he scurries round like a rat, coming right up to something to sniff it out and then he darts off to hide behind a pillar. His frame is a lot more malleable than mine. I think I’ve just found a wonderful example of how his physical movement is directed by rhythm of the text. It’s in Act 1 scene 4, for where he speaks and speaks and then Goneril arrives and suddenly he realises that she’s slowly but surely making the Fool’s role redundant, as she’s doing with Lear. She’s speaking, and Lear’s trying to rail against her, meanwhile the Fool is realising that he’s out of text, and at that point I’ve been scurrying off to the very corners of the stage almost trying to chuck myself off it to be with the audience. He’s moved into a position of an outsider, of someone looking in. And then he suddenly speaks again, and I dart back onto the stage, but as always nobody listens.
Last week we did the storm scene and for me it was an absolute technical nightmare. Because there’s so much noise going on which we haven’t had yet, and we probably won’t have until tech week. We’re going to be using polyphonic tubes and a wind machine to create the noise, and the logistics of that scene are going to be very, very demanding because there’s going to be so much noise and physically you’ll be contorted by the weather. It’s interesting to see how afflicted Lear and the Fool are by the storm. By 3.6 Lear has gone mentally, and the Fool has gone physically. I know the Fool’s hanged but I think he’s so afflicted by the cold and the storm that by the time he’s found and hanged he’s almost dead anyway. We’re not staging the hanging.
We’ve been working on the jig, which is exciting but comical at times. Sian [Williams, choreographer] makes everything so accessible, but nevertheless people can get quite anxious because they are out of their comfort zones. Kellie [Bright, playing Regan] has danced before so she has a brilliant sense of co-ordination. In one rehearsal Sian stood me in front of Kellie, who we'd all been following. I stood there not knowing what on earth I was doing and then, of course, the whole company ended up following me and not knowing what they were doing either! It wasn't a pretty sight. We're now okay though, i think.
I’m really pleased with my costume, one of the things you’re told never to do in the theatre is to aggravate the costume department, fortunately I had no reason to as I think the costume complements what’s being discovered in the rehearsal room with the Fool. It's a quietly elaborate outfit. The jacket is green, the britches are gold with a splash of silver in the thread, and the collar and stockings are woollen (they’re going to be interesting to work in if we have a warm summer!) It’s got puffy shoulders and a very tight waisted jacket. I’m also wearing make-up. I've been playing around with the idea in my head almost as soon as i was cast in the role. Whilst doing my research into make up of the period I started to feel that everything of the time seemed so fine and a little bit too clean. I wanted something a bit more crude. Johnathan Fensom [the Designer] and I came up with the idea that the Fool probably would wear make up as a mask when performing in Lear's Court, but at the time he enters the play after Cordelia's banishment he is so afflicted and hurt by the wrong that has been done to his play mate (Cordelia) that in obeying his masters command to come and entertain him he's literally gone to the egg white pot and smudged it all over his face in fury without any finite detail. I'd like to think its the Fool's own personal way of sticking two fingers up at the whole situation. Creating scenarios in your head like this may sound rather far fetched for some, but I need to see myself as the character and one of my ways into the character is through their dress and physicality.
I know a lot of actors my age who are completely against starting from an outside source and tend to take a strictly naturalistic approach. I don't think there's any one 'right' way to get into a part, and i always find that very attractive in what we (actors) do. You can research and research, comb the text, keep journals or talk with your director until your blue in the face, and then suddenly one morning your standing at a bus stop or walking around the aisles of a supermarket and you meet the character. My primary concern seems to nearly always be what the character looks and sounds like, once i understand that half my panic is over. The other half of the panic is refining through repartition whatever it is i've stumbled upon in the rehearsal room and then attempting to convince both myself and the director that its working. That's the terrifying part!
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.