In her seventh blog post, Penny discusses the tech week: rehearsing with the fountain, the problems caused with costume and her overall impression of the process.
Transcript of Podcast
Technical rehearsal: the set
During the technical we got to see the fountain for the first time. It sits in the middle of the stage and has a little octagonal bench all the way around it, and there's a statue in it of a person holding two trumpets. The water comes out of the trumpets, but the trick is for the water to come out at the exactly right pressure so it doesn’t come out too much and splash the bench on the other side. That would be disastrous because we sit on the bench, and the costumes are all made of silk – some are wool, but most are silk – and you can’t get them wet because it ruins them. You can’t sit in a puddle, nor can you be near something that's splashing. That was fun and games, getting that sorted out. I think it is sorted, though, and I’m just worried now about what will happen when we get a gale [laughs]. In very windy weather, something will have to be done about that. That's also true of the benches. We have two benches, one on either side, downstage right and downstage left. A lot of people sit on them at various points in the play – or indeed stand on them – so if it rains, as it will do at some point, they will be very dodgy places. The rain comes in just on the sides of the stage, and it makes the stage very, very slippery. I’ve seen people slip and fall out there when it's wet – it's like a skating rink. I’m not sure what will happen about that, but I suppose at some point we’ll have to have a wet weather contingency plan. The benches are angled on the sides so that they’re not completely curved. They’re very useful, but they won’t be so useful to sit on if it's raining. Indeed, it's raining now, so when we start the tech this afternoon, a solution will probably become apparent. I’m not sure what plans we’ve got for rain at the moment.
We’ve been teching all week, so it's been very busy. On the first morning of the tech, we were called for half past nine and we weren’t even planning to start, I don’t think, before half past eleven because so many of us need help to get into our costumes. There are four girls (playing girls), and they’re all wearing corsets, then their dresses are laced as well. A lot of man power going into that lacing up, because you can’t do that yourself, it's just not possible. I have been wearing a corset, but I’m not sure if I’ll go on doing so. I like a corset because I like having something to breathe against, but I think my costume is padded and it's sturdy, so I think it might do on its own. I’ll have to check with our designer, Luca [Costigliolo, Master of Clothing], to make sure that's alright. It just makes everything so much easier, and it also means that the Wardrobe department doesn’t have to worry about me getting into and out of a corset. I’m quite good at getting myself out of it, actually, but that would just make everything easier. Every time we have a lunch break we need another quarter of an hour to get out of our costumes and another quarter of an hour getting back into them. There isn’t really enough time, so the girls stay in their corsets all through their lunch break. You have to be very careful – you have to wear a calico gown if you want to eat or drink, just to make sure that nothing damages the costumes because they are so expensive to make and very precious.
It's been good fun seeing everyone in their beards and various hairpieces. Penny Diamond plays my brother [Antonio], and she's got a very long beard, which was wonderful. I’ve of course got my beard and moustache and my eyebrows. We’re still fiddling about with the eyebrows, but on the whole it just makes such a difference to your face. It's just how I imagined myself through rehearsals. I might not have looked like that, but in my head that's how I’ve been. I’ve had a mental picture of my appearance, especially because it's the same beard I wore last year, so I knew how it would be somehow. The costumes are terrific. I think Luca has done an amazing job because they all look like clothes that people wear; there isn’t some sort of colour theme going through it. I really like that: they look like proper individuals in proper clothes, and that's great. The clothes and facial hair don’t really change the way you react to the other actors, though, because you’ve sort of got their appearance in your head in a way, though you don’t know what they’re going to look like exactly. You don’t react to what you see in those terms – I don’t anyway.
The tradition with technical rehearsals is to make sure you’re happy with where you’re standing onstage at all times, and that you can hear. The difficulty at the Globe – which is very different to other theatres – is that it's much more difficult to hear what's going on onstage. We don’t have a relay system and we don’t have anybody in the corner with headphones or hearing the show over a loudspeaker system to give you a cue if you can’t hear it. You just have to find a way to hear what's going on, and in this show the two side doors are open the whole time. There are little grills in the door, so normally you’d press your ear to the grill, hear your cue, open the door and go on, but if the door is open, you have to stand back and it's quite difficult to hear, quite difficult. In those circumstances you also can’t see your cue, so if it's possible a member of stage management will perhaps look through the centre doors and give you a visual cue. All the problems are fixable; they just need a bit of imagination sometimes. We’ve got one quick entrance that we’ve just done where we’re all on the balcony – I always call it the Juliet balcony – watching the tomb scene. Then there are only a couple of lines before the Friar, the girls, and I, and I suppose, Antonio, have to be at the down centre doors and straight on for the last scene. So that's quite quick.
