"Nancy felt strongly that this is a society that did not value the female voice or any female power...her image is that when the bottle cork pops, all that oppression, repression, staid energy just goes boom! And you will do anything to hang onto that power that you have dreamed of since you were a baby..."
Getting to grips with the character of Regan, Sirine discusses power, oppression and politics.
Time: 7 minutes 5 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Rona Kelly: Can you take us through what’s been happening in the rehearsal room so far?
Sirine Saba: So we’ve been doing quite a lot of movement with Shona [Morris], our Movement Director, about really feeling each other in the space. So she has this image of us all being tied by elastic with each other, so that when somebody moves in the space it really affects everybody else on there. So whoever is the protagonist [who] is really making a bold move, it really affects everyone so that there’s a real sense of everyone being affected by every physical movement on stage. So that’s been really interesting, because usually a strong decision is accompanied by quite a strong move and, therefore, that energy ripples across the stage. That’s quite exciting.
And we’ve been mapping out the scenes to get...not a vague idea, but a first draft of where we think people are in the space. And it feels at the moment that things are really up for grabs, but that we’re mapping out the journey and then I think we’re going to go back and solidify probably in the next couple of weeks. But we’ve all got an idea of where the scenes come and where they are in the space. But at the moment there’s a lot of emphasis being put on the dynamic of the company when we’re on stage, and when we move and what we say, how it affects the people who are listening.
And we’ve done a few improvisations as well in terms of trying to get the relationships a bit clearer. So kind of 'What ifs'. We did an improvisation with Edmund where he was coming to Edgar’s eleventh birthday party when they were children and nobody wanted him there, to get a sense of really really never having felt like he was wanted, loved, cared for. You know, Gloucester tries. It was a real sense of how exclusive his childhood had been. Yes, so just building blocks, really. It feels like we’re still building it.
RK: And as you’re building the play, what were your initial impressions of Regan and how are those developing as the rehearsal period is going on?
SS: Well, I think Nancy [Meckler, Director] and I were on the same page initially, because the world of the play, for the women certainly, is that they’ve been very very powerless. It’s a very male-dominated world and Nancy has got that from the script. In the very first scene when they’re dividing the kingdom in three, Lear doesn’t say, 'I am dividing it between my daughters'. He says, ‘Cornwall, Albany, thou, you’re going to have the power, not the women’. He doesn’t mention the women. The women have to come up and tell him how much they love him, so they’ve got to play the dutiful daughters. But in terms of who he mentions, he only talks about the men.
And so Nancy felt strongly that this is a society that did not value the female voice or any female power, that women have felt not only that Lear hasn’t really had time for them. And that’s something to talk about with Kevin [R McNally, Lear] in terms of what kind of a father he was. But there is a sense that although he wasn’t an abusive father, he was quite an absent father, and that’s sort of abuse in a way. But also coupled with that, the society where you’re really not heard, where none of your desires or dreams or ambitions are listened to or in any way taken into account. People react to that kind of thing in a different way and Nancy and I both agreed that Regan probably got around it by being terribly charming and terribly manipulative and realised that actually if she was very kind and warm and sweet and charming [that would be better]. Because Lear says in the play, 'Oh you, you’ve always been the sweet on. Your eyes are always so soft and sweet and kind'. All of that. But then how do you marry that with somebody who absolutely goes off the rails later? And Nancy’s image is that when the bottle cork pops, all that oppression, repression, staid energy just goes [explosion sound].
And you will do anything to hang onto that power that you have dreamed of since you were a baby. I don’t know about the other two sisters but certainly for Regan, I feel like she’s the one who...certainly at this stage, this might all change...but at this stage I feel like she’s the one who just ached to take all her clothes off, get on a horse and ride bareback to the sea, naked, and was never allowed to do that! And finally she’s given some...not power, well, power! Okay, it’s given to Cornwall and Albany. But as Nancy said, Regan and Goneril are going, 'Yes, but you’ve only got this thanks to me. So actually, hang on a second here. This is my turn!' And then it becomes overwhelming, what happens to them. So it’s not that they start from an evil, vengeful, plotting place; they start from a place of utter powerlessness, and then it’s what happens when you get given too much, too soon, too quickly having never been given it before. And they become drunk on it in different ways.
RK: That’s really interesting, because I think a lot of people may approach the text and see it as, 'These are the evil sisters'. So you’re really exploring the backstory as to what motivated them and what made them this way.
SS: That’s right and to make them a victim of their own circumstances. Because then there’s no journey, there’s no journey if they start evil and finish evil. Well it can be, it could be. I’ve seen it, I know that it can be very interesting to just have a very dark character that carries you through the play. But personally, I’m finding it certainly for Regan...because he doesn’t say, he’s horrible to Goneril. Him and Goneril have a completely different relationship, there’s been a lot of angst there. Whereas up until a certain point, until Regan joins with Goneril and says...can I swear?
RK: Yes, of course.
SS: 'Fuck you, this is our turn, and I am going to join with my sister for the first time!’ That’s the other thing: I think these three sisters have grown up very very disparately. It certainly doesn’t feel like there’s a sense of 'us against you' yet, until we get into the play. And then he sees that for the first time, they join hands in that scene, 'What Regan, will you take her by the hand?' Because she’s never done that before. Up until then, she’s always been (as much as possible) daddy’s little girl, although he didn’t really give her anything back like he gives Cordelia. But she’s managed to stay out of his bad books by being accommodating and feminine and flattering and charming, I think. Next time we speak?
RK: Completely different!
SS: It’s going to be full on horror.
RK: So she left with a motorcycle gang when she was thirteen and she came back!
SS: Yes, exactly! Exactly!
RK: No. That’s fascinating. That’s a really interesting reading, actually.
Thanks to Sarah for the transcription of this interview.