This is Penny's final blog post. This week she discusses the difference between evening and matinee audiences, coping with bad weather and how she is continuing to fine-tune her performance.
Transcript of Podcast
Matinees and evenings
Matinees and evenings: the audiences differ up to a point. I suppose there are probably more school parties in the afternoon than the evening, though there are a lot of school parties in the evenings too. On a good matinee, I suppose, you have lots of children who have studied the play. Perhaps they come with more information than the adults. I don’t know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, though, because I feel very strongly that you should be able to go to a Shakespeare play just as you would go to any other play and get the whole thing. I don’t think you should have had to study it beforehand, though studying it beforehand will give you a greater depth of understanding and you’ll pick more things up. I’ve been in plays like King Lear, for instance, where every night, every night, I’ve stood and listened and picked things up that I’d not seen before. So a greater knowledge of the play has to inform… it's like art, about which I know nothing: a person who knows about art can see more in pictures than I do when I see pictures. I think ‘It's lovely’ and I like it or I don’t like it, but I know that if I studied art, then I would get a lot more out of the pictures. So I think if you’re studying a play then maybe you do get more out of it, but that shouldn’t mean that you couldn’t get a lot of enjoyment by just going to see it. I think that you should understand a Shakespeare play, in a good production, without having studied it.
I quite like the atmosphere in the evening, when it starts to get dark. There's a point in the play where it gets dark, and you become more aware of the artificial light – we don’t have stage lighting, but the whole auditorium is lit with lamps and that creates a sort of intimacy which is quite nice. I always like going to Regent's Park, and as the dusk settles and the lights come on, they have lots of atmospheric lighting there. I always love that moment, finishing in the dark on a nice summer's evening. So there are subtle differences between matinees and evening performances, I suppose.
We’ve only had one day this year with both a matinee and an evening show. It was last Sunday, and it was good. I enjoyed it but I had to be very conscious not to overuse my voice on the first show. That's something I’ve always tried to do because I have a tendency to overuse my voice, but I knew that it was very important that I didn’t overuse it in the first show. In the second show, I felt very well warmed up, very alert. I liked that actually. We’re going to do that twice when we’re at Hampton Court – we’re going to do eight shows that week. All my life, that's what I’ve done: eight shows a week. The Globe is extraordinary in that usually we do six shows, but it does require a bigger voice; it is a more demanding space in that respect.
Wind and rain
Last night it rained, and that always makes a performance more difficult. The audience was just wonderful, actually; they were just extraordinary and they never lost their enthusiasm for the play. The only difficult time is when they all have to put their raincoats on, and it's hard to be heard over the rustling. It's quite hard to concentrate over the rustling, but you can’t avoid that: they need to put their macs on, that's just a fact of life. I just keep hoping that it doesn’t come at a point in the play when vital information is being related.
The sound of the rain on the macs and on the concrete in the yard makes it hard to be heard. You do have to raise the level of your voice to fight that. Rain is not as bad as the helicopters, though, and somehow it does something to the sound. I don’t know what it was exactly, but the other night there was a very strange feeling in the air. It was almost like the sound was bouncing back to you, and then it rained. I don’t know if it was the moisture in the air, but it was a very, very strange, different feeling. Also, of course, when it's raining you can’t sit on the benches because they get wet and the costumes mustn’t get wet because they’re made of silk. So I have a potential problem in the wedding scene [IV.1] when I put my hat on the stage right bench. Now, this doesn’t seem like very much to anybody but me, but I don’t want to hold the hat because I know I would have to hold it all the way through the wedding scene. It's a very emotional scene for Leonato, and I just don’t want to be encumbered with a hat. I can’t put it on because we’re in a church, and also it's my route to get offstage because when I’m finished, Hero goes through the big central doors and I watch her go, which is a very upsetting moment because I don’t know what's going to happen to her. If things don’t go right for her, she’ll end up in a convent, in a nunnery. I don’t know if you ever saw them again, I don’t know if she's disgraced, that's it – so for me at that moment, it could be the end. So, it's a very upsetting moment for me. In order to get offstage, I go down to the bench and collect my hat with as much dignity as I can muster in my emotional state. If my hat's not there, of course I’ll find another way of getting off the stage, but I just like that one, and I don’t know what I’d do with my hat. I haven’t had to deal with that yet, because every time the rain has just stopped in the interval so that I can put my hat on the bench, and maybe it's rained later, but it's been alright somehow so far.
I have to make sure that I’m always in control of my voice because there are big speeches. If you start them on the wrong level, then you have to go too far and you can end up shouting and misusing your voice. It's a danger for me. I have to be very conscious of making sure that I’m always in control of the level – I don’t always succeed, but that's what I strive for. That's what I always talk about, the shape: the shape of the character, the shape of the story, the shape within a speech. I just work away at every performance, then I start anew and I build on what I’ve done, on the knowledge I’ve gained from the other performances. I try and get it better every time. I don’t think I did it when I was younger in quite the same way, but I do now. Every performance is a chance to just get it better, and it's niggling away at all the little things that I know are not yet right for me.
The big scene that I’m not happy with at the moment is the one with Antonio, when I come on after the wedding [V.1]. It's a longish speech interrupted by Antonio, which then leads into the confrontation with Claudio and the Prince. I’m not sure that I’m in the right place on the stage for the beginning of that. I’m very aware of the people behind me and want to include them. I found a way the other day of directing the beginning of that speech to Antonio, who's upstage of me in the stage right doorway, then taking it round to the people stage right at the back (who can feel left out unless you make a conscious effort to include them), and then coming round to the main body of the house for the line ‘Bring me a father that so loved his child, / Whose joy of her is overwhelmed like mine’ [V.1.8-9] because I think that's an appeal to any parent.
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.