There's a quick way down from the balcony to the tiring house, though it wasn’t there last year. Romeo and Juliet must use it too. There's a very steep set of treads that has got a vertical rope next to it, so I hang onto the rope and come down that way. The Friar goes round the stairs, but I’m coming down there because I think I’ll be quicker doing that, and I think I can just about manage it. I think that's what I’ll be happiest doing. I’ll leave my hat down on the prop table since I don’t need it for the tomb scene, because it's like we’re in a church. So I’ve taken my hat off and then I pick it up when I get downstairs on the props table, so I’ve got a hand free for the rope (I’ve got a long gown on so I’ve got to hold that up). But that's alright, that's fine.
The long gown
It is quite hard manoeuvring because the gown is very long. The lovely Linda, who made my gown, is quite right that you need to have the gown long enough to touch the ground because you’ve got the audience at your foot level. The groundlings are very low, not too much taller than the stage, so they’re at a different level than you’d normally expect – it's a high stage. I think clothes do look funny at the Globe if they’re not long enough, so she's made the gown very long. Also, when you’re having a fitting, you do tend to stand up rather well, and then when you come to do your acting, I realise ‘I’ve just got to stand up.’ That's good, though, it's very good because Leonato is an important man – he's Governor of Messina – and I have to jolly well stand up properly. So the long gown has made me do that, but I suppose the difficult time is in the jig. The gown's longer at the back so it trails a bit and if I go backwards in the jig, I have to remember to hike it up. The girls will have a strap on their trains and they will be able to hold their trains up all the way through, but it's a bit girly so I can’t do that; I just have to find a way of dealing with that. I’ll do it; it's just a matter of practice. After the wedding scene [IV.1] when Leonato is so broken by what's happened to Hero, that's a time when I am not making a great effort to stand up really strongly. You just have to be aware that you don’t want to trip over your gown, because it’ll make you look really silly.
Resolving a problem
There have been a couple of places where I’ve known that I haven’t solved all the problems that I need to solve. I’ve asked Tamara [Harvey, Master of Play] if she’ll just help me work out little moments, like the scene where I come on after the wedding scene with Antonio [V.1]. I’ve got a long speech which essentially says ‘Don’t give me counsel, don’t try and comfort me and tell me what to do, cause I don’t want you to.’ That's quite a long speech and I’ve found where to be and how to do it quite tricky. We’ve decided that at that point in the play, we’ll just use the front and the sides of the stage as a street as it were. That convention means that I don’t use the middle of the stage, which at one time is what I thought I would do. It would break that convention, so we’re not doing that, but I’ve needed to find a way of feeling comfortable with the conventions and limitations of using that area of the stage, and I think we’ve sorted that out today so the scene is much, much better. I found coming on to that scene very difficult because I had this terrible wedding scene, and then there's the scene with the Watch [IV.2] where they arrest Borachio and Conrad. Then I come on in act five, scene one, and Antonio tells me, ‘Oh look, don’t go on moping, don’t go on torturing yourself,’ and I say ‘Leave me alone, I don’t want this. Just show me someone else who's been through this and who is not moping.’ I found coming on very difficult – I didn’t want to come on and just be depressed, but then I had the idea of using the petals on the stage from the wedding, which were a reminder of the sadness of what's happened. I’d use those to tell the story of why I’m upset, just to remind the audience of what happened at the wedding. Picking them up and let them fall through my fingers. I use them just at the beginning, and it helps me into that scene. That's quite good, and there have been other bits too – it is different coming onstage from the rehearsal room and I find it very useful to find moments where I can to just go down to the stage and talk myself through bits.
It's lovely having the live music in the tech, because the band's all there. The nice thing is that the technical has gone really smoothly, really good-humouredly. We’ve got through it quite fast – we haven’t quite finished it, but we will finish it soon. We’ll get two dress rehearsals in. I’ve had a not-very-busy morning and I’ve been able to have a bit of a laugh with my friends, which I’ve enjoyed. I think I’ve just loved being on the stage, just loved getting on the stage and just feeling my voice in the space, watching other people do their stuff, listening to them, and just seeing how good they are. That's the nice thing, seeing that stage filled and coming alive, that's been the best bit this week.
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.