In his first blog post, Jack discusses becoming an actor, his first impressions of his role, and the first week of rehearsals.
Transcript of Podcast
Becoming an actor
From a very early age, my parents took me to a lot of theatre and I just loved it. Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to become an actor and so I started going to lots of local drama groups in Ipswich in Suffolk, although I lived in a village called Layston on the coast.
When I was about 14 I did a couple of Christmas shows at the Wolsey theatre in Ipswich; The Railway Children and The Secret Garden. Going through the auditions and then performing in professional shows at an early age made me realise that I could do it.
The drama groups I was joining got more and more serious. When I was doing my A-levels, I was in a young theatre company and we did lots of educational work with excluded children or children with difficult upbringings and we did lots of work with social care professionals, which I really enjoyed and was an interesting learning experience.
After my A levels, I went straight to drama school in London, to RADA, and I left there three years ago. And here I am! Drama school was hard. You go from being this big fish in a small pond to a big fish in an even bigger pond with loads of other really huge fish all around you.
I think whatever training you do there is always some unlearning of what you have learnt previously going on, and some re-learning from the ground up. You are kind of stripped back and getting rid of your old habits. It was absolutely brilliant, but it is incredibly hard work. It's like at school, people think that drama is the easy option, the easy subject, but at drama school, the hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and then you’ve got the individual singing lessons in the evening then the rehearsals with other people, and then if you are lucky enough to get home early that night, all you have time for is to cook yourself some food and get ready for the next day. It is all consuming and apart from the holidays I completely lost touch with all of my closest friends, not that I became a recluse or a loner, but to get the most out of it I just felt that I had to put myself completely into it.
But it was an amazing, amazing training. You are pushed in so many different directions. Often, you have to prepare something different for every class in a day. Sometimes I had three monologues to prepare, a talk to give and a song to work on in a day and you just have to get it done. Quite a lot of it is just figuring out what you can get done under pressure, and we had a very talented and supportive year which really made a huge difference. There were only 31 students in our year, almost like a class at school, but then you are split up for each of your classes.
Preparation for the role of Octavius Caesar
I was only cast the week before we started rehearsals so it's been quite a whirlwind so far. Two weeks ago I had neither read nor seen Antony and Cleopatra so I haven’t really had that much time to do a lot of work but I have been reading the play over and over and looking a bit into my part. And now we are in rehearsals so there is lots to think about.
First impressions of Octavius
He has this huge status and confidence because of the power he holds. He rules a third of the world so that would give you a bit of a big head! I think he really admires Antony but there is this huge competition between them because Octavius is essentially a very ambitious man and so he always wants more. Antony really annoys him because of the power and respect he has held.
I could list loads of character traits but I’m still really trying to find out who Octavius is and where he sits inside me, what parts of me he tunes into and what aspects of our characters are similar. I find that for every part you play, you have to find a part of it that is relevant to your own life. You have to engage every part of it with yourself and you have to find the truth of it inside you and where it lies. And once you have found that, it acts as a kind of foundation. If you have tuned into those parts that are the same as yourself, you can further them over the course of rehearsals. I’ve never really talked about this before and put the process into words so I hope it's kind of clear!
First week of rehearsals
The first day of any rehearsal process is like the first day of school. It's terrifying because you are meeting a whole new bunch of people and you are in a new building and I think it just makes everyone feel a bit edgy. We had what's called a Meet and Greet session and we met many of the people who work at the Globe and then Dominic, the director, talked to us for a bit briefly about the play. I was really nervous and incredibly excited because it is just such a privilege to be here at the Globe playing a lovely part. It's just amazing! It's just such a great thing to be doing this play and of course I am in another play later in the season, In Extremis, but I’m just thinking about Antony & Cleopatra right now and how I’m going to be performing it on the stage that it was written for. It's just such a privilege, and I’m not quite over it yet.
We had a movement workshop to get us thinking about moving in the space and we also did some work on ‘archetypes’ which are fundamental traits found in lots of characters; ‘the warrior’, ‘the lover’, ‘the king’ and ‘the joker’. We did lots of other types of exercises that explored both ourselves and our characters. It was a really good thing to do with all of us on the first day because it got us moving and around the space and we were engaging with one another; it really broke the ice. But also, personally, it gave me a lot of things to think about in terms of working on The Globe stage and acting in general.
Later, Dominic had a talk with us about how Antony & Cleopatra is going to be staged and what the rehearsal process would entail. Then we had a talk by Dr Farah Karim-Cooper [Globe Education Lecturer] about how the Jacobeans would have envisaged Rome and Egypt, so some of the costumes will be Jacobean, and some will be Jacobean with a touch of the exotic. The Jacobeans had some sense of Rome - they were taught the classics - so they had some sense of the history and architecture and so on.
The next day we had the read through. We all sat in a circle and read the play from beginning to end, each of us reading our parts. Then we just got straight up on our feet. What we are doing now in rehearsals is we are just running through each scene; we read the whole scene through together and then we go back and ‘translate’ or paraphrase what's being said. At the moment we are doing very quick blocking or staging and we are going into a little bit of detail but not a whole lot, to give it a sort of overall shape, so it's sort of quite broad brush strokes initially but I think we are going to go back in and colour in as such. We are over half way through the play now, and we are coming in tomorrow (Saturday) to sort everything out. I’m all in favour of more work myself because we only have 4 weeks to get it all done in, and the more work you do on something the better it gets. Obviously people do get worn out but I have a lot of energy for it and I’m all in favour of working just as hard as I can.
These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as s / he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his / her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.