This is Laura's third blog entry for the 2005 production of Pericles in which she discusses her character's journey throughout the play, act 4, scene 4 and Marina's reunion with Old Pericles, amongst other things.
Transcript of Podcast
The part is coming together bit-by-bit, piece by piece. It's a real slow burner and that's not what I expected at all. I think you really have to inhabit the character; it's like playing Juliet: she has to be you. The thing about Marina that's puzzling me now is that she has a kind of light, an ‘other-worldly’ quality that enables her to change people. She changes all the men who visit the brothel, she changes Lysimachus and she changes Boult. What is it in her? How is she able to change their minds? Of course, she's a very eloquent speaker. Her clever arguments take hold of what people say and turn the words around – ‘virginal fencing’ is what Bawd calls it – but her ability to ‘convert’ people is more than being quick witted. It's something that is instantly recognisable and sets her apart.
We’re concentrating on the scenes in rehearsal, but I did one improvisation at the end of last week before Jude [Lysimachus] and I started work on the brothel scene. Physically, I went through Marina's journey… Kathryn asked me to imagine myself running around outside, then she asked me to take myself physically through the stages of the story up to the Lysimachus scene. At first I was running around and playing, breathing in an open way. As Marina is faced with more grief and trauma, she becomes physically closed off – having been physically expansive, she curls up into a ball. We carried on through the story, into the reunion scene when she almost came back to being expansive, but with the added burden of her experiences. That exercise helped me to think through the emotional curve of the story: she goes from grief to fear to embarrassment to exposure.
After the improvisation, Jude and I worked on the scene when Lysimachus comes to the brothel to sleep with Marina. I’d been playing her as very noble and controlled throughout, but it hit me that she's just a child who's faced with the most horrific situation. When Lysimachus is about to force himself on Marina, she says:
If you were born to honour, show it now;
If put upon you, make the judgement good
That thought you worthy of it.
I was being too controlled when I said that, but then Kathryn [Hunter, Master of Play] got me to play it as a ten year old. I had been avoiding playing ‘age’, because Marina is about ten years younger than me and I find that when you start playing age, it becomes easy to fall into ‘acting’ rather than inhabiting a part. When I played the scene as a ten year old, it released a kind of interesting clarity… you know when really young children ask ‘Why?’ an adult is angry or someone is upset. They just ask ‘Why?’ which often makes the person whom they ask stop and think ‘Yes, why?’ They see things very clearly, and I found that clarity useful; Marina asks Lysimachus questions in the same way – ‘What trade, sir?’, ‘Who is my principal?’.
Playing the scene as a young child also helped me realise how terrifying Marina's situation is – she's a little girl and this man is going to take her by force. In the ten days that she's been at the brothel, Marina has seen everything… the diseased clients, the prostitutes, and the brothel owners each present her with horrible images. I wrote in my notebook ‘What have I seen?’ and then a list of all the disgusting things that have been dangled in front of her to try and make that real for me.
Then Lysimachus arrives: it's going to happen and there's nothing she can do. She begs the gods ‘Please, please don’t let this happen’ but the important thing is that she doesn’t know her prayer is going to be answered. I had approached it as though Marina was somehow in control, but really those lines are a last resort in a moment of desperation… in rehearsals, Jude was handling me and it's that horror that I’m starting to grasp. It's going to be hard to do that night after night throughout the whole run; it only works if I believe that situation is real and that's scary. The first thing that happens to her when she gets to the brothel is that the Bawd puts on a glove and tests Marina's virginity: it's becoming really gruesome which makes it very real… almost x-rated.
I want to read a book called I Choose to Live. It's written by a French girl who was kidnapped then raped and tortured for months; the book is the account of a survivor. Hopefully that insight will help me make sense of what happens to Marina in today's terms. The reality has only just begun to dawn on me that Marina's situation is repeated all over the modern world. Young people are kidnapped and horrific things do happen to them – they’re sold for prostitution, they’re murdered. That relevance has only just started making sense.
When you read it on the page, she can seem quite sure of the conversion of Lysimachus but of course she doesn’t have any control. She's weak and young, but she has the choice to crumble or to take a stand (even though it might seem pointless). She chooses to live. In those really scary moments, she doesn’t just beg ‘No, please, please…’ (although she does beg sometimes and I think that's important as a contrast); she finds strength within herself to ask ‘Why? Why are you doing this? I can see this isn’t you.’ She says that to Leonine and later she says it to the bawd. When she's made sure Marina is a virgin, Marina asks ‘Are you a woman?’ The questions go to the heart of people; it's like holding up a mirror and challenging them to look, but what makes that amazing is that it comes from a place of such fear and powerlessness.
Reunion with Old Pericles [V.i]
We’re still trying to crack the scene where Pericles is reunited with Marina [V.i]. It's beautifully written but the more I think about it, the more confused I get! So much happens. At first, the problem was that I was pre-empting the reunion itself. Of course, Marina doesn’t know that everything will turn out fine. Pericles is actually quite a dangerous person; he's very angry and when she walks up to him, the first thing he does is to push her away. She falls over and really cracks herself. To be abused again in that way makes her turn back to him ‘No. The things that have happened to me are just as bad as whatever as happened to you.’ It's almost a challenge: ‘Prove your grief is worse than mine.’
My lord, that, may be, hath endur’d a grief
Might equal yours, if both were justly weigh’d.
There's conflict, and then he asks her to prove herself. It's difficult for her to talk about her past (Lysimachus says that when Marina was asked about her parentage, she would ‘sit still and weep’) but she finds herself telling Pericles all about her history. So that's another really raw scene where I’ve got to be in the moment – I can’t just play something as general as ‘I’m coming to heal him because I’m a nice person’! Marina sees something in Pericles to stay after he pushes her away, and something in her makes him speak after a three-month silence. There's mutual recognition on some level.
There's a sexual undertone as well; Pericles sees a resemblance between Marina and his wife Thaisa. His attraction to a beautiful young woman who looks like his wife complicates the scene. How does Marina react? She's trying to keep things under control – again the lines are written so that she seems to speak in an adult way, but I keep thinking about how young she is. And on top of that, she practically gets engaged to Lysimachus during the scene… the last time we saw him, he was a customer at the brothel! We haven’t even got to that bit yet in rehearsals. My head's full of ideas… discovering that child-like openness has been a big thing. It makes more sense for me to play that instead of Marina as some kind of good angel.
The horror of what Marina goes through emphasises her goodness all the more strongly. Despite the fact that people attack her (like when Pericles hits her), she takes it and then focuses on the other person. There's something integral to her that looks outward rather than inward. Although at moments she does go ‘I hate this world!’ and asks ‘Why is this happening to me?’, the moment passes and she focuses on the other person: ‘I see you.’ She's unselfish and honest – there are so many awful people in this play that those qualities make her stand out as that person who is the light. But I’m trying to ignore that – I’m hoping that just comes through rather than thinking ‘I am the princess, the pretty girl’ because that doesn’t work. It doesn’t work in my head and by today's standards if I depict somebody who is simply nice and well brought up and honest; she needs to have some fight about her and get angry as well.
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.