This is Robert's first blog entry for the 2005 production of Pericles in which he discusses his first thoughts on his character, coming to the Globe and early rehearsals, amongst other things.
Transcript of Podcast
Coming to the Globe
I met Kathryn [Hunter] and Mark Rylance when I was performing the part of Dionysus last November, in The Bacchae at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre. They saw the show and invited me to audition for Pericles. The audition was in the Globe attic, which is right above the stage; it’s a small, intimate and very mysterious space. I really enjoyed the audition because it was so relaxed and friendly. There wasn’t much pressure: no one said ‘You must show us how good an actor you are!’ They simply encouraged me to try different things with my lines and improvise. I really enjoy improvisation, and I felt that the audition as a whole went really well.
After the audition, I was offered the part of Young Pericles. In our production there is an older and a younger Pericles, and the play starts with the older Pericles on his daughter’s tomb. Gower takes this Pericles back to look over events in his life that have led up to this point, so he watches the actions of his younger self (that’s me) although the other characters in the play can’t see him. We play the story for him, but he’s invisible to us. However, he sees his young self and notices his actions and his choices – good and bad, right and wrong. Sometimes he even tries to intervene in the action – for instance, he tries to stop himself throwing his wife’s coffin into the sea and leaving his baby daughter. At moments like that, when his young self did something that was wrong, watching the action has a healing effect on the older Pericles and relieves the pain that that action caused.
As younger Pericles, I leave half way through the play when Pericles discovers that he’s lost his daughter as well as his wife. He’s completely alone and just retreats into himself. He swears not to cut his hair or wash or talk anymore. The story then turns to focus on Marina’s life.
Hungarian is my native language so I spent a lot of time with my script and used a computer to translate words that I didn’t understand. In the Shakespeare text there were so many things that I didn’t understand; Shakespeare’s writing is often very ambiguous and rich so it needs a lot of close studying. I also read Pericles in Hungarian, but that’s a completely different language. Although I did a lot of work before I came into rehearsals, there are still so many things that I haven’t got to grips with yet!
This week has been very exciting but very tiring! We’re doing lots of improvisations with Kathryn, working in small groups as well as with the entire cast. The last improvisation we did was very funny because we acted out the knights’ competition for Thaisa’s love [II.ii]. Thaisa is a princess in Pentapolis: she’s King Simonides’ daughter and eventually becomes Pericles’ wife. During the competition, each knight had to try and make Thaisa fall in love with him, which meant that everyone had to present her with their own motto and gifts. We could use all sorts of props that Kathryn has in the rehearsal room, and because I chose a fishing net, my first motto was ‘Cod is love’, like ‘God is love’ but a bit more personal! The second was ‘Fisherman’s friend – suck it and see’, like the Fisherman’s Friend sweets. And the third motto was ‘In hac spe vivo’, which means ‘I live in this hope’, which is in the actual Shakespearian text. This exercise showed that everyone has a different way of expressing their love, though all the knights had the same aim of winning Thaisa’s hand in marriage. We explored the situation in the play and then used our discoveries when we came to Shakespeare’s actual text. That was great.
We also explored the first contact between Thaisa and Pericles. They fall in love in the same way that people do today; they’re attracted to each other when they first meet and they’re not sure what they feel but they know it’s something unbelievably great! In this scene, Thaisa’s father scrutinizes Pericles, because he’s noticed that they have stars in their eyes and feelings for each other. He examines Pericles to see if he is good enough for his daughter. Marcello [Magni, Simonides] did the scene in a funny way; he gave Pericles and Thaisa his blessing in a really angry voice. Although ‘Good wishes’ is a pleasant comment, Marcello said it like a curse ‘I WISH YOU HAPPINESS, I WISH YOU JOY!’ So initially, Thaisa and Pericles were confused and wondered what on earth was going on. He’s playing a game with them.
Older and Younger Pericles
Corin [Redgrave, Old Pericles] and I worked with Kathryn on the older and younger Pericles. We started to think about comparing very simple actions such as how you get out of bed in the mornings, how you sleep, how you shave, and how you eat breakfast. I did these things, and then Corin did those same things, and we explored the similarities and differences between our two versions. That was useful because we are meant to be one person, Pericles, and there’s just fifteen years’ difference in our ages. The younger Pericles is about thirty years old, and I’m twenty-nine, so he’s very close to me. And Corin plays the character at forty-five, fifteen years later. How we play that difference should be really interesting. On the stage you can play anything and everything!
We also did some brief work with Stewart [Pearce, Master of Voice]. We started with very simple, basic things, such as which muscles move and which parts of the body resonate when you speak. Sounds comes from different parts of the body depending on the feelings that motivate them; if you’re angry or if you are romantic, for instance, the sounds come from a different part of the body, such as the head or the chest or the stomach.
First Character Thoughts
I think Pericles is very clever and ambitious. He wants to be a good leader and a good king, and he also wants a family and children. However he must learn so many things; from the beginning to the end of the play, his journey is a learning process. He learns patience and courage and responsibility. At the beginning of the play, he is young and quick, to the point of being impulsive: ‘I want this, I want that!’ and if things don’t go well: ‘What can I do now? Well, I must do this and this!’ There are so many points in the play where he must do things that he doesn’t want to do, but he has to do them anyway. I think it’s like any life, it’s a situation anyone can identify with. For example, I want to be a good actor but it’s not easy… you need so much experience and to explore not only the situations and experiences that you see around you, but also the feelings that are inside you.
Towards the end of the week, we explored ways of using our bodies to create images of the shipwrecks and storms in the play. We did some simple yet powerful exercises with bamboo sticks and ropes that grew into a kind of boat, and then coupled those shapes with movements that created the storms and waves. We tried this out on stage on the Globe stage; it was my first time on the Globe Stage and it’s absolutely amazing. I find the way the sound travels incredible – there’s even a special place where you can stand and speak in a whisper, and everyone in the theatre will be able to hear it.
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.