This is the sixth bulletin from Penny, in which she talks about technical rehearsals.
Transcript of Podcast
At the Globe you don’t have lighting or sound cues to worry about but we do have live music! Nigel Hess has written the most amazing music, Bill Lyons [Music Director] has got this fantastic bunch of musicians and we have four singers from the cast as well, so a lot of our tech was about timing the music. The song music and the cues between scenes and underscoring speeches was being tried out, so tech week was time for us to get used to that … and for us as actors to find the right volume level, to make sure we were being heard over it.
The main thing for us during tech was exits and entrances – how scenes blend into each other. The nature of our set means that there is an incongruity between the domestic space and the outside space, so we did a lot of work on the kind of energy that you bring to a domestic scene, so that you distinguish it from the outside ones. In fact, my first scene is the first domestic scene in the play; up to that point, the rest of it is outside in the market square.
So wiith the scenes shifting back and forth from inside to out, we had to think about how to get that overlap, dovetailing them together so that the ball of energy is not dropped. At the Globe, there there are no people coming on wearing black and shifting furniture around, so it is purely the story, the language and the movement that take you on the journey … which I think is fantastic!. Like when the Nurse and Juliet end our first domestic scene, the boys – Mercutio, Benvolio and Romeo – come running on while we’re still there, but we don’t actually see them. Their scene starts as ours is finishing which takes the story forward. It has a kind of perpetual motion that this space requires, because there are no fancy lighting effects for you to look at if there is nothing happening on stage! It is up to us to create the atmosphere and the energy.
Anticipating the audience
I don’t know if it’s an advantage having worked here before – maybe it’s not so daunting because there’s a familiarity? For most of the cast, it was a case of “Wow! This is amazing! What a beautiful space!” It is quite a long time ago that I was here – nearly ten years ago! Being on that stage is a wonderful feeling, there is something incredibly magical about it.
Tours are coming in all the time during our tech, which are ‘silent running’, so they can’t talk. At any one time you might have four different tours watching, it just depends what they get to see. They might get to see a really boring bit when you’re just repeating an entrance and exit about fifteen times until we get it right. Then another tour will see a fight scene, or some of the singers. We sat in the lower gallery for a lot of the time just watching bits of the tech, and watching the reactions from people in the tours. There is an advantage to not just performing to an empty space, in terms of getting used to looking people in the eye, and it’s exciting for them that something is actually on the stage. I didn’t really have eye-contact with the audience as Ophelia, which was a bit of a bummer really, because you want to contact the groundlings. In Romeo and Juliet I get one moment where I’m allowed to look out and give bit of a nod, but that’s all it is. Ellie, [Kendrick] who plays Juliet, has these huge soliloquies and it’s important that you really contact people, so a bit of practise was dead useful for people who have that direct address.
At first my costume wasn’t right as it was hurting me. It had an empire line, which is when the waist is right under the bosom, but there was an awful lot of fabric in the dress, and the nature of the design was such that the weight was borne on my shoulder bones; when we took the costume off at the end of the day, my shoulders were red raw! The designer and costume department were fantastic though and they worked on this costume throughout the whole of preview week. I felt awful, like I was just being problematic, but I was in pain, and we have to do the show eighty-odd times so it has to be right.
So they lowered the waist, which is now actually on my waist, and I’ve got what they call a bum roll – a bit of padding around your waist that you tie at the front and the waistline sits on top of; I’m afraid to ask “Does my bum look big in this? Because, yes it does! But then it’s supposed to! Tech is the point where you suddenly see the world of the play – that’s one of the really exciting things. It absolutely makes a difference seeing everyone else, it gives you the colour palette and the hue of the whole production. I think it’s very beautiful.
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.