"I’ve been finishing Billy Elliot in Birmingham, and it doesn't feel completely different. There’s similarities with having known how to sing a song, where to breathe, how to phrase it. I think that really helps with Shakespeare: knowing the rhythm of it, knowing about breath, and using your whole body..."
Coming straight from the Billy Elliot tour, Annette discusses her previous experience with Shakespeare, performing at the Globe for the first time, and musicals vs. plays.
Time: 6 minutes 11 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Rona Kelly: Welcome to the next instalment of our podcast series. Earlier this week we spoke to Josh [Lacey] who is playing Orsino, and today we are speaking to Annette [McLaughlin] who is playing Olivia. We have just got you out of the rehearsal room to come and speak to us. How’s the rehearsal process going?
Annette McLaughlin: Really good. We’re in week four, I think? Yes, mid-week four. All is going well. Lots of great work happening in the room and inventiveness, and it’s all going good.
RK: And how familiar were you with Twelfth Night before you started?
AM: I’ve seen a few different productions. I saw the brilliant production that was on here, of course, and I’ve seen a few other different productions. So I knew it quite well and I’d done quite a lot of work on the play before I started rehearsals as well.
RK: And have you done Shakespeare before, maybe at the Globe or elsewhere?
AM: Yes. Not at the Globe. This is my first time at the Globe.
AM: So I’m very excited about that! I’ve worked at the RSC a couple of times and I have also done Shakespeare with Trevor Nunn at the National and at Regent’s Park as well, so I adore Shakespeare.
RK: Was that something when you were a child growing up or maybe in drama school which you grew to love?
AM: It was in drama school actually. And so much so that during my first job, which was in a musical, I had weekly sessions with a tutor on Shakespeare, because I had a real passion for it and I wanted to know more about it. So it’s very exciting to be here and you have such fantastic people here who know so much about Shakespeare. It’s exciting to talk to them about it as well.
RK: I don’t think people realise just how big a support you do have, because we have: Giles [Block], who’s in charge of the text; we have the movement; the dance; everyone, the whole of the music teams. It’s incredible to have that kind of support behind you.
AM: It really does feel like a support system. I’ve not been here for very long but I really feel that, and I’ve been told about that before. So many people have said, ‘You’ll love working at the Globe! It’s such a big, happy team’. And it does really feel like that and nothing is too much trouble and it’s exactly how people have explained it to me. It does feel like a big support system. It’s lovely. Like a big family.
RK: It’s nice coming in to that because…did you do any preparation for the role beforehand particularly?
AM: I did, yes. I started to work on it. I’ve been doubling up. So I’ve been finishing Billy Elliot in Birmingham, so the first three weeks of rehearsals I’ve been here and then I’ve been doing a show at night in Birmingham! So knowing that I was going to be doing that for three weeks, I spent quite a long time before that studying and getting to know the part and getting to know the play.
RK: How is it different moving from doing maybe a musical like Billy Elliot to doing something which on the surface is a play which is prose and verse?
AM: It’s interesting...it doesn’t feel completely different. I’m lucky. Billy Elliot was written really well by Lee Hall. It’s a brilliantly written piece, so it didn’t at all feel like a flaky piece of musical theatre. It was a really solid, brilliant piece of story-telling. But also I think there’s similarities with having known how to sing a song, where to breathe, how to phrase it. I think that really helps with Shakespeare: knowing the rhythm of it, knowing about breath, and from what I hear...I’ve only had one session in the Globe itself...what I hear is it’s a lot about breath and using your whole body. I do feel that as a dancer/singer as well, it’s something that comes a little easier to me, to use my whole body, maybe.
RK: And you’ve mentioned that you’ve had one session in the Globe. What was it like stepping out on to the stage and getting a sense for where you’re going to perform?
AM: It was so exciting, I can’t tell you! We had a session with Martin [McKellan], Head of Voice, which was brilliant. And we had lots of tours coming through, so that was very exciting to be able to eyeball people and get your first experience of that. And then we had a session with Glynn [MacDonald, and] she told us about more spiritual side of the Globe which I loved as well and I cried about five times through that session. She started reciting The Tempest and other things and I found it very magical and very exciting. I hear that it’s like a drug: once you first start playing the Globe, that you don’t ever want to leave. So I am excited and terrified about getting up there.
RK: What challenges do you think performing in the space will present to you as an actor?
AM: Well I think it’s probably going to be that first show where you go out and you see everybody. And you can see them really clearly and it’s that feeling of embracing that and not being scared of it. I think that will probably be the first thing. And then working the space. You know, there’s a certain way of working that space isn’t there? You try to get [it] in a rehearsal room, but I don’t think you ever really fully get until you’re on the stage. But it’s exciting, it’s very exciting. I mean I’ve come to see so many things here, I’ve had so many friends who have worked here. So it always feels very magical when I come and watch them, so I am really excited about being on that stage. It’s so different to anywhere I’ve ever worked, and I have a feeling it will probably become my favourite theatre to work in.
RK: And it’s nice that you get it from both sides, of being an audience member first and then going and actually…
AM: And then being in it.
RK: We do a Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank production every year, which is specifically for school children. And the first year we did it we had a kid in the audience who just this year was acting on the stage.
AM: Oh, wow!
RK: So years later he was back at the Globe performing. So it’s nice how it all comes full circle.
AM: You probably gave him the inspiration. As a young kid he probably thought, ‘Oh I’d like to do that’. That’s wonderful!
Thanks to Rosamund for the transcription of this interview.