This is Phil's sixth bulletin in which he focuses on the technical rehearsals.
Transcript of Podcast
Tech week is one of the most important weeks in the whole rehearsal period. It’s where you take your show that’s been created in a rehearsal room and has been finished for that environment to the whole brand new environment of the theatre.
The Globe itself is one of the most incredibly inspiring environments to tech a show in because there’s no real tech stuff for it! In a typical theatre, you go in and you have all the lighting cues and the sound cues, and all the massive set changes have to be choreographed and worked out, whereas here it is much more about the entrances and exits, and costume changes and fitting in with the music and the singing.
Changes to the play
During the tech week, the focus on the play is very, very different. Dominic [Dromgoole, director] is still there all the way through, but his concern is very much with piecing it all together physically and technically, getting it all right. So you start to get used to how blocking on the stage works and how your lines sound; suddenly a move that you made in rehearsal doesn’t quite feel right, so instead of going around a pillar on the outside, you might come on the inside. Little things like that change, but it’s a self-policing rehearsal period. Although you are not officially rehearsing scenes line-by-line with Dominic, everybody in their own little bubbles is still rehearsing, still working.
Obviously the sound in the rehearsal room is very different. We had a very tight, slightly claustrophobic rehearsal room, and in a way we suited our performances to that. Suddenly you’ve got this vast expanse of wood and sky to play to, so you have to pull on different inspirations. But it suits the play, so it helps you towards what it should be.
Performing previously at the Globe
I knew a little bit in my head what I was going to expect from having been here in 2007 for The Merchant of Venice, when I played Bassanio. But I’m playing such a different part than I was last time and the play is so different, it’s still a fresh journey to try and piece together this character, in this play, in this space, this time around, as opposed to the character I was playing last time. It’s never dull to walk out on that stage however many times you perform on it. It always fills you with a rush of inspiration and excitement and history: all that comes washing over you when you walk out on stage, it’s fantastic.
There was a moment when Adetomiwa [Edun, Romeo] came out on stage during tech week – he had been so busy in the first weeks, he had missed the group sessions that we had had on the stage already – and I saw his face just come alive as he said “This is amazing; this is incredible’. We’d forgotten he hadn’t had that experience previously, so it was fantastic to see him react like that, because obviously you forget sometimes how exciting it is.
Anticipating the audience
Being here is quite unusual in terms of lack of privacy. Doing the tech somewhere else, it is usually very private – whereas here you’ve got tour groups coming through all the time! It means you have a chance to get used to the idea of having people there, and being able to see people’s faces, and these tour groups react sometimes, so you get a chance to gauge things a little.
Once in the tech, it got to the scene where Benvolio and I come on after the party and we try to ‘conjure’ Romeo to appear. At that point Mercutio uses lots of rude language and so I do a lot of aggressive sexual miming. I did it in the tech, and there was a tour group who were seated right in front of me, dead centre, made up of families with young children! They were the only ones in there, but I had to do it, because we had to tech it, so I did it – they had looks of complete horror on their faces as I was aggressively waggling my tongue at them!. It was so embarrassing but a nice wake-up call – the audience aren’t always going to jump at something you find funny. Tech week is great for getting used to all of those things, and then the big change obviously comes when the audiences are let in properly!
Tech week is your first taste of working in costume which is both very disorientating and also quite exciting. You’re wearing brand new Elizabethan shoes stockings and all hand-made garments. I had a costume fitting a while ago and met the lady who is making my costume (by hand!). She came in with a base template, then using me as a model, defined it more so that she could go away and finish it off. Mercutio’s costume is a melting pot of all kinds of fabrics and colours – it’s crazy, but fantastic. The sleeves are bright yellow and black, the torso bit is pale blue with gold lining, then the trousers are two layers: a bright yellow layer underneath and then a top layer of maroon leather slashed so that the colour comes through.
During tech week, the designers are always watching and are constantly seeing what people look like and adjusting the length or tightening things. I love my costume, but during tech, it felt like something didn’t quite match what I’d been rehearsing, or my idea of the character. We realised that it all looked a bit too clean and a bit too smart – beautifully fitted and everything looking immaculate. It just felt wrong, because I create this mucky and slightly disheveled Mercutio. So, in conjunction with Dominic and the designer, we decided that it needed to be broken down a bit.
So I saw them take my costume off in one of the breaks: they were covering it in mud and pulling out some of the stitching. I wear it very loosely, with a lot of it undone so it’s hanging loose and it gradually started to meet my vision of what the person should be like. It’s a kind of work in progress and you can adjust things like that in the tech and make it your own … even with expensive costumes and looks of horror from the costume department! These people have spent months creating them and obviously they’re not cheap, but if it doesn’t serve the play then it doesn’t serve a purpose, so it would be wrong to try to sandwich my performance into that costume. As each week goes on, hopefully it will get more and more broken down – it’ll get covered in blood and dirt, I’ll be rolling around in puddles when it rains. I love all that! I keep saying to the wardrobe department, “Don’t clean it, don’t clean it!” So that’s the idea of Mercutio – he’s from noble birth, he’s got a lot of money yet he spends most of his time rolling around in mud and doesn’t really care about the look of himself.
You feel different in costume, particularly internally, but what’s also amazing is coming out onstage and suddenly seeing the other people in your scenes in the full Elizabethan garb; this whole world is created in front of you with the costumes and that helps trigger the imagination. It’s a joy to watch people’s characters be reborn on the stage now that they have got their costumes on. It gives you a little extra shove towards the finished product.
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.