" I like those characters who have that edge, who have that conflict. I looked at Orsino and I thought, 'Does he have that?' But I've kind of found him to be like an addict, an addict of love. It's this kind of rockstar...Keith Richards and that elegantly wasted kind of gentleman!"
As rehearsals begin for Twelfth Night, Josh talks about his experience with Shakespeare, returning to the Globe, and his first impressions of Orsino.
Time: 6 minutes 11 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Rona Kelly: Welcome to the very first in our series of podcasts for the Twelfth Night cast, and our first one is Josh who is playing Orsino.
Joshua Lacey: Yes, that's me!
RK: How are you today?
JL: I'm well, good morning to you!
RK: Good morning to you! Can you tell us a bit about your previous experience with Shakespeare?
JL: Not much! I'll be honest with you, not much. I'm not very well educated in Shakespeare, I didn't train in at all. But I worked with Matthew Dunster (who you'll know from the Globe) at Regent's Park [Open Air Theatre]. A few years ago, we did A Midsummer Night's Dream and I played the integral part of one of the Fairies. It's a really important part, you know! A lots of speeches.
RK: Which one were you?
JL: I think it was Peaseblossom. And then just last year, we did Imogen again with Matthew Dunster. So that was a big one. Technically, it was Shakespeare but he adapted it and kind of modernised it as you know. But this one, we keep in it all of the 'thou's and 'thee's, very much true to the Shakespeare origin of it.
RK: And doing those previous roles, particularly I think it was Cloten that you played.
RK: How does that preparation help you when you're getting into a new text?
JL: Yes, of course. With someone like Giles [Block] who works on text here at the Globe, you remember someone some of the things he says. And he'll always be there, for the structure, for the rhythm. So that's amazing. But as characters go, it's different. The nuances are going to be different. The bones of Shakespeare are going to be there, but the rest is going to be slightly different. So Cloten, for example, last year [was] completely different to what Orsino is. I've brought none of that into this at all. And also last year, his lines were all prose. This year, Orsino is all verse. So that, for me, is completely different.
RK: And were you familiar with Twelfth Night before you started?
JL: No. I got this email through from my agent, 'Emma Rice would like to see you for Orsino in Twelfth Night'. And I thought, 'Right! Get the book out!' First of all, how many lines has he got? Is it a big part? Page one: 'If music be the food of love...' And I...got nervous! It's a famous line and I thought, 'Am I ready for this? Can I pull that off?' But we're here! And we'll se eif we can pull it off!
RK: And I'm assuming you finished the play before you started rehearsals. That would help!
JL: That would help, yes!
RK: You didn't just read the first speech!
JL: No, just my lines. I didn't know anything else was going on! I read the play as much as you can. I saw some material, some old footage of productions and stuff, just to see what it's like. See the temperature of the piece, the temperature of the character. But then again, we are adapting it. We're setting it in 1979, so things are going to be a little bit different. It is adapted by a gentleman called Kyle? so it's not in its original form. You can only do so much: just read it and try and find your through line. Try and find your goal, what your character's doing. That's where rehearsals come in, because it can change from what your perception was before you started.
RK: Yes. What were your initial impressions then of Orsino?
JL: It's one of those things where you get the call to say, 'Yes, you've got the job!' And you go, 'Yes! Fantastic! Right I've got some money coming in, that's my rent paid!' And then you go, 'Oh...can I do it? Can I pull it off?' It's that doubt, it then sets in. You see all these people who've done, Orsino's 'If music be the food of love...' Can I say those lines? Are you going to be judged? And as a character...you know, Cloten last year, he was sociopathic. I knew him, I had a friend like that at school, a bully. But I'm drawn to those characters, the characters who are on the edge of society. Because with a face like mine, I'm never going to play the leading man. And I don't want to. I like those characters who have that edge, who have that conflict. I looked at Orsino and I thought, 'Does he have that? Is he a little bit poetic for me?' But I've kind of found him to be like an addict, an addict of love. It's that. So he has an addiction, that's where I'm coming to him. And it is set in '79 and Emma Rice said, 'Think of Paul McCartney up in the Mull of Kintyre'. It's this kind of rockstar who's walked away from it and he's up there quite hippyish. So I looked at a lot of footage, I'm a big fan anyway of that era: Keith Richards and that elegantly wasted kind of gentleman. So if I can find that physicality, then hopefully the rest and the truth of it will play out.
RK: That's interesting, because even though he is the Duke and he is this big, renowned character...I think he says something like, 'I am best when I am by myself'. He puts himself off from society.
JL: Absolutely, when we've been in love as most people have and we've had breakups, I find the first thing you go to is you seek out solitude and you seek out the sadness. You want to lay in bed listening to Leonard Cohen. You want that melancholy, it's like self-flagellation. You want to feel sad, you want to embrace that. I think he loves being in love: he's in love with being in love, the idea. He puts it on himself, it's that addiction: give me more of that melancholy, give me more of that. And I can relate to that, I'm quite a melancholic person I suppose, in a sense. We all have the black dog sometimes, so I can feel that. And I suppose it's getting that through and it's not being afraid [to play that]...because it is a comedy, Twelfth Night. It's hard to be up on that stage and hear Belch getting the laughs, and you want to get the laughs because it's such a lovely thing to hear that as an actor. But you have to play the truth, so it's good to have that juxtaposition. You've got to play that melancholy, the audience have to feel they're down so when the comedy characters come on stage, they can go up. You know, it's that wave. So sometimes it's the stillness.