This is Yolanda's fourth and final blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III in which she talks about beginning work on the next production of the season- The Taming of the Shrew- alongside the final performances of Richard III.
Transcript of Podcast
Everything's so busy. We started rehearsals for The Taming of the Shrew two weeks ago – just reading through the text and finding out what it means, what everybody thought, what we’d like to do with different bits, etc. We’re trying to figure out what sort of a comedy it is going to be. And we’re so used to each other now [after Richard III] that at times we can almost read each other's minds; if someone says in rehearsal ‘I think you should be doing this’, you know exactly where they’re coming from. Not that one is defensive when it's a new company, but with friends you’re more open to different ideas. Although The Taming of the Shrew is a completely different play, the rehearsal process is quicker than for Richard III as we understand each other better.
Juggling Rehearsals and Performances
The rehearsal process at the moment is really tiring – I can’t remember if it was like this when I worked here in 1999. We’ve been working hard; yesterday I came in at eleven in the morning, did a matinee [Richard III], half an hour off then straight to the rehearsal room until ten-thirty in the evening! It gets a little difficult to find that energy one needs to go through another play – a comedy. The language in Richard and Shrew is completely different – they’re both Shakespearean but I found that's been really helpful keeping them separate for me. Hortensio [Yolanda's character in The Taming of the Shrew] speaks in a mixture of verse and prose. I have to figure out why these changes happen: why is he speaking in verse here and prose here? The shifts are very different from Queen Elizabeth's language. I hadn’t realized that when you speak in prose it's much more difficult than speaking in verse. The commas are in weird places – I had to do one speech ten times before I understood what I was saying. It's easier to see the progression of thought in verse, but prose is really, really hard! I’m getting used to it now. My personal focus at the moment is playing a man – all the others are used to it because they’ve been playing men in Richard III but it's new for me. I’ve also been trying to discover whether I can be funny!
The Taming of the Shrew
I think Hortensio is a mixture of lover and fool – a romantic, but he's not very good at it. Things affect him deeply: he falls in love with someone who falls in love with somebody else and that destroys him in a very funny way: he ends up marrying a widow that's been besotted with him for ages! At one point I have to disguise myself as a music teacher in order to try and win my love's hand, so we’ve spent a day exploring disguise in rehearsal. We had to come into the theatre in disguise without anybody noticing! I was going to disguise myself as a Spanish Flamenco guitar player but the director told me he was going to send me outside to do some games and exercises around the Globe, and he expected me to get away with it! So instead I came dressed as a very elegant foreign woman with a long wig, high heels, and sunglasses. I was going to be an Italian but when I came in I suddenly thought ‘no I’m not – I’m from Saudi Arabia, and I’m studying in this country.’ A whole history just developed for her – and four people that know me really well went straight past me without batting an eyelid. Next we improvised a little: my foreign woman had an interview with one of the other characters, as though she was trying to get a job as a steward at the Globe. The main thing I found was that the exercise worked best when the actors involved adjusted the balance: the disguised people were larger than life, and the others had to make an effort to be much more normal and serene – the right balance meant though you looked just that little bit stranger, you were accepted. That difference is important for comedy. I realised how much comedy that difference could generate when Meredith NcNiel's hysterical character (a very eccentric young man she called Marcus) met some completely different characters: three of us came in as very sober ladies – one was dressed in a complete bourka and another (Amanda Harris) was a very modest, bookish librarian. Although Marcus was outrageous, as a combination it worked and we accepted his character. It’ll be really interesting to see how we eventually use this work in The Taming of the Shrew.
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.