Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Performance Notes 1

In his sixth blog post, Paul discusses the experience of performing on the Globe stage and how he approaches reviews, and looks forward to the re-rehearsal process.

Transcript of Podcast

Performing on the Globe stage

When you are working on the Globe stage you are aware of people surrounding you from all directions. Due to this, it is very important to use the sides of the stage as well as the front. There is no particular symbolism or meaning behind acting at the sides. The pillars on the stage are not used to separate or divide scenes. However, as an actor you are very aware of the pillars because if you stand directly behind them or diagonal from them, you cannot be seen. At the Globe the actors can get very close to the audience (those in the Yard), as we often come up to the end of the stage. In Macbeth the witches ‘shimmy’ along the edge of the stage doing a salsa dance; we have to be very careful not to tread on people’s hands.

In discussions it did come up that the sides of the stage were not being used enough. However, people are now using them more fully. Jasper and Eve are experimenting with where they say their speeches on stage. Previously, they were predominantly acting out to the front of the theatre; however, now they are using the corners, or climbing on to the table (where the guests are sitting in a frozen pose). There are many examples in the play when characters are still on the stage, but they are not part of the particular scene. Another example of this is when Jasper [Britton, Macbeth] says the speech “this supernatural soliciting…” whilst moving round, right towards upstage. Jasper stands right next to Terry [McGuinty, Duncan/Doctor], almost touching him, but they are not part of the same scene. This is similar to when Macbeth freezes on stage and Malcolm and Macduff come on and talk about him while he is still on stage.

The Witches

I think that the witches have become ‘slicker’. Throughout the play you can pick up on the resonance of the witches and the eerie theme. Characters such as the porter, the captain, the murderer of Banquo, and the two murderers sent to kill Macduff and Lady Macduff can be said to have a loose connection with the witches. This idea is strengthened by the fact that the actors who play the witches also play other characters (I play a witch and the Porter). You can differentiate between who is supposed to be represented on stage by the fact that the witches wear glasses and the other characters we play do not.

There has been a debate on how explicit we should be, and how much we should leave ambiguous. There is always a fine line between over explaining and under explaining. It is important that the play does not become obscure and confusing. During the re-rehearsal week we will be looking at which parts of the play are clear and which are not. I think that some people may have felt constricted by the stylisation of the play. I have not felt like this. I feel that the stylisation has actually opened up lots of possibilities, as you do not have to be literal with the representation. It does mean that we can do some of the things that we have done.


A lot of people do not read the reviews of the play. I have read some. I saw some fairly critical reviews. I did not feel too upset because I feel confident about the show, but it is difficult for the director. However, these are the views of the critics, but there are also the views of the audience. The theatre is completely full for all performances. They are not leaving and there is a positive response. If you are doing a show that is interesting, experimental, daring, and positive then you have to be prepared to take the ‘flack’ for it. It must be consistent. I think that Tim has been consistent with his imagery and his symbolism and the way he has directed it. The cast has been very committed. It is a large cast of fourteen and within that you have people with different tastes and ideas, but we have all worked very well together.

Vocal work

Jeannette Nelson [Master of Voice] said that the play has improved vocally, which means that the cast is getting used to the way they use their voice in the space. I think that you are at an advantage if you are a man, as a deeper voice projects further. However, the women here have very powerful voices. It is difficult, as we have to talk over the music.

The ‘Porter’ speech is going well. I am finding the comic pauses. I feel less worried about where to set the chairs as I now know where they should go. I set them out quickly when the time comes to talk to Macduff, so that I do not distract from the language. I am really enjoying performing this scene with Macbeth on stage.


I think that the upcoming re-rehearsal will be very interesting. I look forward to seeing what Tim [Carroll, Master of Play] decides he wants to focus on and what the cast wishes to focus on. I think that we will have to decide if the witches are controlling the play too much and if they need to take a back seat. We need to keep hold of the notion that Macbeth does have free will. If he is a complete marionette of the witches, then it will take away from the drama. We have to find a balance. The witches do control things to a certain extent; however, they are mostly offering a potential or possibility. Macbeth takes this and that sets off the chain of events.

The classic notion of a tragedy is that you must have some control over your fate. That is pure tragedy. In this day and age people’s ideas on the supernatural and religion have changed. It is the ‘human’ drama and tragedy that people want to relate to. I am wondering how the witches are coming across to the audience.

We are now developing an idea of what works and what does not. The story has to be of primary importance to the production. Even if things work, if they do not push the story forward, then I do not think that we should use them.

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 may change frequently as the rehearsal process progresses.

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