This is Laura's fifth and final blog entry for the 2005 production of Pericles in which she discusses the first performance.
Transcript of Podcast
The tiring house doors opened and it was such a shock to see so many faces in the theatre! A big wave of personality hits you and then it's a case of getting focussed; the audience creates a big ball of energy and we have to grab hold of that. I was very scared although surprisingly I wasn’t as scared as I had been during our week of technical rehearsals when I was very, very nervous. On the day of the first show itself, I felt strangely calm. Of course, there were nerves just before I went on, but a great feeling of unity among the cast gave me confidence: ‘Ok, now we’re together and we’re going to do this together’. When I was really nervous I’d been thinking ‘Will I be able to do it?’ but then you realise that everybody is supporting each other.
The audience are so open to the story and there are so many different things going on within that audience itself. The funny thing is that in normal darkened theatres, you think ‘I’ve lost them’ if you hear a distraction but here there's a completely different feeling. We still have a hold on the energy even though it's not so contained. Somebody could be fainting over there and a bird might have just landed on my head and those people could be moving round to get a better view but it's like they’re still part of the story. The theatre seems to focus their energy.
The first show… I think we just got through it! And the second show was a case of getting through it again (adrenaline got us through the first time!) Work really started after that, during our week of previews. We rehearsed every afternoon and then performed in the evening, making changes, lots of changes. Our first show was far too long so there were a lot of cuts to be made, especially in the first half. The first part of the play is very much about setting up the drama – Pericles’ story really begins after the first storm and things can lag if you’re not careful. I feel lucky Marina's half of the play is definitely written by Shakespeare! Before the end of the Previews, we cut the running time by about thirty minutes and the story moved along a lot more smoothly.
As Marina, I started to feel more secure in my relationship with the audience. Nearly every line can involve the audience as well as other characters in the scene. The audience here is so active, like another character that changes depending on the scene. In a battle scene you’ve got 1500 soldiers, in a crowd scene you’ve got a crowd. When I arrive at Mytilene (where the brothel is) in my head the audience become quite intimidating. Fifteen hundred faces look you up and down. At another moment, they become my conscience or the part in me which is strong – when I feel as if I’m sinking, there's somebody there that I can turn to ‘But I’ve got you to help me.’ When Marina defends herself against Lysimachus, she's supported by all those people. That's what I imagine in my head, and it sets up a relationship that means that we’re always sharing the story. I think the moment you stop using the audience is probably when they get lost or bored. When they’re spoken to – addressed and involved – you can feel them going ‘That's what I am, that's me, that's my part.’ It's great, is what I’m saying!
The atmosphere backstage can get quite manic: we’ve got a lot of quick costume changes and you can find yourself on stage and tense. It's very important, especially in the Globe, to be grounded and have a moment of calm focus that channels all that energy – that's what our work with Glynn and Stewart [Master of Movement and Master of Voice] is all about, but it's so easy to forget when you’re flustered! Of course, that's when we really have to use it and remember it, amongst the excitement of all the stage furniture and the ropes and the costume changes. If you get over-excited, you forget important things like ‘What do I actually want in this scene?’ I think the most important thing on stage is to know what your character wants at any moment – if you don’t know then it's so clear that you’re not clear. At the Globe there's no lighting or scenery to hide behind and the audience is so present. It's tricky when you’re nervous… tomorrow night will be Press Night, and it's like exams or any situation where you want to do well; you have to stay strong even if you’re thinking ‘What if it goes wrong?!’ I’m sure we’ll be fine – oh la la!
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.