"There's a lot of similarities with her [Miranda] and Queen Elizabeth I." Jessie talks about the dominant presence of men in the play and how this affects her character as well as her choices in rehearsals so far.
Time: 7 minutes 27 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
My name is Rachel Ely and this is the second interview with Jessie Buckley, who is playing Miranda in the upcoming Globe production of The Tempest.
So, you’re in the third week of rehearsal. And what have rehearsals been like so far?
Oh god, it’s been amazing. I’ve learned an absolute massive amount since I’ve started and I can’t believe we’ve actually done three weeks already and that there’s three weeks left to go. But, so far in rehearsals we’ve been – the first week we just sat around a table and really just picked away at the text and got the storylines clear in our head and relationships and our character’s arc of their journey and also the arc of the play. Then we got up on our feet and started playing around and making some choices and exploring the relationships in more depth and that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve started doing the play again for the second time up on its feet. And it’s just about adding layers now to the characters and really just trying to find the truth within their relationships and within that moment of time in the story.
What do you think are the key relationships in the play for your character, Miranda?
Well, up until this moment, before the play’s begun, her core relationships have really been with her father, Prospero, and also with Caliban, who is the slave monster character in the piece. And also, I suppose, her relationship with the island. The way Shakespeare has written it, at lot of nature and the objects come to life and are, in themselves, characters and people. I’m sure if you live on an island on your own… I mean, I don’t have a Wilson [Tom Hanks’ volleyball friend in Cast Away] with me but, you know, a stick will do.
A rock! So, before the play begins, they’re really the only relationship she’s had any experience of for the last twelve years. And then, within six hours, she meets the love of her life, called Ferdinand, who is the prospective king of Naples. And that is love at first sight and the catapult of desire and love and lust. And the power of that is something which really happens incredibly quickly and overrides everything else. It’s really just like a meeting of two forces, which from then on is quite a strong catalyst for a lot of the relationships in the play. And Miranda and Ferdinand’s relationship, in a way, it also is a peace treaty within two, kind of, armies or forces, which have been enemies for quite a long time. And Prospero, before he was exiled (Ferdinand’s father had been the King of Naples, called Alonso) [Prospero] says he [Alonso] is “an enemy to me inveterate,” so like the worst enemy ever. And Miranda and Ferdinand’s bond is almost like a joining back together and a peace treaty. So, really, until Act 5, I only ever have met in my life: my father, the love of my life, and Caliban. And I have some other memories as well. I don’t even think I can picture women in my life but I have a sense of women. That has also been quite an interesting thing to think about character-wise: that she’s grown up around men and how that affects you physically. And yet, she’s described as having such virtue and is goddess-like. And, in a way, there’s a lot of a similarities with her and Queen Elizabeth I, I think, because Queen Elizabeth from a young age had been removed from society because her older sister, Mary, was very anxious that she [Elizabeth] was to take over her throne. And a lot of her education was done away from society. Being a Queen also, you are in a way removed from society. And that goddess-like [quality] or intelligence and a core strength (which Queens have before they’ve even come to the throne) is something that you are bred into.
So, is there a particular scene or moment that you think is especially significant to Miranda?
My instinct is to say that when she first sees Ferdinand it’s quite a massive moment for her because she’s never seen anybody else for the last twelve years who (apart from her father) moves like her and speaks like her and who actually has such a nobility and grace of a king. I can’t really imagine what it would be like to be so removed from society and then to see somebody who you… It must be completely surreal. For me, that is such a massive moment.
Have you done any text work? Specifically, is there anything that you’ve noticed in Miranda’s language that really speaks to you?
Yeah, we’ve done lots of text work! I’ve read the play about 700 times trying to dig around for divine inspiration. I find there’s a lot of strength in Miranda and a boldness, which for a young, romantic heroine is quite exciting in a Shakespeare play. I don’t know, there is just a complete honesty, I think, with her because she has had no social situations where she’s had to check herself. And there’s a rhythm to her that is sometimes sporadic. Then she has moments of huge intellectual knowledge: very often in the text she’ll come out with words about law and she has an awareness of her father’s magic and the power of that and the spirituality of the island that she lives in. And, I suppose, there’s a real strong purity [in her]. And as somebody who seeks virtue or goodness, to be loved as well, I think, is a big thing. She’s an instinctual person as well: she goes on her senses and her feelings and doesn’t hold anything back because she’s never had social forms to go along with. She just speaks her mind.
So, what have been the highs and the lows of the rehearsal process?
Well, it’s been really a great high all around. It’s a challenging piece and it’d be lying to say that I’ve found it all easy. And I’ve gone home and gone “oh, you’re crap. Why have they chosen you and blah, blah, blah.” But, to be honest, you know you’re involved in something that’s really good when you have those feelings also. And, that’s what’s so exciting about working on a text like Shakespeare and working on a good story: is that there’s always something more that you’re excited by or want to find out or find another layer to the cake of the character that you’re trying to build. I suppose the lows have been the self-doubt and the highs have been this self-acceptance and trust. But that is the life of an actor.