Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 5

This is the fifth bulletin from Mercutio (Phil Cumbus), in which he talks about how dance and fight rehearsals are developing, interacting onstage, and who is to blame for the tragedy in the play.

Transcript of Podcast

Dancing and Mercutio: developments

After I steal Lady Capulet away from Tybalt (which in some ways sets that story in motion) the music slows right down whilst Romeo and Juliet see each other for the first time and compose their sonnet. We’re all still in the background and I’m dancing with one of the girl extras. We’re doing really slow, controlled movement for that dance and at first it didn’t feel quite right for Mercutio. I thought he wouldn’t be comfortable being so contained, but I’ve decided that he suddenly gets drawn in and falls completely in love with dancing. It takes him over and he discovers how lonely and incredibly sad he is and how much he wants to have somebody other than just his own brain, so actually it became quite useful. I also dance at the end of the play in the jig. We’re actually going to be moving and singing at the same time, which sends most of us crazy, but it should be fun. There is so much good singing, the songs that have been written for this play are just gorgeous, so the more we can do at the end, the better.

Interacting Onstage

The most useful thing recently has been working with Jack [Farthing] who is playing Benvolio. Our characters have a lot of scenes together and the more we rehearse, the more trust is built and the easier it will be onstage, because obviously the characters are old friends. At this point in their history, Romeo has separated himself, so having that relationship with Benvolio has helped those scenes come to life. Dominic has just introduced the idea of the importance of talking to each other: anything your character is saying onstage is always communicating to someone else onstage, or to the audience. You can’t just exist in your own bubble, no matter how well worked out it is or how much you’ve thought it through. In the Globe space it’s got to be all about who you’re telling it to. You take the work you do on your own and bring it to the room, which is why working with Jack has been so fantastic. We’ve discovered so much simply by opening up what we’ve both worked on, forming a friendship and making that Mercutio and Benvolio communicating. Although Mercutio is incredibly lonely and can entertain himself for hours riffing about various things, the speeches have to be linked to various people onstage, or the audience. It can’t just be for your own pleasure – that’s not fun to watch and it doesn’t tell the story properly. So that’s been a nice discovery.

Fight rehearsals

Fight rehearsals have come on leaps and bounds – they’re so much fun! We’ve been working on the fights and then the scenes in complete isolation, but what has happened this week is bringing those together, which is not easy. The temptation when you’re working on the fight cold is that you mark it through and you get the rhythm, whereas once it comes out of the engine of the scene itself, it gets quite fast and it becomes quite crazy. We want to get it right and make it emotionally real, so we’ve had a few near misses and cuts and bangs and things like that as a result, but it’s getting there. The first time we did it in front of the rest of the cast was great; their reactions were horrified! That fight scene is when the play takes a dark turn, so it’s amazing doing it in a run. Romeo and Juliet get married in the scene before, so there is this beautiful innocence in the room and a lovely light atmosphere and then at the back, all of us lads are getting our swords on, ready to ruin everything. All these fights were so violent and nasty, and watching people kick and hurt each other really does change the atmosphere of the whole play. It’s not just a bit of fighting that we know the audience will like, it actually has a great effect on the story, and of course that’s when Mercutio’s story ends. The fight itself is knackering! I have to do my big dying speech afterwards, but I’m a little bit unfit so I do the fight (which lasts a few minutes) and I’m just so tense and completely out of breath! Although, I’m trying to use that lack of breath to show somebody passing away, so maybe feeling like that does kind of help portray the injury at the end … I guess it could be helpful!

Placing Blame

The fight totally changes the mood of all the other characters and the sad thing is, Mercutio never finds out about Juliet. Mercutio never finds out where Romeo has been and dies thinking Romeo is still doting after Rosaline. Actually, if Mercutio hadn’t fought Tybalt maybe it wouldn’t have ended in the same way. There’s a point where Tybalt comes in and threatens Romeo but Romeo doesn’t want to fight; Tybalt is about to leave and that could have been the end of it, but Mercutio steps in and demands a fight. Mercutio is slain, Romeo seeks revenge and then he is completely screwed, whereas if that scene had ended without the fight, Romeo and Juliet probably would have gone off, got married, sorted out the feud and everything would have been fine. Mercutio has got a lot to answer for in terms of the tragedy.

Anticipating Tech Week

We’ve got our final run-through today in the rehearsal room and then we have a week getting used to costumes, the space, music cues, entrances and exits, props and I can’t wait. I can’t wait to get in there and take the work we’ve got in here which I think is really strong, on everyone’s part. It’s a fantastic place to be in for that mad, exciting journey through working on the stage. It should be really fun.

These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.

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