"We’ve all been called into rehearsal so far, most of the time at the moment.It’s been very helpful to hear other people’s scenes because, most of the time, it’s something that you need to hear. Whatever they talk about, it’s something that you would’ve been informed about in a letter delivered by someone, at some point..."
Tackling the text in the rehearsal room, Sirine explains the world revealed onstage and offstage.
Time: 3 minutes 41 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Rona Kelly: Were you familiar with the play before you started?
Sirine Saba: Not massively. It’s very convoluted. I didn’t realise how convoluted, because I’ve not really ever seen it. I saw a student production quite few years ago. And because it’s very famous, you have a vague idea that it’s about, 'Da da da, the jealousy, da da da and then there’s Cordelia!' You know, you get it. 'And there’s Edmund and there’s a thing about him'. But actually if you delve in, it’s very convoluted. There’s quite a lot of off stage action. There’s a lot of messages being passed to and from. Letters, all these different letters with all these different bits of information that Shakespeare doesn’t always reveal. You just have to sort of try and remember what was said in a previous scene, and search other people’s scenes as well for any kind of information about what you know, what you don’t know. It’s not linear at all. So that’s been a challenge, in terms of knowing what you’re coming on stage with, knowing what you know, where you got the information. And how you feel about the other people on stage, because you need to remember whose side they’re on, what message they delivered, what you want out of them. You know, Titania knows exactly where she is and what she wants and she doesn’t have to worry about lots of different people coming in and out. Whereas there are so many plots all swirling at the same time and then they all join. There is a real sense of having to be so attuned. We’ve all been called into rehearsal so far, most of the time at the moment. And it’s been very helpful to hear other people’s scenes because, most of the time, it’s something that you need to hear. Whatever they talk about, it’s something that you would’ve been informed about in a letter delivered by someone, at some point.
RK: Yes. Because, obviously, the whole Gloucester subplot, he’s off with Lear for a little bit and then he comes back.
SS: That’s right. We just did a scene today, we sort of vaguely blocked the eye-gouging scene. And you know, we come on at the top of the scene and there’s a real intention already. But not in any of our scenes have we been told what’s happening and what the circumstances are. You have to gauge it from other people’s scenes and go, 'Oh right. We know this. We know that Gloucester’s on Lear’s side. He’s trying to get him back into power. He’s working with Cordelia and the French'. Nobody tells us that in a scene, you just have to remember that that’s what you are coming on with, with that knowledge. And then there’s an extra piece of knowledge, because Oswald says, 'Oh not only that, he’s been taken to Dover, so he is in France, he is with Cordelia now'. 'Oh God, that’s even worse!' So that makes you want to punish Gloucester even more. So you come on with something and then something else gets you even more, you know.
RK: It is one of the plays where so much stuff happens off stage. So I think, as an audience as well, it’s going to be really trying to communicate to them with the people in the scene what’s happening off stage.
SS: Well Nancy [Meckler, Director] is aware of that and Nancy is trying to track through these sort of unseen moments. And actually possibly showing them in some way. So in dumb show or with an underscore, someone comes on, you see them deliver the letter. So that everything people say happens but we don’t see, we see. So that’s what we’re exploring at the moment with Nancy. Trying to make it a bit more clear, a bit clearer. Just for the audience to know who people are. Sometimes characters come on before they speak and freeze, so that the characters already on stage can refer to them before they enter. You know who they are and that they are coming as a unit. It’s all trial and error at the moment, it feels like real trial and error. Trying things, not sure if it works. Just trying to, as you say, tell the clearest story possible.
Thanks to Gemma for the transcription of this interview.