"Dominic inspired that generosity and warmth of spirit between us all. I think that's very much what it is to work at the Globe: to work together, to collaborate. it's just very much about getting it done and having fun along the way with each other."
Returning to the Globe for the final four performances, Phoebe reflects on the tour, how it's changed both as a play and its audiences, and the spirit of the Globe.
Time: 9 minutes 19 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Rona Kelly: Welcome to the last instalment of our Globe to Globe Hamlet podcast series with Phoebe.
Phoebe Fildes: Hello.
RK: And it's literally the last weekend, the last two days!
PF: It is!
RK: How are you feeling?
PF: I'm feeling so, so excited to be home. We landed around lunchtime yesterday, came straight to the Globe, did some press and we've got four shows this weekend. And to top it all off, we met president Obama this morning. So we've had an extraordinary kind of whirlwind. The whole of the last few weeks really have been moving very quickly, so this weekend I think is going to be an adrenaline boosting final push and we're really excited to be playing here again.
RK: Nice. And I think (if I'm not mistaken) you were at the castle of Elsinore, that was your last stop before coming back home. What was that like, performing Hamlet in its very home essentially?
PF: Yes, so Thursday we did two shows in Elsinore castle which really was quite extraordinary. I think I hadn't really got my head around how it would feel and what it would be like to perform in the very place that Hamlet is set. But there was something very profound actually about even just walking around the grounds and just absorbing the heaviness of the atmosphere there. It was a real honour to play [there]. We played in one of the ballrooms which is inside the inner courtyard of the castle. And we were lucky enough to perform to the Queen of Denmark that evening.
RK: Oh wow!
PF: Which was pretty bizarre! I wasn't playing Gertrude, I think it was Miranda [Foster] that evening. But it was just extraordinary. The Queen was in the front row and Miranda was playing the Queen of Denmark and it was very special. And it was great to take Hamlet to its other home.
RK: And in the last leg, one of the ones which attracted a lot attention in the news was that you performed in the Jungle at Calais. If you can cast your mind back, what was that like, that experience?
PF: Performing in Calais was a very special stop for me. We were there probably around two months ago now and, as you know, part of our tour has started to encompass taking the show to displaced people. So a number of examples, we're not able to get to countries like Syria, Yemen, the Central African Republic. And obviously it's very important to us that we're able to play to people from those places, even though they might not be living in their home country. So in order to play to people from Afghanistan and a whole host of other countries, we went to Calais and performed the shows there. And it was a completely unique performance. We were really, really well supported by the Good Chance Theatre Company, which was set up by a couple of guys called Joe & Joe who do amazing work there. [They were] trying to get some of the local refugees and migrants into theatre and using that as a channel for expression and just a way of engendering some kind of community there, because life is obviously very hard. We were sort of housed in their dome that they've erected and then we performed to around, it must have been a few hundred, an audience of mainly men. There was popcorn given out! It was incredible really, it was just a real event. And I think for people there it was just really special, because they were quite touched by the fact that on a world journey, we'd chosen to go there when obviously there's a lot of mixed press and a lot of press coverage is negative that surrounds Calais. And I think they were really pleased that we'd gone and taken something positive and story to share with them.
RK: I suppose part of the essence of this production of Hamlet is it changes as you go round, but it also in a sense changes the people who you take it to as well.
PF: I think what you say is absolutely about...there's something about performing to different audiences that is very profound and actually, it's impossible for us not to absorb the energy of that audience each night. So that's constantly changing. But we're absorbing little elements and bits of energy that that audience gives to us and that weaves its way into the fabric of the play as a whole.
RK: Where's been your favourite or most memorable perhaps place to perform?
PF: In terms of like a favourite stop, certainly one of the most thought provoking for me was...I might have mentioned this before on this, on one of these interviews, so I hope I'm not repeating myself! But it was a very special one for me, it was in Nairobi. And I met a lady who after the performance was really excited and desperate to talk about the play. And she said, 'Oh god, I never realised before that Shakespeare was such a feminist'. And I was really interested to talk to her about it and she said, 'Well, Hamlet is a call to arms for women's rights and he is a real advocate of Gertrude's right to remarry'. Obviously, Gertrude faces quite a lot of criticism in the play for her remarriage to Claudius. And I just thought that was fascinating, that was a real eye-opener for me, because it was at a point where I needed reminding I think that actually the play means an infinite number of different things to different people around the world. And you can never predict what any one audience is going to feel or how they'll respond.
