Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 3

This is Jack's third blog post. This week he discusses how his character has developed, the jig and how running the play has changed his perspectives.

Transcript of Podcast

Insights into Octavius Caesar

I’m finding that my character is becoming much clearer in my head. I’m finding out who he is. Now that I am off book it feels like I’ve got a far better understanding of who Caesar is, whereas before I knew my lines I wasn’t really engaging with the actual words. I was just saying them and not really knowing what they felt like or what they meant.

At this stage in rehearsals, I think Octavius Caesar is powerful, young, ambitious, proud and ‘still’. I’m working towards some sort of physical stillness because he has the assurance of being this world leader. There is a relaxation to Antony that Caesar just doesn’t have and you can see that in the script. The things I say are very purposeful, clear and concise pretty much all the way through. There are a couple of moments where that slips which are really interesting - little moments when his guard falls and his control lapses but Caesar is very much a character who likes being in control of the situation.

Rehearsals this week

We’ve started running the play now. The day before yesterday we split it up into four quarters and ran each quarter. We were then given some notes and worked on some scenes that needed tightening up. It was really lovely to do a run because we haven’t been together as a whole company very much and also because I haven’t seen any of the Cleopatra scenes at all. I have one scene with Cleopatra at the end but otherwise I hadn’t seen anything so that was great.

We haven’t heard the play as a whole since the read through. We have looked at other bits of the play but I hadn’t read the entire script since the read through so it was really lovely to see what Dominic [the director] has done with scenes and the play as a whole. The story is really very clear and I think the play has energy, a real pace that is just wonderful.  

Different perspectives on the play

Seeing the whole play makes you see your character in context. Antony & Cleopatra is a play of contrasts between Rome and Egypt and seeing it as a whole helps you realise what you are contrasting with. The order of scenes is also enlightening for me because the scene before has a bearing on the next scene; you can read it in the book but it doesn’t really have the same effect as when it is there in front of you. Sometimes, it can change your whole perspective on a scene. It is really interesting and important for the arc of your character. Again, you can look at things in the book and just get the progression, but it is only when you see it on stage that you get the energy that the scene gives you. Overall, I think we have done a little bit more work on the first half than the second, and I think we will need to look some more at the second half because it is very bitty. There are lots of short scenes and then there are these big long scenes that Antony and Cleopatra have in which they have to change emotional pitch a lot; in just one line they have to go from something really huge to something really intimate. Also, there is this tendency at the end of a play to stretch things out. Dominic mentioned that when actors know it is coming to an end they leave longer pauses and don’t pick up their cues as fast. This morning we’ve been working on some bits of acting that just needed more pace.  

The jig

At the end of every play at the Globe the actors do a jig – a dance – to give the play a happy ending so it's not too depressing. We’ve rehearsed the jig and it's really good. It starts with the characters from the Roman world moving to a very rigid beat and then the Egyptians start dancing in more circular and fluid movements behind us and then the Romans get sucked into the Egyptian movements. And it’ll be really nice to do the jig at the end of the show because the play can be quite heavy, even though there is also loads of comedy in the play. The jig will be a really uplifting end.

We’ve also been doing some singing because we will be doing some singing within the jig. We haven’t been told which parts we are doing to music at the moment. There is a short piece of music – a lament - that we all sing when Cleopatra gets carried off towards the end. The whole cast sings that, even the people backstage. A woman called Belinda who is an incredible, incredible singer came in and talked to us about it and we had an hour and a half to learn these songs.

The thinking behind the music is similar to the thinking behind the costumes: they have taken the idea of what the Elizabethans would have thought Eastern music would sound like. I think Belinda said that the Elizabethan audience would have known this kind of song. The words are Turkish and Arabic and it is apparently quite a traditional song. Some parts of it are words and some parts are just the equivalent of singing ‘la la la’ to a particular tune.

The one we have looked at for the jig does have some words. I’m not sure if we’ll use this in the final production but the one we’ve been looking at today has an English translation at the bottom of the page:

There is no escape and no hope for one.
Everything has changed.
Everything has been deserted,
And everything exhibits death.
Hear my complaints, which alas
I, miserable and powerless must speak
From deep inside myself
As I burn blind with demented rage.

We are singing just the harmony while Belinda sings the lament. So far it sounds really good.

Coming up…

Tomorrow, the rest of the musicians are joining us for the first time. All of the music at the Globe is live and the musicians are joining us to go through their parts. For instance, when I come on to the stage I have fanfares and trumpets - which is wicked! It will be nice to have that because it will help to give me that feeling of being an emperor. I think it might give me the giggles because I can’t quite believe it's being played for me. I’m just Jack!


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.

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