This is the fourth bulletin from the Nurse (Penny Layden). It covers Penny's third week of rehearsals, including work on the scene when she thinks Juliet is dead, and how the music and dancing is progressing.
Transcript of Podcast
This Week’s Rehearsals
We were told that we had to be off-book by the end of week three. So there are lots of nearly learnt lines, lots of “Ooo, what’s that word…?” At the end of last week we did the scene when I find Juliet in her bed and think she’s dead, so it was Miranda [Foster, Lady Capulet] and I rehearsing all morning, just weeping and wailing! I looked terrible for about three days! But the way that Dominic [Dromgoole, director] rehearses is using repetition to refine a scene, which is great actually, because by the end of the rehearsal you know the lines and what makes sense in the space … but we did do a lot of crying last week!
The Nurse and Grieving
Dominic said something interesting about the Nurse’s grief when she discovers Juliet. There is a lot of repetition in the text and it’s very emotional; all of the vowel sounds are very emotional sounds. Dominic talked about it being an out-pouring of all her grief and woe. He was saying that all her past grief was unlocked by this one event, a bit like when Princess Diana died and people were suddenly allowed to grieve for other things; it was a kind of displacement from their own lives, a catalyst or an open door to their emotions. That idea was very helpful in approaching that scene. I think there is also an element of “What have I done?” – the Nurse has been party to this misery that led to this end. I think there is an innate selfishness to her in this regard, but selfishness is not always as negative as it sounds.
I think the language indicates how obviously traumatised she is by this event. She can only articulate one word, which is repeated over and over again. My lines are: “O woe, o woeful, woeful day / Most lamentable day, most woeful day” (4.5.49-50). Jan [Haydn-Rowles, voice coach] and I were discussing which part of “lamentable” should be stressed. In the text, it should be “laMENTable” (with the stress in the middle) but if it’s “LAmentable” (with the stress on the start) there is an openness that is more emotional. It then also highlights the “O” of the “WOEful” that follows it. I talked to Giles [Block, Text] about it as well, and he actually liked “LAmentable”.
There is also this huge book in the rehearsal room called Shakespeare’s Concordance. Jan told me to have a look in there to see if there are any accents or anything, and it doesn’t have that, but what I did find is every line in Shakespeare’s plays that use the word “lament”. Interestingly, most are prose lines. So the conclusion that Giles and I came to is that it is pronounced differently in prose and in verse. Sometimes you can feel something without intellectually understanding it. I think a lot of my process is like that, I can sort of feel it somehow.
Overplaying the Nurse?
In a particularly terrible rehearsal last week, I found myself really pushing and being really gross with the Nurse’s lines. Dominic said “Why are you doing that? You’re bawdying her up and you don’t need to; what you were doing before was really nice.” I don’t know where that came from, but we talked about it so it’ll be fine. It was just me maybe slightly losing trust in what I was doing and not feeling it in context, because none of us have seen the whole play yet.
I’m really looking forward to seeing the whole play this Thursday; we’re doing a run of Act 1 in the morning and a run of Act 2 in the afternoon. It will be good to find the flavour of the whole piece and to see how our scenes fit in, because obviously you don’t act in a bubble, even though that’s how you rehearse. I think it will probably change, once we all find our flavour; it’s like being part of the recipe. Like if you put too much tarragon in, it tastes really awful – I was that today!
Dancing: the Jig
We had our first look at the jig this week, which you always have at the end of the shows here. Sian [Williams, Choreographer] is fantastic; she knows the space so well and what works in it. There is a lot of stamping and clapping, some that is simplistic and some that isn’t, all very rhythmic and like the masked ball! It is fine once you’ve got it down, but difficult to learn, but I like using the body for a beat.
It is quite upbeat this time; when we did Hamlet the jig was quite severe, quite aggressive actually. We had these poles with skulls on top of them that we banged for the percussion. Kind of marching forward and formations and lots of percussive banging with those poles, but this time we seem to be doing more with our bodies. This jig is meant to lift and rouse. The objective is lifting and rousing and washing the tragedy away.
We’ve got a big rehearsal for the ball next. Last week we put the dance into the Ball for the first time and acted around the dance. So Romeo and Juliet have their “palm to palm” sonnet down the front, which I then rudely interrupt.
Last week we had Nigel [Osborne, composer] in and we did all the musical transitions. So there is underscoring during scenes, maybe under dialogue. The transitions with the boys singing are absolutely beautiful – I cried twice! Fergal [McElherron, Peter], Graham [Vick, Abraham], James [Lailey, Sampson] and Jack [Farthing, Benvolio] sang round the piano – not even in the scene or anything – singing this beautiful harmony. It was to get a taster of little bits we hadn’t seen, to realise how the music is going to work with everything.
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.