This is Dickon's sixth blog entry for the 2007 production of Othello. In it he talks about how things are shaping up in the cast's final week of rehearsals.
Transcript of Podcast
The last week of rehearsal
We finished the tech – which was fine, we had the entrances and exits sorted out and everything was ok. We had a dress on the Friday before the first preview in the evening. But because this is the Globe the one key thing you are missing is the audience. That first preview felt like a rock concert. The place full is extraordinary.
The dress took place in the afternoon, in daylight. Act One Scene Three in the evening, was still light, the place was full, you could see everybody. Then, what was amazing, by the end of the play when I come back it is dark. The difference is, in that first moment, when it is natural daylight there is a tendency almost to push – you can see them, they can see you, it is very exposing. By the time it is dark, it feels much more intimate. You can still see the audience, but without the rawness of daylight. That was a really valuable part of the learning curve – to be there at night.
Just finding the storytelling in there, has been the main concern. Wilson has been moving us around, changing the blocking – can you move two feet and turn that way so you don’t exclude that part of the audience? So it has become quite technical as well as relying on our actor’s instinct for emotion and all that.
The groundlings just pay five pounds, and as a result you get so many young people and so much energy comes off them. They want to be there. It is not a velvet space, which makes it a unique experience. There is an edge to it that really helps the storytelling as a performer. It doesn’t allow it to become introspective. It doesn’t allow you to become vague. The storytelling has to become like the building, which is wood and hard. It demands that commitment to tell that story in that space. Otherwise, without that, the story becomes lost in that space. Patsy [Rodenburg’s] theory of always driving it through really works.
We are at preview six and we are still finding things; what moments work. It is a good job we have got as many previews as we have, we are still two weeks away from the Press Night.
The relationships on stage are evolving; because the nerves have calmed down people are making eye-contact and communicating, and listening. Also we are finding that relationship with the audience – including them in the story. Technically not just playing to the groundlings, which is the place you might feel you want to go because they are very close to you, but remembering that there is the upper gallery and that you have to play the whole of the space; thinking about the back of your head, that you tell that story. There is a challenge – to be specific with your attention to the other actor, while at the same time maintaining the audience relationship, which at the Globe, is certainly different from any other space I have played. I like the relationship with the audience, I think it really helps with the story telling, because it stops you becoming too introverted and closed off in your world as an actor, you are constantly aware of their presence, and therefore constantly aware of the storytelling. I keep going on about it, but that is fundamental – every word has to be specific, and there has to be a reason for it. If you drop that word, you drop the play and you have to pick it up again. It is a muscular space.
The main task in the previews as far as Lodovico is concerned is finding the authority. I was pleased Patsy said I was very clear; it can’t be generalised anger, it has to be authority. One moment that instinctively hit me was that I was pushing Iago, and I said to Wilson [the Director] that it didn’t feel right. I shouldn’t do that, that would be coming down to his level. It is very interesting, when Iago says:
Demand me nothing. What you know, you know.
From this time forth, I never will speak word.
and Lodovico replies:
What? Not to pray?
I think he has wrong-footed Lodovico there, and he then steps back to deal with Othello. It is almost that he can’t quite, in the moment, react to Iago, because what he ahs said is so audacious, so extreme. Something he has never come across before. So in a way, that enigma of Iago really freaks Lodovico out. He is really thrown by Iago’s duplicity; hence the obsession with torture:
If there be any cunning cruelty
That can torment him much, and hold him long,
It shall be his.
and then in the final speech, it is about torturing him, it is something you will take away and think about, and he invites the audience to do just that – beware.
In Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare talks about the ‘two hours traffic of our stage’. Whether that is true or not, it is not the case with Othello. At the moment it is the 3 hours 45 minutes traffic of our stage at the first preview. To get round that there have been cuts. Most people have had cuts. I’ve lost two letters in Act Five Scene Two, which to be honest I didn’t mind losing. The reason being, was that they were exposition, and I found them very difficult to learn, which I think was telling anyway. I couldn’t find the psychological hook for what he was saying. I couldn’t find the intention. At this moment it faltered and I couldn’t quite get them into my emotional bank balance. So I was quite happy that they went. We have cut quite a lot of Iago and Othello, mostly in the first half.
We have also had Patsy in, and she did some wonderful exercises with us, which were purely about us energising it; picking up cues. An example is one where we stand in a circle, the first person starts a speech, it could be any speech. If at any point they lose their intention, they stumble, they pause, they are acting too much, whoever notices just steps in and starts another speech. So basically there is a hunger to stay there and to survive. It is almost like the radio programme Just a Minute, you start your story and you speak to survive. It is a great way of thinking. Every line you have got you are speaking to survive, and of course when the pauses happen it is because you haven’t found the intention.It has to have a life behind it. Some people never manage to get in, some people lasted two or three words, and then they are pounced upon by three or four, and then you have to see out of the three or four who will give way and who will actually hold it. Again it goes back to intention, and being clear. If Act One Scene One starts with ten pauses of half a second on cues there is five seconds, and that builds over the evening. We just need to take those out. It is almost as if, between ‘Tush’ and ‘relate’, the first word and the last word of the play, the audience should hardly pause for breath as well; it should belike a tsunami. That is how front footed and energetic it has to be. You are outside and so much can distract you, and the audience can get distracted, and we have to keep them engaged by telling them the story. I just think that people can’t stand for three hours and forty-five minutes – it is just way too long. There are trains to catch.
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.