In his second blog post, Frank discusses how rehearsals have progressed, learning lines and the different contexts of the play.
Transcript of Podcast
So far in rehearsals
On the first day, we sat down and read the play. With Shakespeare, even though we’re familiar with the language, you do need to say ‘yes that is what's being said here, here, here and here’. So we did that from the off. We all had an individual meeting with Dominic, the director, before we came into rehearsals proper and went through our part and identified each shift and movement in it and the meaning of what's being said from sentence to sentence, speech to speech.
We’ve had a linguist, Giles Block, who works with us to describe some of the finer points of the language and the words and he's been very informative. Then we’ve talked about voice and movement because of the demands of this stage. This particular theatre is very different to anything I’ve ever worked in (which I think is true of most actors in this company) because it's open air, it's in the round and that means it's a different request. There's no set or lighting as such that you would have in a conventional proscenium arch theatre. So we did some movement around that idea and then started Act 1 Scene 1. At the moment we are just going through it bit by bit, step by step each day.
Learning my lines
In rehearsals, each actor has a different approach. Some people carry their scripts, some don’t. I don’t like to let the script go even if I know the lines but certainly by the end of next week I will let it go. Even if you do know your lines, it's helpful to have the script because you need to explore how you will move and holding the script is saying ‘I’m not committing to this yet so don’t assume that what I’m doing is what I think is right’. It's kind of a little insurance policy that you can wave to the director and say ‘I’m not committed to that yet’! Well that's the way I work anyway. Some people actually are off book and some are not. For myself, there are particular scenes where I think I like the flow of this, I understand it, I feel comfortable with it so I’ll let the book go, and sometimes you find you’re in the middle of a scene and you just put it down and you stop using it.
I’ve found that that's how I realise I’ve learnt the lines. I don’t sit down like you do at school and go ‘de-dum-de-dum-de-dum-de-dum’ and put it against your chest and try and memorize it. I think most actors look and study the script, but it kind of goes into the head the more you speak of it, the more you talk and move it and think about the character. The words actually just start to fall in to place.
The lines are then in your head all of the time! Most actors would admit to having been caught in the street looking like they’re insane. You may have seen somebody walking down the street who seems to be talking to somebody (and they’re not talking in to one of those remote mobile phones) and you just see somebody looking quite vicious or angry or sad and mumbling to themselves - they might not be mad, it could just be an actor in rehearsal. Avoid them though!
Looking at the context of the play
We’ve had two talks with a professor of English who works here [Farah Karim-Cooper] and she gave us a context of Rome in the time the play is set but also Elizabethan England at the time it was written, or rather Jacobean because I think Elizabeth had croaked it by then! We were told about England in the time of Shakespeare and the time he was writing the play because obviously that will be present in the play as well, the politics of the time. It was quite a heated and scary time and there was a lot of paranoia going around with plotting and counter plotting and all of that because of the Catholic/Protestant thing that was going on in Britain at the time, so we looked in to that.
Coriolanus is a highly political play and it is about the halls of power and what goes on and the voters and the politicians and the spin doctors and all of that, so in that sense you can see all of that as a parallel of today is you want to but we’re not going to be pushing it. If you did a modern dress production of this with mobile phones and CNN type news things - and you could do that with this play, you could put cameras on it and set it outside Westminster or Capitol Hill and it would read exactly the same as George Bush coming out to make a speech, or George Galloway talking to his constituency or whatever.
You can see all those issues going on within the play. My character in particular has the ability to spin; he's manipulating and spinning in the same way that you see these politicians come out to speak publicly and they’re very, very nice but really what they’re saying is ‘vote for me and get rid of this guy’. The stakes are a lot higher here in this play but I think you can see all of that. But I don’t know that we’re specifically doing that with this production, we’re not being specific about it, we’re inviting the audience to think for themselves. Hopefully an audience, a discerning audience, will see the parallels, recognise the politicians, recognise the soldiers, recognise the people, the plebs and how easily manipulated people are.
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 frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.