This is David's second blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, where he talks about his opinions on Lucius's character, the highs and lows of the week in rehearsals, and getting to grips with the character's lines.
Transcript of Podcast
Opinion of Lucius
I’m really trying to avoid falling into the trap of stereotyping. When I first came into rehearsals I was seeing Lucius as the son of a great, great general and thinking of Lucius as a fighter. He gets referred to in the play as ‘warlike’. He's been fighting for years and years – he's probably been on the battlefield since he was about 14 so for half his life he's been fighting. I didn’t want to fall into a stereotype of him being a big hulking brute warrior and fighting machine. Undoubtedly he is when he's on the battlefield, where he is an efficient killer like the rest of them, but none of the play is set on a battlefield. In fact, the majority of the play is dealing with political or familial situations.
I’ve had to work quite hard not to fall into any stereotype traps, and to try to make him a fully rounded person. I’m exploring that more. I’m not necessarily changing, but evolving as I find out more about him. There's only so much you can take off the page, until you actually get up and do it in rehearsal. It's impossible to say for certain how that character will react to a certain situation. You have to stay true to the text and I can only go by what's written. All we’ve got as a starting point is Shakespeare's text, so I get as much as I can from that, and everything else I have to add. Anything I do add to that has to stay true to the original source – the play.
This week I’ve just taken to being very simple, and really focussing on listening – Lucius does a lot of listening in this play. I’ve been listening to what everyone else is saying and not thinking at all about how I’m going to say my line. That should never come into it. It's more important that I know what the relationships are between my character and everyone else. I know what he's just been through and now he's having to listen to what these other people are saying and therefore he says what he says. It's important to remember that he doesn’t say anything else at that point.
High point of the week
The best bit of this week has been wrapping up Act One – psychologically it was a good thing to get to the end of Act One although obviously we’ll go back over it at some point later in the rehearsal period. It felt very good because, as I mentioned last week, it's a very complicated act and so far we have lain some good foundations, not only for the rehearsal period but also to sustain us through four and a half months of performance – it's quite a long run. To have really done such detailed and specific work will stand us in good stead. There's nothing generic about what Lucy [the Director] is doing, or indeed what any of the actors is doing, and there's nothing obvious about it either – which makes it all very real and very specific. It's more of a process than a moment, but that has been very much a highpoint.
Low point of the week
I don’t know. There hasn’t really been one. One thing I’ve got over, towards the end of last week and the beginning of this week, is trying to force or impose something on the character that I’m playing – trying to impose the way that he does things, the way he holds himself. That was a bit tricky but one of the good things that's come out of the last couple of days is that I’ve stopped doing that and I’m taking a much simpler approach and things can be layered on as the process continues. ‘Lucius evolves’ could the subheading for one of our scenes.
This week we’ve been rehearsing quite a few scenes and there was a little bit of a turning point, a very evocative moment, and something that's quite insightful for the rest of the play. Just after Titus kills Mutius [Titus's son and Lucius's brother], Lucius comes back in and says:
‘My Lord, you are unjust, and more than so:
In wrongful quarrel you have slain your son.’ [Ii 297-8]
Even though you could look at it and say that line is just a statement, it's more than that. Titus then replies, and finishes his reply by telling Lucius to return Lavinia [his sister] to the Emperor, to which Lucius says:
‘Dead if you will, but not to be his wife
That is another's lawful promised love.’ [Ii, 302-3]
I think the section, and it's a very short section - Mutius is killed, Lucius runs on, there is this very brief exchange and then Lucius runs off again - is a real insight into the relationship between Titus and Lucius. You get the impression that ten years ago, or even maybe a few years ago, nothing Titus did would have been questioned by Lucius, even if it was murdering his own son, but now maybe there's a transfer of power. I wouldn’t want to say that for definite at this stage in rehearsals, but maybe Lucius feels he is able to say no to his father, that he won’t just do what Titus is asking him to do. That's an important moment. It's a great deal to do with his feeling for his brother, but the lines about Lavinia would come out anyway, even if Mutius had survived. Already at that point, they have taken Lavinia out to safeguard the relationship between Lavinia and Bassianus so even that is defying Titus's wishes. It's about upholding Lavinia's honour, and indeed his own honour and the honour of the other sons. That's why they reacted as they did.
Understanding my lines
I’ve been quite lucky so far in that although it's very specific and the relationships are quite complicated, the meaning behind lines that I’ve got as an actor is quite clear… But ask me again in a few weeks time…
So far, I know Act One. I haven’t got huge chunks of speech in Act One – so learning it was quite easy. I’ve been quite lucky in that I haven’t had the script in hand at all so far. There's not a great deal for me to say in Act One and I don’t think I say anything in Act Two, so while we are working on Act Two I should be able to spend some time learning Acts Three and Five – I’m not sure I’m in Act Four an awful lot either. Hopefully I’ll be able to get through without having the book in my hand at all.
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.