In his third blog post Simon discusses how the production is coming together in the final rehearsals, what he thinks of his costume and making Puck more physical.
Transcript of Podcast
Running the play
We’re now starting to do runs of each half on a regular basis. We’ve done both on-stage over the last few days, but whereas the first half felt very, very good, the second felt quite the opposite. This is partially because we’ve done more work on the first half than the second, but I think it’s also because of the way they start. At the beginning of the play, the whole company is going to come on-stage and ‘go to sleep.’ Each character will then ‘wake up’ whenever their name is mentioned, or when they become involved in the action of the scene. I think that starting the production in this way will help to settle both the actors and the audience, as it will allow everyone in the building to see each other before the play starts in earnest. In contrast, the second half starts quite suddenly with Paul [Higgins, Oberon/Theseus] and I simply walking on stage as we start the scene. I think it will take much more effort to ‘kick start’ the scene and engage the audience’s attention after the interval, so I get slightly more nervous about the second half than the first.
We’re slowly starting to put everything together to create the finished production. What’s very important is the need to keep the audience involved and engaged; Mike [Alfreds, Master of Play] is continually placing people in different parts of the theatre to ensure that we’ll be able to play to every member of the audience. Putting a production together is like working on a huge jigsaw puzzle; it takes a lot of patience and dedication. At the moment, we’re starting to get used to the musicians underscoring the play as we perform it. At first, it was incredibly off-putting, but I’m really starting to enjoy it now, especially in the ‘woodland’ scenes when I find myself stopping and listening to occasional sounds/effects in the same way that I would stop if I heard a sudden noise out in the woods. The music is now starting to have a real effect on the production; it’s great.
I’ve started to find out about my costume, which is really exciting. The whole company will be wearing pyjamas of some kind or other, but Jenny [Tiramani, Master of Clothing and Properties] and Mike [Alfreds, Master of Play]’s original idea for Puck was that he’d be dressed in a baby’s pyjamas; an all-in-one babygrow. I have to admit, I wasn’t that happy about the idea; although there are childlike elements to the character of Puck, I think he has more power than such a costume would suggest. I wasn’t sure how much input I would have into my costume; sometimes, you just have to wear what you’re given, but I went and spoke to Jenny about it and sure enough, they’ve changed the design. My pyjamas are now more like a toddler’s than a baby’s; they’re made up of a top and trousers. Both of these are made out of a dark blue towelling material, and the top has a starburst pattern of LED lights emblazoned across the front. LED lights are the crucial part of everyone’s costume, because each actor is ‘doubling’, i.e. playing two parts. It’s important for the audience to be able to realise which actor is playing which part at any one point in the play, and they’ll be able to do this by means of the LED lights. When we’re playing a character from the mortal world, (e.g. Philostrate), we don’t use the LED (‘fairy’) lights, but when we become a character from the fairy kingdom, we’ll somehow be able to make our costume light up.
I’ve also been talking with Mike [Alfreds, Master of Play] and Glynn [MacDonald, Master of Movement] about the physicality of Puck. I’ve always thought Puck was a very energetic character who would move around a lot, but Mike is reminding me that I mustn’t move simply for the sake of movement: there must be a reason behind every movement or gesture that Puck makes. At the same time, however, there is an energy and a sense of readiness about the character that has to be constantly maintained. So, instead of running or walking everywhere, I’ve been trying to combine the two; it’s become a sort of balletic stride, like a gazelle. Glynn has been encouraging me to think about Puck’s ‘physical centre’, the one place where all of his energy is located, and where all his movement comes from. At the moment, I’m considering that Puck’s physical centre could be in his face, or in his ears, thus making me stand far more upright and alert. I don’t think about this all the time, but occasionally, it helps to root each character’s physicality and mould it to fit the space.
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.