"I think Edmund is a sort of crutch for Regan. I think she’s obsessed with him because he means power, he means security, he’s just someone else that she can lean on. I think she’s much more traumatised by the blinding than we think. And I think everything she does after that is informed by a desire to regroup, to toughen up, and to forget that hideous thing that she did..."
As performances draw to a close, Sirine talks to us about key relationships in the play, with the audience, Cornwall and Edmund.
Time: 7 minutes 36 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Rona Kelly: And then, I guess we’ll get onto how performances have been going. The first dress rehearsal, you actually didn’t have any groundlings.
Sabine Saba: No.
RK: And so your first performance with the groundlings: what was it like reacquainting yourself with them and actually performing for that close audience?
SS: Well, first of all nothing is like a first preview. You always do your first preview and it’s the most cataclysmic sort of ecstatic audience you could ever have! And I’ve found that with almost every play I’ve ever done. The first preview, you get the most laughs and the most incredible, the biggest reception you’ll get. And you never get it again really, I don’t think. Well I never do anyway. And it’s that first sort of ecstatic preview. So, the first previews are very sort of special, where you know you feel, really...it’s very exciting. And then consequently, the second preview can always feel a little bit like, 'Oh God, why don’t they adore it as much as they adored it last night?' But it’s just like there was a slightly false sense of excitement, I think, on the first preview.
And the groundlings, I mean the Globe is all about the groundlings. But it has been a different experience this time, because last time the groundlings were more involved in the show. Whereas this time, we’re not sort of involving them as much. But actually what’s good about that is that you just play the show as it is. There’s less sort of stops and starts. Much as I loved the previous season and it’s a very special venue for that, and actually you do feel slightly cheated if you are not doing work with the groundlings, but then the advantage I suppose is that you just run the play and the groundlings just hopefully get taken along with you, without that interaction. Both have their merits, both are very exciting in their own way.
RK: I think as well, the play starting with you all coming into the theatre to you know invade it essentially. I think in the Q&A, a couple of people were saying it felt that they were part of the energy. When you break that door down, 'One, two, three…'
SS: Oh! That’s great! Yes, I mean the thing is with that moment is that we initially were quite seduced about bringing the groundlings into it. But if we are actually playing that situation for real, where people who are very dispossessed, who are very, very unhappy with their lives and who are very passionate about telling a story that they believe is important in this day and age about power and love and what happens when you chose power over love...you are not going to be seduced by having a lovely time for the groundlings. You are going to take those tarps down and you are going to get the stage ready and you are going to tell the story. So it’s a funny dichotomy of wanting to enjoy a little pre-banter with the audience, but also the intensity of coming to this space, having sacrificed a lot to be there, and having the absolute, intense motive to tell the story.
RK: Yes. And have you had any memorable reactions from audiences to something maybe you’ve done in a scene, which when you did it in the rehearsal room you thought, 'That’s how they are doing to react'? Have any reactions surprised you?
SS: I think we’ve all been surprised by how funny it is. And actually this play has really, really reaffirmed my belief in Shakespeare’s comedic skills, because for a while I did think, 'It’s just not funny anymore, we just don’t get those old-fashioned gags'. And consequently, what happens is you go to the theatre and there’s usually a lot of business around the line that gets the laugh. And my belief was that’s what we’ve got to do nowadays, because we just don’t laugh, we don’t think it’s funny the way we used to. But actually [with] this play, we’ve been very pure with the text, very, very pure. There’s no business around any of the lines and it’s funny. It’s funny and that surprised me. That the pure line that we speak, they get it, they get that it’s a funny thing to say. And that’s magical, I’ve found that really inspiring. He’s hilarious and you don’t have to go [blows raspberry] or 'Oh', which I do. Everybody...well not everybody, but that’s the temptation because you don’t trust that it’s going to be that funny. But actually, certainly in this play which isn’t a laugh a minute, but when there are lighter moments, they really engage with it. Globe audiences are very warm though in that way. They are very receptive to humour and to connection.
RK: And as you’ve got it on stage, what else have you been able to unlock or maybe discover? Because I think when we spoke in rehearsals, you were still working through your relationship with Cornwall, and trying to uncover that relationship and what that meant.
SS: Oh, yes.
RK: Have you discovered anything bringing it on stage?
SS: Well, it's interestingly 'onstage'. I mean, he mentions her a few times; she never mentions him. And in our world, this world of arranged, unhappy marriage for Goneril and Regan, which informs a lot of their journey really is just that they were chucked with very little thought to these husbands in this society where they don't really have a voice. You know, there is no dialogue between them. Albany and Goneril have quite a lot of dialogue, and there’s no dialogue between Cornwall and Regan. And interestingly, I sort of lost my desire to plough that relationship, because it just felt very distant. The more I carried on rehearsing the play, it just felt very, very distant. I think a lot of the time, you know I have heard that Cornwall and Regan because they work together against Gloucester, there can be a real sense of unity. But in this world where Regan sort of takes over from Cornwall, in this world where men have always had the power and now women suddenly have the power, it made for quite an uncomfortable relationship and made for one [of] greater distance.
So yes, that’s interesting. And I think, for example, in the blinding scene, that feels like they come together out of a joint desire to punish and to regroup. But Cornwall gets killed and Regan says nothing, she says 'How are you? How is’t my Lord, how look you?' That’s it. There’s no, 'My Lord!' And there’s no sort of death speech. And certainly in our production, there isn’t a great moment of sadness at the end of that scene.
RK: And then I guess, Regan goes off with Edmund. Because a lot of that is implied offstage I think, in the original text. But you guys with your shopping trolley bring that centre stage, and really again convey it in a clear way so the audience can see exactly what’s going on.
SS: Yes. And also I think after that scene, after the violence of the blinding scene and the death of Cornwall, I think Edmund is a sort of crutch for Regan. Yes, she’s obsessed with him. But I think she’s obsessed with him because he means power, he means security, he’s just someone else that she can lean on. You know, I think she’s much more traumatised by the event than we think. And I think everything she does after that is informed by a desire to regroup, to toughen up, and to forget, forget that hideous thing that she did.
Thanks to Gemma for the transcription of this interview.