This week, Matthew [Kelly, Pandarus] writes about getting the play on its feet and discovering his relationships with Troilus and with Cressida.
Transcript of Podcast
Getting the play on its feet
We got the play on its feet for the first time yesterday I’ll do anything rather than get the thing on its feet – I’ll tell anecdotes, I’ll make the tea... But it was exciting. I love Matthew Dunster [director]. I love the way he works – he is fabulously free and yet completely specific. He learnt something interesting from the director Richard Wilson - how you can’t stand it up until you know who your character is properly. And I agree. Although I’d rather just sit down for the whole thing!
Relationship with Alexander
I had a revelation yesterday when we got the play on its feet for the first time. I was doing Act 1.2 with Cressida and Alexander, her manservant. Richard Hansell is playing Alexander as a gay servant, as a gossip and confidante. He teases her and is withholding information about Hector and Ajax, so Cressida keeps pestering him, at which point Pandarus enters. I thought, “Well, how would Pandarus and Alexander be with each other?” Because there is certainly a sort of rivalry in the amount of gossip that each of them has; Pandarus asserts that he has more gossip and certainly more detail than Alexander does.
So then the question becomes: what happens when Pandarus starts talking about Troilus? There is a line where Pandarus says “I think Troilus’ smiling becomes him better than any man in all Phrygia”; Cressida replies, “O, he smiles valiantly”, to which I then reply, “Does he not?” (1.2.117-118). Now, either you deliver that line to the audience, or you say it to yourself, or you direct it at Alexander. Originally, I thought if I delivered it to Alexander, it would be the two of us sharing a wink about how attractive Troilus is. In the script work sessions, it was quite funny when I did it that way and it sort of worked, but then last night I thought, “No!” I think Pandarus’ love for Troilus is completely innocent sexually speaking. This is my current interpretation, but it’s still only just forming.
Pandarus’ relationship with Troilus
Pandarus admires Troilus, adores him, and in a sense, can live through him vicariously. I remember saying to my mum when she was 72, “Oh blimey, you’re really old” and she said “Yes, I know …but in my head I’m still 25.” There is something irresistible about youth; it gives you life and Pandarus is very lively. It is all there in the first scene when he is talking to Cressida about Troilus: “I could live and die i’th’ eyes of Troilus … I had rather be such a man as Troilus than Agamemnon and all Greece!” (1.2.230-233).
I think Pandarus is much less calculating as a result. I’m sure he does use the situation for his own benefit - obviously an alliance between his niece and the son of the king would be very good for him. But if that scene is only about him forcing Troilus on Cressida, it becomes too heavy. You can also see it in how many times he uses Troilus’ name; nearly every single one of Pandarus’ lines in Act 1.2 is about Troilus, Troilus, Troilus! There has to be a part of Pandarus that does live vicariously – and I’m sure sexually vicariously – through both of the young lovers … at least until the end, where that love from Troilus is taken away from him
Anyway, that’s where I am at the minute. Wait for next week’s episode folks, and see if it’s changed!
Pandarus’ relationship with Cressida
Cressida and Pandarus certainly have a lot of fun together. But there is a slightly worrying aspect to all of this, which is the terrible scene the day after Troilus and Cressida sleep together, when she has to leave Troy and go to the Greek side. Pandarus’ concern is not for her – in fact he seems to have no concern for her at all. He doesn’t offer to fight it; it is just a given to him. It is very distressing. I mean, he even says to her, “Wouldst thou hadst ne’er been born! I knew thou wouldst be his death” (4.2.83-84). It could be that it reflects an Elizabethan attitude to women, but even so, she is his niece, he is her guardian. So that is just something to worry about at the minute. I’m not going to get into it too much at the moment, because I don’t really understand it, but hopefully I’ll have more of this when we’ve get that scene up on its feet.
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.