This is David's eighth blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, where he talks more about his character, preparing for a performance, and rehearsing Globe's next production, The Comedy of Errors, alongside performances of Titus.
Transcript of Podcast
I am still seeing new things in Lucius. I think we will look back fondly on this four week period of intensive Titus performances and we may even grow to miss it as we end up doing two or three a week. It is lovely to feel you can explore things night after night. I feel there are more colours – more shades – to Lucius. There are moments where I now feel I am being more specific with some of the lines and some of the speeches I have. He has become a more rounded person. The last big speech I have is an example [5iii 95-117]. It takes place on top of a tower. [The Globe production uses two towers which are moved round the yard and usually used when the stage directions indicate ‘aloft’.] For a long time, that speech was really ‘shouty’ throughout, and it never seemed to sit quite right. Gradually, through the last few shows, the beginning has become more ‘talky’, because really all Lucius is doing is setting the record straight, and imparting information to the masses. He has his feeling about what has happened, but the key thing is informing them, not expressing his feelings. So I’ve made the first few lines quieter, hopefully still with the relevant emotional back-up. It is a very slight change but that is the sort of thing that is developing.
Preparing for a Performance
Normally for a part I would get in early, have a shower, do a vocal and physical warm up and just think about a few key things that get me into the world of the play and the character I’m trying to portray. I haven’t done that very rigorously for Titus. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, but I haven’t felt like I’ve needed to. That's not a comment on what I think of my performance, that's more a comment on how I feel on stage and the very compete way in which we explored the world of the play in rehearsals.
Also, the entrance of the Andronici at the beginning, accompanied as it is with rousing drum beats, and with Titus carried on in a palanquin, while we are carrying coffins, and there is incense and smoke, sets you up, regardless of whatever mood you are in.
[Titus's first entrance is a spectacular moment in the Globe production. First the audience hear the drums and horns, then the procession enters, lead by the musicians, then Titus carried by soldiers, followed by his four remaining sons, each pair carrying a coffin, then more soldiers and then the Goth prisoners in chains, with an executioner with an axe bringing up the rear. The procession enters through one of the public entrances into the yard, goes right round the outside of the yard, then, still in the yard, back across the front of the stage. Titus alights from his palanquin when he reaches the centre of the stage.]
It is a wonderful piece of spectacle, and it makes it very easy for me to get into the mood of the play.
The vocal preparation I do is lots of humming. Humming is very good because it gets the vocal chords vibrating very quickly. Also lots of breathing work because there is a lot of the part that is very high octane. If you are playing a different character, or in a different situation, it might be quite easy to get out four or six lines on one breath, but I find it harder for Lucius. For just a couple of lines I may feel that I need a full lungful, so it is important to get the lungs and the ribs working.
Patrick Moy [who plays Saturninus] and I practice the moment when I break his neck each night. It is quite a difficult one, and has to be very precise. It changed a bit as well from what we first worked on in rehearsals, when we had all the costume on.
Rehearsing The Comedy of Errors while performing Titus Andronicus
Equity [the British Actors’ Union] regulations state we only have 40 hours contact time, but there is an agreement that we can have some weeks nominated as 46 or 48 hours by the management, and these will be balanced out by 32 or 34 hour weeks later on in the season. Within those constraints we can rehearse whenever we are not on stage provided that we have at least an eleven and a half hour break between finishing a show and starting a rehearsal – so if we finish at half past ten the rehearsal can’t start until ten the next morning. We are also only allowed ten hour days, so if we were to start at ten o’clock on the morning we have to be finished by eight o’clock that evening. So logistically it is very, very hard. So next week with only three Titus performances it will be much easier.
It has all been full company work so far. For the last two weeks we have been sat round the table, going through the play line by line, clarifying any bits which aren’t immediately obvious. This is a bit unusual, but I think Chris [Luscombe, the director of The Comedy of Errors] saw that we had two weeks with a lot of Titus shows and thought the best way to use the two weeks was to be sedentary. We aren’t up on our feet at all, we are sat round the table, it isn’t energetic, quite relaxed. Because of the nature of the play – it is a farce – it is quite useful that everybody knows what happens at all times. So it is unusual, but I think it has been a perfect use of the last two weeks.
Another good thing about the last two weeks is that because we have just been sat round talking about the play an awful lot, come Monday when we actually get up on our feet, we are going to be raring to go. We are embracing the fact that it is a comedy, and a wonderful, self-contained play. This business of rehearsing one play and performing another doesn’t happen much these days. There are a couple of company members who did their time in the old provincial rep system, when that was the way you usually worked, and it has been good hearing their stories about it. Those of us of my generation, who haven’t grown up with that system, lament the loss of it.
At the moment I’m just playing the Duke, but that might change. There are a couple of scenes which Chris wants to populate with townsfolk. I can see that it might be tricky for the Duke to be one of those people, but I’m sure there will be ways of getting round that if another body is required.
You could think that these two plays are unusual plays to pair together for one company, but the more we go on I think the more you see that we couldn’t have a better group of actors to do the two plays – ying and yang or whatever way you want to look at it, they really do balance perfectly. I think we are all just thrilled after Titus, which we have all really invested in, to be tackling something so different.
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.