“You get an overwhelming sense that Ophelia’s so desperate to communicate what’s inside her and there’s so much going on in her head she can’t compute. There’s this yearning to be clear but what comes out is a jumble of nonsense and it’s heart-breaking.”
In her second interview Phoebe talks about Ophelia’s language, her relationship with Hamlet, and the challenges of rehearsing the jig.
Time: 8 minutes 25 seconds
Download (7.7MB, mp3 format)
To download, right click on the link and select 'Save link as'.
Transcript of Podcast
Phil Brooks: Welcome to the Adopt an Actor podcast series. This is the second interview with Phoebe Fildes who is playing Ophelia, amongst many other characters – how have rehearsals been going?
Phoebe Fildes: Yeah really good, we’ve come a long way I think in the past couple of weeks so since I spoke to you last. We’ve just about managed to sort of work our way through the play in kind of broad brush strokes so getting it up on its feet and kind of creating a vague shape for the scenes. And we’re now just going back to the beginning basically and starting to work a bit more detailed into it, so it’s kind of reassuring because we feel like we’ve got the skeleton of the play, we kind of know roughly where we need to be at any given which is a nice place to be.
PB: And have you started doing much specific work looking at movement and voice?
PF: Yeah, we’ve had a few brilliant sessions with Sian [Williams] who’s choreographing, well the jig that comes at the end of the piece but also what’s been really fun is rehearsing the dumb show, and that’s a piece, I don’t want to give too much away but it’s a really cool piece of movement that happens in the middle of the play during the mousetrap which Hamlet sets up to entrap his uncle. And the movement of that is brilliant; it’s based on a style of movement called the cake-walk which was, I’m wondering whether, I probably can’t speak with too much knowledge about what it is but I've kind of been doing a bit of research into that, and watching videos and stuff on YouTube of how that movement is created, and that’s been really fun. It’s a really fun piece of movement actually that bit. It’s something that I think everyone has enjoyed having a crack at doing.
PB: Quite a varied rehearsal so far then.
PF: Yeah it’s great, I mean we’re going from doing a kind of silly piece of really heightened movement and then jumping straight into you know, quite a heavy piece of text so it’s very varied, and you kind of never know what you’re gonna do in the morning so you’ve gotta be on your toes!
PB: What relationships in the play – just moving onto Ophelia, what relationships in the play would you say are important to her and why?
PF: It’s quite interesting, I've just started sort of exploring her relationship with her father, and I think that’s, that kind of defines her really and slightly undoes her as she goes along. And I think at the very beginning of the play, I think we’re supposed to assume she’s had this quite intense and probably physical relationship with Hamlet. And when she’s asked by her father to stop that, I think she does that as an initial instinct because she’s used to be obedient and dutiful, but I think the question that often comes up is why does she listen to her father when he kind of sets her up as a piece of bait to entice Hamlet into – just to prove that Hamlet’s mad. And I don’t think it’s as simple as her knowing what the plan is and agreeing to it. I think what happens is she runs to her father immediately when she has this awful encounter with Hamlet, and latches onto him because she wants his protection and I think from that point on she’s kind of on the same side as her father without her even knowing she’s entered onto it. So it’s a really interesting thing because I think what I've been trying to justify is why Ophelia does what she does. And I think she doesn’t know that she’s going to be doing it when she gets him in the first place, if that makes any sense at all! It’s quite a…hmm.
PB: Yeah, have you started looking at the relationship with Hamlet as well?
PF: Yeah, I think it’s difficult because there’s not loads of evidence in the text to suggest quite to what extent the relationship has formed at the beginning of the play. But I think we’re going down the route of that they have had quite a physical relationship and she certainly, I’m going down the route of has lost her virginity to Hamlet and I think that makes it quite interesting. And it kind of makes sense of all the stuff that comes when she loses her sensibility and goes mad. There’s a line in one of the little bits of songs, the snatches of songs that she sings where she says, the sentiment is you would have married me if we hadn’t slept together basically. And I think she feels completely betrayed because she’s given her heart to somebody and for whatever reason, whether it was her own doing or the mistake of her father and the pressure that was put on her, she kind of loses everything because of that.
PB: Are there certain things you’ve noticed about her language then and the way she speaks?
PF: Yeah I think, there’s a really lovely bit actually in, the language changes I think when she starts to sing the songs and the way she speaks to the people there, and you get this overwhelming sense that Ophelia’s so desperate to communicate what’s inside her and there’s so much going on in her head she can’t really compute. And there’s a real sense that what’s inside she’s just desperate to get out, and it comes out in these snatches of nonsensical bits. But I just think the language is so beautiful and she kind of speaks in monosyllables a lot and it’s this kind of yearning to be clear but actually what comes out is a jumble of nonsense and it’s heart-breaking.
PB: She just can’t quite…
PF: Yeah can’t channel it properly. Its, she just wants to be heard I think.
PB: You mentioned the scene where she goes and speaks to her father, are there many other scenes or moments that are quite important to her?
PF: I think what’s nice is that we see, the first time we see Ophelia is her in the kind of home setting with her father and her brother. I really like playing that scene and I think it’s really important to kind of establish that actually she’s in a really happy family at the beginning. She loves her brother dearly, he’s about to go away and that’s a really heart-breaking farewell that has to happen. And she adores her father and her father adores her so I think its very easy to go down the route of Ophelia is abused by everybody and certainly that happens as they play goes on. But I really like that first scene because it’s sort of the only time that you see her happy. You know, she’s in love with somebody, she’s having a lovely time with Hamlet, her father adores her and she’s got a lovely relationship with her brother. So I think that’s quite a crucial scene actually as well.
PB: And moving on to all your other characters, you were just beginning to start researching into those last time, how are all those going?
PF: Yeah, really good, we’ve had some really fun time exploring the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern kind of dynamic and that’s been really fun. What’s quite interesting I think about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is again it’s that kind of not knowing what they’re letting themselves in for so I think we’re kind of exploring the fact that they arrive to the court and they’re absolutely delighted to be on the holiday of a lifetime basically. You know they’re staying in this amazing place, yes they’ve been kind of put on a mission by Claudius and Gertrude but I think at the beginning I think they kind of justify it to themselves by saying, you know, we’re helping our friend basically. But I think it’s kind of a similar thing to Ophelia, they sort of get dragged into something that actually turns out to be incredibly sinister. And obviously, the holiday it ends pretty awfully for them as they – plot spoiler! But I’m sure everybody knows what happens when they get sent to England. So that’s been fun and it’s been really nice to have something like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern which is such a, they bring such a different energy to obviously somebody like Gertrude.
PB: And what would you say the highs and lows of the first few weeks of rehearsals have been?
PF: To be honest its quite hard to, it’s been such a whirlwind of getting up and having a crack at doing it and then sitting down and watching… so it’s kinda hard to identify particular bits. I think that the highs have just been so many wonderful moments where you’re watching 5 or 6 different people do something; it’s just brilliant to see what someone brings to it. And then as, as that goes on people sort of borrowing things from each other and sharing their ideas which is really lovely. Trying to think what the lows have been… Well probably not a low but a difficult rehearsal was when we were trying to rehearse the jig and we realised that because we were all playing so many different characters and the combination of instruments is so diverse, it just became a complete web of confusion because we... It’s so important to get into a situation where one can step in for a character in the jig and always play that same role, but that has a massive effect on the instruments they play. So basically the permutations are just endless so it’s pretty hard to get your head around.
PB: so many combinations of everything!
PF: Yeah! So I think the only answer is that everybody learns every instrument and can play it!
PB: Great thank you very much.
PF: Thank you.