Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

This is Paul's second blog entry for the 2002 production of Twelfth Night in which he talks about rehearsals, working with the Globe space, the letter trick played on Malvolio, and Maria's costume.

Transcript of Podcast

The Globe Space

It's all started to get much bigger recently. Up until now, the rehearsals having been taking place in the attic, (the space above the Globe stage), or in the small rehearsal hall, and I’ve been very conscious of the fact that so far I’ve been keeping it small, concentrating on little details and not worrying about my performance as a whole. All of a sudden, I’m very aware of the demands of playing in the Globe space in front of a Globe audience. Having said that, it's important to work on the detail first; it would be an undue pressure on all the actors for them to think that they had to give a performance from the very first rehearsal. This initial work, grounding the scenes in the characters’ emotions and intentions, will allow us to expand the scenes in the Globe space later on without feeling that we’ve become untruthful to the text.. I would like to keep working through the play in this detailed way, but at the same time, I keep thinking that so much detailed work won’t come across to an audience in the Globe space. It's very hard; I’m trying to find the diagonals and expand what we’ve been doing to fit the space more fully, but at the same time, I mustn’t let the rehearsal process be dominated by such concerns.


As I mentioned, we have been working on specific scenes in detail, and at the moment we are concentrating on the box tree scene (Act ii, scene 5). This scene is a real challenge. Firstly, the text itself is tricky; at one point, Malvolio has a monologue, but it's not that straightforward as his speech is punctuated by other characters’ interjections which, of course, Malvolio can’t hear. It takes a lot of rehearsal to ensure that the audience won’t get lost! The best way to do this is to start small, working in detail on the characters’ emotions, intentions and actions, and then to make the scene, and our performances, gradually larger and more expansive.

The Letter Trick

Maria is the driving force behind the letter trick, although she backs off towards the end. I’ve always thought she needs to humiliate Malvolio, because he's always blaming her for everything, whether it's Sir Toby's party getting too noisy, or anything else that he doesn’t approve of. As she's explaining her plan to the others, her intention is very clear; she says they must pursue him now, or else they’ll lose the opportunity. It's only when Sir Toby suggests that they put Malvolio in a dark room and torture him that she doesn’t encourage them. Perhaps she feels that the mock exorcism is one step too far. Still, Maria is very proud of her plan to humiliate the steward, which is almost to be expected, considering it is her pride that Malvolio has been continually attacking. She has a very good understanding of people, and knows exactly what she needs to do to reel Malvolio in: she doesn’t make the letter too obviously loving; rather, she says the right things to capture Malvolio's imagination. Although she's good with other people, she never talks about her own feelings; she isn’t an introspective character in the same way that Orsino is. As an actor, it's my responsibility to flesh out the character and still remain true to the text. I think she is immensely fond of Sir Toby, and over the course of the play they gradually fall for each other. Both of them have a great deal of wit, teasing each other as well as Sir Andrew, and when we hear of their marriage at the end of the play, it's a nice ending as far as they’re concerned.


My costume has changed slightly since Middle Temple Hall. Then, my petticoat was orange, and it clashed with the dress. Now, I have a brand new grey one, which is much better. I think I’m also going to have a nightgown, which I’ll wear in Act ii Scene 3 when Maria comes in to tell Sir Toby and the others to be quiet. I have to admit, at this point, I’m not looking forward to getting ready for the first performance. When I come in before each performance, first, I have to shave very close, (and not cut myself), before putting all sorts of moisturisers on my face: it's all very girly. There is a reason for this; the makeup we’re using is similar to that used 400 years ago, and it sucks all the moisture out of your face. If you don’t put moisturiser on both before and after a performance, you wake up the next morning with scaly dry skin. It's not fun. Then after that, there's the corset, and then the costume itself. It's going to take a while…

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.

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