This is Yolanda's third blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III in which she talks primarily about tech week, beginning the run and the role of the women in the play.
Transcript of Podcast
I found the week of our technical rehearsals really hard work. The play was much too long and so we had to cut quite a lot of lines. We all offered different cuts of lines we thought could go and suggested parts which we thought could be speeded up. There were lots of things that I personally felt could go: I don’t mean the text as such but rather the moving of unnecessary stage furniture and excessive properties. There are certain benches and tables that come on and are not really used and I really felt that if we got rid of them it would move the action along more quickly and smoothly. And so, as well as offering up textual cuts for myself, I suggested prop cuts and other ideas such as speaking on top of the music cues. However we just kept the text cuts. Some we thought worked instantly, some clearly didn’t work, and some came back over time. We all made a definite decision to come in very quickly on our cues: once you’re speaking you can speak and take your time, but to come in quickly on the cues is important to keep it going and to keep the kettle boiling.
Apart from the length of the play, for me the most difficult part of the technical rehearsal was bringing something that we had done in a rehearsal room into the playing space. It is always hard, but it is particularly hard here at the Globe because you then realise that you are playing in the round. In the rehearsal room you have the Master of Play in front of you and you just tend to play to him because he is your audience and you want to make sure that everything is coming through to him. It becomes more like a proscenium arch theatre as you’re playing it out front all the time. I have worked here at the Globe before but when we started rehearsing on the stage I suddenly thought ‘Oh my goodness, I have to open this out!’ I started to realise ‘The people on the left have to see this’ and ‘The people on the right have got to see that’. I became very aware that I was trying to focus on playing the space and at the same time struggling to think about all of the work that I’d done in rehearsal. Of course, it was even harder for the people who had not worked at the Globe before. Fantastically, however, after the tech and the first few previews, people just opened out to the space. Instinctively, as performers, we realised that we had to give it out to the full circle of audience. I’ve found that it is possible to make every audience member feel involved – personally as an audience member in the Globe space if an actor just turns around at some point in the play and gives a look in my direction it makes me feel included, and if every actor does that at some point or another then as an audience member I will be continually stimulated throughout the play. As an actor therefore, just by occasionally bringing my focussed attention to a certain part of the theatre I am including those people. Even those people in the Lord's Rooms above the stage are hearing the play and they’re seeing bits of it which are directed personally to them. That makes me think you can sit anywhere in this theatre, even where there is a restricted view of the stage, and it is fine. Everyone in this theatre is included and that's really good.
The play is going fine. I love it! I love performing and I love being in this play. I get a real buzz when I finish the part of Queen Elizabeth and I come on again as a ghost; that's become my favourite moment as it's just hysterical! I’m doing it with Buckingham and Queen Margaret - we’re the three ghosts and we all feel the same. We all come into the tiring house and go ‘My favourite bit now’ because it's such a long personal journey for all of us and so when we get to that part we can just enjoy it. Sometimes in other plays you come out at the end of a show energized and excitable, but with this one I don’t – I actually need a bit of a break afterwards before I can even think about doing anything else. Goodness knows how Katherine [Hunter] must feel at the end – she must be exhausted. They are such big issues that we’re dealing with and whatever type of actor you are I think those issues stay with you. You need a little bit of a break after because they’re major emotions and they do affect you.
Women in the Richard III
Since the start of the run I have realised the crucial role of the women in this play. I mean rather the female characters - we’re all actually women! I believe that the role of the female characters in Richard III is to bring the audience back down to earth and to show them the reality of what is happening. It is particularly the case in this space, because maybe if you see the play in a modern theatre space you don’t respond as much and maybe don’t see it as funny. At the Globe it's actually quite humorous a lot of the time. The audience go over to Richard's side because he seems like a fun king, and Buckingham and Richard are so naughty and creative that in a sense it becomes a bit like ‘Ooh look, what are they going to do next?’ for the audience as they follow their journey. And yet what they’re doing are really, really awful things. The women then come on and say to the audience ‘Yes, you’ve had a good time but this is the depth and the reality of what's just happened’. And it's a difficult task to get the audience to realise they have been involved in the events. When the three mourning queens come on, the audience need to be shown that they have been complicit in putting the princes in the tower and making Richard King. The audience do become the citizens in the play and their attitude is almost “Long live Richard, England's rightful king” - they are complicit in bringing him to power. And so once he's there they should be made to realise that. It is fantastical that they chant that line in every performance knowing full well that he's killed all these other people beforehand and knowing that he's just been horrible to the princes and sent them to the tower.
It is the job of the female characters to come in and say ‘Yes, this is what you’ve helped to do as citizens and this is the reality of it’; we have to really bring it down and say ‘This is not funny. This is real. There have been murders committed and you have allowed the murder of children’. And then as an actor you feel the audience pained at the realization of it all. It's fascinating listening to the audience's reaction during my last scene with Richard as Queen Elizabeth – Act 4, Scene 4. The type of laughter that we get is a very different one by that point: it's like the audience are ahead slightly and you think ‘Now they understand’. You can feel it and you can hear it. Sometimes, the audience aren’t as complicit in the events. Yesterday, for example, we had an audience who weren’t on Richard's side. They stopped being on his side quite early on, and when he was crowned they stopped rooting for him altogether. It was fascinating to find that in places where Katherine [Hunter – Richard III] normally gets huge laughs, she didn’t – they clearly didn’t agree. We’ve had that reaction a couple of times now and it is really rewarding for us as actors to encounter such different audiences.
Elizabeth and Richard
Queen's Elizabeth's relationship with Richard has developed in performance. I come to it afresh every day and there are undulating little nuances that I’ve noticed - different strokes and different colourings. For example after the King has died and Queen Elizabeth is distraught. When Richard comes in and she's talking to him I used to think ‘Well, I hate this man, so therefore I can’t go anywhere near this man’. During performance, however, my attitude has changed. I began to realise that sometimes in a situation where you’re so distraught and you desperately need someone, if someone comes up to you and says ‘I’m going to comfort you’, in that period of disbelief you will believe that person whoever they are. Richard then completely throws me aside and it becomes even more painful. Because he's very cutting and cruel afterwards in performances now, I can think ‘At least I’m going to get even with you - I’m going to get some comfort’. Different colours are coming into our relationship within the playing of our roles. He's become much nastier and I think I can see more of his evil side now in the last scene than I could originally.
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.