RK: And you've played multiple characters in the touring production, since it's quite a small troop. What have you learned about the characters, as the tours progressed?
PF: Very good question. I've learned such a lot about each of the characters that I play. People often say, 'In what direction has the show grown or how has it changed?' And it's really hard to answer, because by virtue of the fact that we all rotate roles, it sort of expands outwards and it kind of morphs into hundreds of different things rather than going in one direction. So I'd say with regards to what I've learned about each character, I've sort of just learned just how many different things they can be. So one night I might play Gertrude, where Claudius for example is very wilful and strong and you see a very dark quality, if the actor playing him that night is kind of more predisposed to those qualities then my Gertrude responds very much in kind, as kind of wilful and ambitious. But conversely, when a different actor plays Claudius, he might be much more adept as Claudius at disguising his corruption and what he's done and therefore more jovial and jolly. And that really affects the way I play Gertrude which is much more sympathetic towards Ophelia. So actually, it's opened my eyes to the realms of possibility; you think you understand a character and you know the definitive way to play it, but of course there's no such thing as a definitive way. And it's been quite liberating actually, because I've sort of realised that there's always options and you can always try different things.
RK: And then leading off of the last question: what have you learned about yourself?
PF: Ooooh! What have I learned about myself? Many things. I've learned that...I've got a lot better at queueing! I've become much more philosophical about [it]: if you're standing in a queue, it's not going to move! That's a sort of good thing!
RK: Guess that's all the airports!
PF: Yes! I think doing something like this you do get to know yourself so well, because when you are subjected to and you encounter such different ways of life and you meet different people who hold different values dear to them, it kind of makes you (consciously or not) assess your own. So I think I've got a much clearer grip of what my priorities are in life: the importance of friendship, of keeping those relationships alive even though you might be far from home. And it sounds clichéd to say and I'm sure it's something that everybody says once they've travelled somewhere: but you kind of realise how little you actually need. We've encountered people who've had so little but such a richness of life and of love for each other and of spirit. And actually, it's been a really beautiful reminder that actually we need very little and of what is important in life.
RK: What comes next for you? Would you like to do some more Shakespeare next? Or are you happy take a bit of a break from the Bard for a bit!
PF: I'm not sure what I'd like to do next. I'm definitely going to have a good sleep next week! I'd definitely love to do Shakespeare again; I've certainly not had my fill at all. I think there's something really unique about [him], I think it's just such a privilege speaking Shakespeare and I know that I will miss [it]. Whatever I do next, if it isn't Shakespeare I'll certainly miss it. So I'd love to do it again at some point. I don't know...watch this space! I'd love to see what comes along and hopefully be back one day.
RK: Finally I guess, this is Dominic [Dromgoole's] essentially last performances at the Globe. What's it been like just working with him and the whole team of stage managers and everyone who's travelled with you throughout the whole process?
PF: Working at the Globe I think is always...I mean I actually worked in the office before I was an actress! So I have quite a special relationship to the Globe in that respect. And I just absolutely adore the whole family at the Globe and I think that's very much inspired by Dominic. And I know that he inspires a sort of confidence and trust and kindness in people in the building which is really important to everybody. And I know that he'll be really missed. In terms of how that's affected the whole project, it just couldn't have happened without that generosity and warmth of spirit between us all, because we kind of really needed that. So I'm really grateful to him for inspiring that in everybody. And like you say, the stage management team and just the way everybody's worked together, I think that's very much what it is to work at the Globe, which is to work together, to collaborate. There's no egos, there's not kind of selfish motivations, it's just very much about getting it done and having fun along the way with each other.
RK: Brilliant. Thank you so much for joining us that was absolutely brilliant and I hope the show goes well.
PF: Thank you very much! Thank you.