Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

In his second blog post, Liam discusses how rehearsals have progressed without the Master of Play, Macduff's relationship with Lady Macduff and how improvisation has helped him and the cast.

Transcript of Podcast

This week's rehearsals

Tim [Caroll, Master of Play] has been away this week, so things have been a bit fractured. However, I’ve really enjoyed the sessions on verse with Giles [Block, Master of Verse]. He such a comforting presence. He has got a calm wisdom, which is so appealing. He is a really good teacher.

Macduff and Lady Macduff

We have spent a lot of time this week sitting around the table discussing the play. One of the discussions we had was about why Macduff leaves Lady Macduff without saying goodbye. I’m sure Macduff has thought about it long and hard, but I don’t think he ever reveals his reasons to anyone else. I know that I have to decide on a reason and I have lots of ideas but nothing has been set in stone. I think Shakespeare might have been trying to suggest that Macduff puts Scotland first. Dramatically, that works, but as a human being and as an actor, I don’t think that it's enough. I just think that that level or degree of patriotism wouldn’t quite feel real for anyone today as many of us have never lived through war, although it must be a factor. I feel I have to find a more substantial reason than that. It could be that, to the best of his ability, Macduff has satisfied his conscience by leaving his family as well protected as he could. I think it's okay for Lady Macduff to moan about Macduff, even if he has left her protected, because she can still feel angry that he's gone. The fact that he has left perhaps two hundred soldiers with her is not important to her. She only cares about Macduff. This is one of the thoughts I’ve been having at the moment and it's something I’ve got to keep thinking about.

It is also important to remember that Lady Macduff never actually says that Macduff didn’t tell her he was going. She rails against him for going, but does not say that he hadn’t told her. So, in fact, they could have had a conversation. Malcolm says, ‘Why...left you wife and child ... Without leave-taking?’ But, does he know for sure that Macduff and Lady Macduff did not speak privately? Macduff does not answer Malcolm when he asks. As an actor, I find it more interesting to think of all the possibilities. I suppose if ultimately I find it helpful to decide that I did secretly say goodbye to her, I’ll believe that, because it doesn’t affect anyone else. I think that it is sometimes helpful to have your own story. There is a book called True and False by David Mamet which describes two actors having a conversation about how many children their characters have, and one actor gets desperate for the other actor to agree with him. When, actually, if all you do is walk on stage and say, ‘My children’, no one knows how many you have. There is no ‘two children acting’ as opposed to ‘three children acting’. Mamet calls it ‘three days in Finland acting’. One actor says ‘I’ve been in Finland for a wee while’ and then has an argument with another about whether it was for a fortnight or three days. It is ludicrous to think that you somehow behave differently if you’ve been in Finland for three days than if you’ve been there two weeks.

This week we also went to see the Zulu Macbeth, Umabata, at the Globe. It was fabulous. The energy and the exotic sounds were so refreshing. It was great to see Macduff played in such a manner. Watching the production made me realise lots about our own production. I was struck by how instantaneous the change will have to be between the young Macduff being killed and Macduff appearing. The obvious problem is, that it does take away the option of Macduff looking very different in the two roles. I don’t think that it matters too much.


One morning this week Mark [Rylance, the Artistic Director of the Globe] led some improvisations around the Bloody Sergeant scene. I don’t actually speak in the scene, but it was nice to spend a couple of hours experimenting with one short scene. The improvisation was based around fear, tension and war reportage situations. People were screaming, making noises and bangs, whispering and hiding, and just playing with the idea of a bunker scenario. The extreme tension and sense of danger we created was wonderful.

Another exercise that Mark did, was to get us to line up in status order. Macduff ended up near the end of the line. I am not actually sure that that was the right place for him. We had not thought about status before, so I think that people were just guessing. During the exercise I had forgotten that for a long time before the period that the play is set in, Fife had been a separate kingdom. Therefore I think that it is fair to say that the Thaneship of Fife would hold a high status.

Before Tim left, he did an exercise with us where each member of the company was put in charge of a section of the play. When we got to our section, we had to lead the others in forming a tableau that could be incorporated into the scene. When improvising, it is very important not to try and plan what you are going to do. If you do then the result is not fresh. It is important not to be afraid of failure when improvising as there is no right or wrong. It is just an experiment.

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 change frequently as the rehearsal process progresses.

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