This is David's first blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, where he talks about how he became an actor, his experiences of Shakespeare, performing at the Globe and his experience of the rehearsal process so far.
Transcript of Podcast
Becoming an actor
It was when I was about 14. For quite a while I’d wanted to be a vet, but after one school parents’ evening my parents came home and told me that the teachers said I didn’t have any chance of becoming a vet because I was so bad at science. So at the age of 14, I thought what can I do? I was a member of a youth theatre and I really enjoyed it, so I thought about it for a career. So it was from really quite a young age that I wanted to be an actor. I continued at the youth theatre I was in, which happened to be very good, in Dulwich in south London, and I did lots of plays with them until I was about 19. In the meantime I joined a couple of other ones as well. Really it was the youth theatre route that got me into acting.
Professionally it's almost all I’ve done. I left Drama School five years ago and my only employer in the first couple of years was Argos [a retail chain] where I did a series of short plays as a training aid for the Argos management and staff to watch. I did an all male version of Romeo and Juliet set in a public school, called Shakespeare's R&J, then Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V, both in Arundel. And then last year at the Globe I did three shows, Winter's Tale, Troilus and Cressida, and Measure for Measure. The only exception to that is Journey's End, a World War One play, but other than that, just Shakespeare.
Working at the Globe
The building itself. It is the most incredible place I’ve ever performed in. The first night of the Winter's Tale was my first time. Coming out and seeing a sea of faces, at your foot level, staring up at you expectantly, happy, without judgement, eager – it was just incredible, the most wonderful atmosphere. Then there's the shared light. I love the shared light. Not only can we see the audience at the beginning of the play, but we can see their reactions – that's wonderful. Obviously we can hear their laughter, and very occasionally there will be the odd comment, not often, but a comment might be shouted out, and I don’t think that's a bad thing, it's just an indication of the feeling the space induces.
You don’t have to use your voice differently. Last year I remember being very scared before my first voice lesson on the stage. I really was petrified, I completely forgot about any voice training and technique, I just shouted and pushed, it sounded awful. That was purely out of panic I think. The voice tutor assured us all we didn’t need to do that. Actually it's a very good space vocally, even though it's open air, because the galleries are stacked one on top of another. Even if you are in the top gallery you’re still not that far from the stage. So it's a surprisingly intimate theatre for the fifteen hundred or so who get in there. It's a very intimate space.
The first day of rehearsals
The first day we turn up here is a ‘meet and greet’ day and it's quite relaxed. It's the first time everyone meets each other. – the first hour is spent introducing ourselves to the company, then Dominic [Dromgoole, Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe] addressed us and welcomed us to the theatre. Then we read through the play and then we saw the inside of the theatre. It think for anyone who hadn’t played here before it was wonderful and for two or three of us who had it was really great to get back on the stage with all the hopes that a new season will bring. The first day of rehearsals proper on Tuesday was fantastic, it seems like a really lovely company. Because it's a company which will also work on Comedy of Errors it's quite a jovial company – there are some very good comic actors in the company. So even though what we are rehearsing at the moment is a very dark, bloody, gruesome play, which itself has moments of comedy, it is a lovely atmosphere in the room.
Researching my part
I’d read Titus Andronicus a few years ago just out of interest, but it's only since I’ve been considered for a part in the play that I’ve got to know it well. I’ve read it a few times and it's fantastic. It's come in for a lot of stick over the years, but it was the hit of Shakespeare's early career in the 1590s at the Rose – which is only about 40 metres away from where we’re rehearsing. To know that the first people who ever spoke these lines walked along this street is pretty special. As a spectacle, I can’t think of another play that I’ve done that can equal it. We’ve just gone through the first act, and it is extraordinary. I think it's going to be very exciting for the audience and for us.
I found out I was going to be playing Lucius a month before rehearsals so I had that time to read the play very carefully and I’ve used the internet quite a lot. The amount of material that there is on line on Roman life and military history is incredible. I’ve also looked at some books on classical mythology because the play has some classical roots, so I’m getting my head round where the play comes from and what Shakespeare had in his mind when he was writing it and what his influences and his resources were. There is an awful lot of research that can be done, and I think that's going to continue for the rest of the season.
How do you feel about your character?
Lucius is the eldest living son of Titus Andronicus but he may not have always been the oldest. He may have had older brothers who died in the wars. We know that Titus had 25 sons and that 21 of them are dead, but we don’t know which ones. I don’t think he was the original eldest, but I think he was one of the early ones. That's the sort of thing we can make up, because we’re not told, and when we do it's got to be in line with what we do know, and it's good to make up something you can use. Because he's the oldest, next to Titus he's the senior figure in that family. I know that it's a very important family in Rome at that time. So Lucius is a pretty powerful figure. At the start of the play Titus is weakened because of the fighting that he's done, not just this war which has lasted ten years but through forty years of being a soldier. There may be something to play with in there being a shift of power, or Lucius asserting his own identity. He's a pretty straight down the line sort of guy. There's a lot of deception in the play and Lucius doesn’t go down that route. He's tough but fair.
The highlight of the week
The moment when we all sat down as a company on the first day to read through it. At that moment there was a real feeling of excitement. Starting something new with a new bunch of people - eighteen member of the cast and I’d only met three of them before, and that's exciting.
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.