This is Tas' third blog post. This week he discusses how the company bonds, difficulties found in rehearsals and how he feels about acting Shakespeare.
Transcript of Podcast
Bonding as a company of actors
It's really important that a company works well together. Games are really good for getting everyone to bond as a group. One simple game is keeping a ball up in the air in the middle of a group of ten people. It's just a game of keepy-uppy! What is great about the game is that it gets everyone laughing together and it promotes bonding. It pulls everyone in together and gets them feeling the energy. I think that exercises which allow you to explore the group dynamic are really good.
There are other games you can use to explore themes or ideas within a scene. For example, the scene in the play that mentions all of the indulgences of Antony and Cleopatra could be explored by creating a physical still picture or an image of that aspect of the story. It could involve all of the actors in the scene and get them each to jump in and do something. You probably won’t use this at all in the final production but it's just a way of pulling everyone together and making sure that you are all thinking about things in the same way. These exercises are quite luxurious but great if you have the time.
We don’t do lots of games in rehearsals but we do spend a lot of time talking as a company which is our bonding in a way. We’ll go through a scene and pretty much go through line by line asking ‘What does that mean? What are the resonances? What is the scene about? What does it connect to?’ The process of questioning and discussing is really helpful in understanding the scene and what it contains.
This week in rehearsal
It's all been going very, very well. Yesterday we finished the process of blocking the whole play so we have a rough sort of shape to the play. Now we are going back to the beginning and we are starting to paint in some of the deeper levels. So basically we have done every scene once and given it a rough shape so as we know where the entrances and exits are and how we move around the stage.
It was quite nerve wracking at the beginning of rehearsals because we went straight in to blocking it before you’d even had a chance to wrap your head around the play or understand your character fully. However, since we’ve been rehearsing we’ve been doing lots of character work and talking with other people and just getting more and more familiar with the characters. Now it feels good and, although it's nowhere near performance level, it generally is possible to see the shape of the play. We need to go back and refine it further. I think it was a great way of working because that it's like we’ve done the first draft and now we can get on with refining that draft.
I have learnt my lines! The tricky thing is to know your lines and your cue lines because the cue lines are sometimes harder to pick up. Often you just have to learn the cues on the floor [in the rehearsal room] or sometimes just before you do a scene you have to go through the script and check each cue line and then you have to specifically listen out for it so you know when to speak.
Difficulties this week
There is a scene in which the character Enobarbus, who has been loyal to Antony, eventually betrays Antony and leaves for Rome. Antony gathers up all of Enobarbus’ valuables and money and sends them to him, along with a generous bonus. This makes Enobarbus feel really bad. I was having difficulty because my character has to tell Enobarbus this news; that his possessions have been received and that also there has been a big gift - his old boss was actually a really generous man. Dominic gave me a note [a direction] saying that I am telling Enobarbus this news and it is quite uncomfortable and quite difficult because in effect what it is I am saying is ‘this is what happens when you’re disloyal and the honourable thing to do would be to stick with Antony’. Dominic said that I should play it like I am not enjoying being malicious but that nevertheless am aware that what I am saying is quite hurtful. I found that quite hard. It was hard to get the tone right so that I’m not vindictive or mean and at the same time show I know that Enpbarbus should be feeling really guilty and really bad.
There are still some things that I want to find out about the background to the play. I want to look at that HBO/BBC series Rome because, although a lot of it is fictionalised, it talks about this period of time just before the Roman Empire was going to fall apart. I think it might be helpful in understanding this notion of order and honour and of competition which was such a foundation of the Roman world.
A lot of the character work I have done is just reading about the context of the play and thinking hard about ways I can just bring this into the play and into rehearsal. One of the things I’ve read about the Romans is that they were concerned with order and duty and also that there was quite a hardness to the Romans - an inner stiffness. The challenge for me is because I am relaxed and naturally easy going person so I’m trying to get that rigidity.
We did one exercise with Glynn [MacDonald, movement] in which we looked at archetypes. What I mean by that is we explored typical traits that we all have within us at certain times. One of the archetypes we tried out was the king. We put the palms of our hands either side of our head and used our hands as an imaginary crown. As we shot our fingers up into the air and pulled our elbows back we all developed a kind of rigidity. Then Glynn told us to walk around the room like that, ensuring that our fingers pointed straight upwards at all times. Doing that really gives you a sense of the weight of the crown and the duty and responsibility it contains. When you take your hands away you then have to try to achieve the same kind of rigidity. That exercise helped me to think about the movement of my character.
I think that a lot of the character comes out of the language that the character uses. One of the things I like to do is to go through the text to know what I’m saying but also to know what I’m thinking. It's important to consider what it is that the other character has just said that makes me want to do this or say that. I like to clarify that for myself. What am I saying? What do I mean by what I am saying? What am I trying to do?
I love acting in Shakespeare plays! If I compare performing in Shakespeare plays with other more modern productions, I wouldn’t say there is a huge difference in approach as far as the character goes but there is an added dimension with the language. I find that looking closely at the language can help me to understand the character, especially if I look at some of the words they use or the rhyme and rhythm. I find all of that very interesting.
These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as s / he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his / her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.