In his third blog post Paul discusses rehearsing the dances, the set design, and his costume fitting, including his transformation into a donkey!
Transcript of Podcast
I’ve had my first costume fitting, and I’m quite surprised that it looks so smart; it’s not all rough and ready. The other mechanicals are similarly quite well dressed. At the end, when we do the play, the idea is that we will be in black tights and white shirts giving it a sort of experimental mime troupe feel.
My costume for the transformation interlude is coming along nicely. I’m having false teeth. I have had a fitting for the teeth, and I’ve been rehearsing with some from a joke shop to get used to it. They’re not too extreme; people still need to be able to hear me. And then of course I’ve had the big ears fitted, though at the moment one feels very secure and the other one doesn’t, which I’m sure will get sorted. I don’t want to lose one mid-scene. Then I had a fitting for the wig which will be added to my own hair, it’s a big mohican, like a donkey’s mane. There’s not much time for the change into the donkey, it’s actually quite quick, there’s only a small exchange between Flute and Quince before I’m back on, so we’re going to have certain things already on. For example, I’ll already be wearing the mohican and I’ll have a hat over it, when I come off stage they can just take the hat off; and the same with the false chest hair. If it all works, I think it will be great. The thing that I’m most pleased about, and I talked about this with Jonathan and Mike [the designer] before we started, is that we haven’t gone down the route of a big false head. I’m still able to play. The audience can still see me, and I think that for me is more interesting then being masked.
I love wearing costumes, where possible I like to be dressing up as early as possible in rehearsals. I like that sense of something that transforms or changes you.
We haven’t run the whole thing together yet, yesterday we started watching some of the other scenes that we’re not in, which we haven’t seen before because it’s been a very private process, but I think that’s been really good to see it at a later stage. I have to say I’ve been really impressed and excited by the stuff I’ve seen.
The tango’s going well, we’ve pared it down to its essence, and then added this part where we hold a particular move. At the moment the other characters enter and you see their journey through the wood. Because the tango starts the second half it’s a little movement montage that gets the audience back into where we left off at the end of the first half.
We’ve been rehearsing our bergamask. That’s fun; it’s sort of strange because we’re doing the Pyramus and Thisbe part and then suddenly you finish that and go straight into this bergamask, so I don’t quite know how they sit together. It’s hard to tell what it looks like, it’s good fun to do, but I don’t know how they are next to each other so we’ll have to see.
We haven’t had the real music yet. We’re going to do some work with the musicians on Friday and that will be very different to working with a CD. I love doing the jigs at the end of the play, it’s something that you get at the Globe that you don’t get in other places. It’s really interesting how cathartic that is, to round off the production in that way. I like it because it really declares the act of theatricality, it literally says “we were just performing this”, and there’s something quite celebratory about it – I think that’s really good to be reminded of. It declares the artifice of theatre, and I think that’s more interesting than maintaining the illusion, you get the same thing in Balinese theatre where after something dramatic happens they have a comic chorus come on, to remind the audience that it is just a play.
What I find very satisfying about Jonathan’s direction is that while he has very clear ideas about the play and about the situations, he gives you a lot of freedom as a performer to experiment and play, and that for me is the best combination. What I wouldn’t want is for everything to be decided for you by the director, like they’ve directed the play already at home and then just tells you what to do. I think the challenge for the director is to take the ideas that the actors come up with, which don’t necessarily get used, but for there to be more of a balance between the actor and director. I think rehearsing, when it is truly rehearsing, should not be about repeating but should be about trying new things. I think the danger is that sometimes, through a combination of factors, whether it’s fear or lack of time, we tend to reduce our options early on and go ‘oh that’s what it is, now I’m going to repeat that’. Whereas I think that rehearsing and performing should be about trying something different.
We saw a model of the set right at the beginning of rehearsals, and we’ve got replicas of certain things in the rehearsal room, so we know quite a bit about the set design. I think the set looks great, especially the transformation into the forest and those elements which become bigger than life. The flowers are not trying to be realistic; they’re distorted in some way when you move from Athens to the wood and when I’m carried away to Titania’s bower I go into a giant flower and there’s something slightly, surreal is too strong a word, but certainly bigger than life. It’s like going into a distorted world when they go into the woods, which is of course should be what the play’s about.
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.