Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 5

In his fifth blog post Paul discusses the highlights of the first performance of Macbeth, and considers what changes still need to be made.

Transcript of Podcast

First performance

We had our first performance and I was extremely nervous. We really didn’t know what the audience’s reaction was going to be to a show like this one. As the Porter, I really needed to experience an audience’s reaction in order to develop my character. Right now we’re developing the acting as we go along, cementing things with each performance. It was a real joy to do this for a new audience. We had been performing for each other for so long that we didn’t know if anyone else would understand the ironies within the scenes. The fantastic thing was that they picked up on the irony and laughed, but also listened.

It was really simple for me to use Shakespeare’s words in this style of performance. I didn’t have to explain the language for it explained itself with the actions that I performed. For instance, when I am talking to Macbeth about Hell, saying that his castle is ‘too cold for Hell,’ I’m setting up empty chairs. I give these chairs life by pretending that certain people are sitting in them, all the while explaining to Macbeth that these will be his companions in Hell or perhaps mere facets of his personality. By presenting it in this style, we give life to the scene.

The response of the audience was amazing at the end of the first show. We went all the way back to the dressing room and then were told that we needed to return to the stage for another bow. It will probably never be like that again, but it was fantastic.


As to changes, we are constantly trying to tighten scenes in order to define certain moments. We also have to remember to play the scenes more to the sides of the stage because upstage centre is not always the best place. Although the stage is quite large, it’s actually a really intimate space. We have to remember to embrace that intimacy by delivering the lines to our audience. We need to work on our group movements and musical cues as well, so that they can be more precise.


Certain highlights that focus upon the gallows humour of the production have arisen out of the performances. One moment that particularly works is a scene that involves Jasper [Britton, Macbeth] and I. After the murder of Duncan, Jasper adopts this demonic voice in order to say his lines about sleep… ‘sleep no more’. It is quite a comical moment, but it also shows his altered mental state. I use this same voice later as the Porter to say something to Macbeth, providing the audience with a creepy reference to the previous scene.

My main focuses for this production will be cementing the technical aspects and developing the character of the Porter. As the Porter, I have to set a lot of chairs. If they’re in the wrong places it could ruin the scene, so I’m trying to memorise exactly where each one is supposed to be placed. Once I get my head around that, then I can relax. Once I relax, I can develop the Porter’s character more and more with each performance.

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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