Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

In his second blog post, Paul looks forward to next week's rehearsals on the Globe stage, and discusses adding music to the play and working on the verse.

Transcript of Podcast

Anticipating the Globe stage

This is our last week in the rehearsal rooms; from Monday, we’ll be rehearsing solely in the theatre itself, so now is the time when we all need to voice any ideas that we have for the production. It’s very important that any actor, on any stage, feels that what they are doing is, in a sense, theirs. If you make a particular movement on stage, or say a line a certain way just ‘because the director told you to,’ you aren’t as confident as you would be if you wanted to do it yourself and an audience will pick up on your uncertainty remarkably easily. I’m excited about getting into the theatre at last; I really want to play to an audience because they’ll quickly teach us what’s going to work and what’s not. Just having a large audience in the theatre will also help me correct some of the problems I’m having: for example, Stewart [Pearce, Master of Voice] warned me the other day that I might not be heard in the upper galleries at some points during the play. I’m working to correct that problem, but it will help when an audience is there, as making my voice heard will no longer be just a technical exercise to me, but something I need and want to do.


I’ve been thinking about the role of Theseus in the play, especially in Act i scene 1. Ultimately, he must take the role of judge in the conflict between Egeus and Hermia, but he doesn’t want to force her to obey the laws of Athens. Instead, he acts as a mediator and tries to convince her to change her mind, which is difficult for him because he too believes that what Demetrius is offering her is not everlasting fellowship, (such as Theseus is offering to Hippolyta) but a marriage of convenience. I think he is embarrassed by the stricture of the Athenian laws on marriage, and the idea that these laws could force him to execute a young girl for not getting married just days before his own wedding is totally repugnant to him.


The musicians are spending more and more time in rehearsals with us, although they don’t play that much when I’m on stage, so they have little effect on my performance. They add nice touches to the production at various points, for example, the bass player plays a long low note whenever a character is casting a spell, which gives those moments a very eerie quality. The time I have most to do with the musicians is at the end of the play, where Oberon’s last speech has become a song. These lines don’t have to be sung, but because the verse is written in tetrameter, it’s very hard to speak it and not make it sound boring. Apparently, some scholars believe that many of Shakespeare’s lines written in tetrameter were originally sung by the actors, so it’s not that controversial for me to sing them in this production.


At the moment, I’m really enjoying my verse work with Giles [Block, Master of the Words]. Because of the spontaneous style of play that we’re using to create this production, I have a tendency to break up the text into single lines, and Giles is encouraging me to remember that a character’s thoughts can’t be divided in the same way. Even though a speech is naturally broken up by the punctuation, a solo thought will often inform several lines, if not the whole speech, and the root of this thought is not always to be found at the beginning of each section of text. For example, in i.1, Theseus turns to Hippolyta and says:

“Hippolyta, I woo’d thee with my sword
and won thy love doing thee injuries,
but I will wed thee in another key –
with pomp, with triumph and with revelling.” (i.1.26-29)

You can treat the first line as a statement in itself, but it’s more likely that, at this immediate moment, what’s more important to Theseus is the revelling to come, not the nature of their courtship. If I remind her that “I woo’d [her] with my sword” because I’m about to make the contrast between our courtship and the revelling to come, I will say the first line with much more joy and anticipation that I would if I was treating it as a statement of what happened in the past, and that enthusiasm must continue until the end of the speech when I finally reach the conclusion of the thought. It’s the thought of the revelling that informs all four lines and the way that I will say them. This week, I’ll be working with Giles on making sure I’m certain about how my characters’ thoughts inform the lines, and this process will help me make sure that my speeches flow clearly.

Ultimately, I just can’t wait to get into the theatre. On a sunny day, it’s simply the best place in the world.

These comments are the actor’s thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.

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