“It is very interesting the relationship between the Cardinal and Julia, its clearly odd. It’s very unspecific as to what’s going on. So playing with that in lots of different ways is interesting.”
In his second interview, James discusses the relationships within the play, the structure of the text, and the ‘movement piece’ to end the play.
Time: 7 minutes 36 seconds
Download (7.0MB, mp3 format)
To download, right click on the link and select 'Save link as'.
Transcript of Podcast
Phil Brooks: Welcome to the Adopt an Actor podcast series. This is the second interview with James Garnon, who is playing the Cardinal in the upcoming production of the Duchess of Malfi.
So what have you been doing in rehearsals so far?
James Garnon: Rehearsing! We’ve spent a week or so doing table work, sort of sitting round discussing what the play is about, going through every line, and putting every line into not only our own words, but also trying to understand all the possible meanings of everything. And that sort of stuff. And then we mounted it, sort of got up on our feet and did it very roughly into a sort of broad shape on each scene. And then we’ve started mucking round with each scene, sort of within the context of the rough shape that we have, playing it in lots of different ways. By which I mean not just necessarily playing it straight but deliberately doing the opposite of what’s happening. Or inverting the power relationships, and various other things that Dominic [Dromgoogle, Artistic Director and director of the Duchess of Malfi] is encouraging us to do. Partly trying to make the whole thing become secondy-naturey in terms of the lines and also our general ease with each other. But I think also trying to get different washes, sort of almost if one was going to paint an entire room white first then putting a blue coat on then putting some red and hoping that at different points different colours will still come through the white, if you see what I mean. So it’s sort of thickening it, in a way – in a bad analogy type way.
PB: And what sorts of relationships have you found working through that that are quite important to your character?
JG: It’s very interesting that the relationship between the Cardinal and Julia is clearly odd. We have two scenes of it, and one is at the end of their relationship, and one’s, well we don’t really know. You know, the relationship is implied to have gone on for years, but where they are and how their relationship works. So there’s lots, you could do that however you wanted, and it’s very unspecific as to as to what’s going on. Playing with that in lots of different ways is interesting. Where the power – I mean obviously overtly the power entirely lies with the Cardinal, or indeed with the man at this period full stop. But then, and even more so in this relationship, is particularly perverse. You know, she’s caught. But how much power does she have even when in that trap. So you know, we don’t know, we haven’t made any decisions about anything. That’s the nice thing is that I haven’t made any decisions about anything. But then there is still two weeks, and there’s a whole run, and I don’t tend to make any decisions anyway! Or it’s for the audience to make decisions!
PB: Have you started doing any specific work looking at text or movement yet or is it still quite open as well?
JG: We’ve done text work with Giles Block, he’s done a little bit of stuff, I’ve done quite a lot of Shakespeare and stuff in the past anyway, a lot of verse work anyway. So I do a lot of that stuff generally, I don’t… you know I always do I’m quite, not slavish about verse but quite strict. I like to observe the verse structure of anything I’m doing. I prefer to defer to the iambic. There’s an expression, I prefer to defer to the verse structure and understand the verse structure and try to remain as true to it as I can and allow that to inform what I do rather than vice versa. So I am quite slavish. But that’s the way I learn lines. I learn lines as lines of verse, not lines of thought. So then that work gets done straight up. I hope!
PB: What scenes or moments are particularly important to your interpretation of the Cardinal?
JG: Umm… all of them? I’m not, I’m at the point at the moment where I’m, there’s an inevitable point where as much as you don’t want to, you kind of guild the lily. And you go ‘Oo look he’s a baddie’, and you play him sort of like a ‘baddie’ a bit. And to distance yourself from him. Or even if you think you’re not you suddenly realise that you are being quite ‘arch’ and I got quite irritated with myself last week because I thought ‘oh I’m just being so bloody camp, I must stop doing that’. Now I’m thinking about trying to make him as nice as I possibly can for a little bit. So its finding the, there are no important bits yet, I’m still finding bits through…
PB: Trying to trace his journey through…
JG: Yeah. I’ve always liked in rehearsal doing a thing like, it’s quite interesting to sort of almost pretend you’ve got a goldfish mind. Or that you’re continually waking up from comas and discovering what you’re saying rather than trying to play them at points. Because that also, you know if you allow yourself to be surprised by what you say and surprised with what the other people are saying you find stuff. 4mins 40
PB: Is there anything you have noticed about what he [the cardinal] does say and the language he uses?
JG: Well continually that he’s fantastically oblique in everything that he says and very difficult to say exactly what he is saying at any given point. He could be saying the exact opposite of what he’s saying at any specific moment and that’s great. The weirder parts are the fact towards the end he becomes very – he talks to the audience - a lot - after the Duchess is dead. And he doesn’t – before that he’s a sort of powerful figure that drifts in and out continually. And then suddenly after she dies he’s talking to the audience and that relationships interesting. And why he explains everything to them, I haven’t made any decisions about that. He’s quite upfront with the audience, quite honest with the audience it would certainly appear. Why?
PB: Have you started looking at music and is there going to be a jig?
JG: There is going to be a movement piece, a variation of the jig which Sian Williams who always does our jigs is doing. So it won’t be a jig – jig would be too strong a word in terms of the physical movement. But there is a dance, lets say at the end. And we, there’s lots of music in it, lots of singing in it. We’ve been singing our little socks off and have learnt a number of tunes!
PB: And how important is that music to your production, have you got a lot of…
JG: I don’t know how much Clara [Clare Van Kampen, composer] is filtering through the rest of the show and how much incidental music breaking between scenes, that’s not a thing that we are party to. Or I’m not aware of at the moment. I would imagine, given that Clare is involved that there will be a good deal, and that the musicians are going to come and surprise us all with beautiful things. That would be my guess. But I don’t know how, you know… In any production you do at the Globe or like this theatre where you have minimal lighting – well I mean here has much more lighting opportunities obviously with the candles and the things. And there’s still you know, it’s going to be very intriguing how that will inform what we are doing. You know, I would imagine music may play a slightly less important part than the plays at the Globe where there’s no lighting changes or mood changes. I imagine it’s still going to be quite central to how the evening shapes.
PB: and finally what would you say the highs and lows of the first few weeks of rehearsals has been?
JG: Oo I don’t know, the highs and lows of the week. I know my lines, that’s good!
PB: That’s a high.
JG: That’s a high. And it didn’t cost me any effort to do it. That’s a high. There’s been no lows. So there you go, that’s a high. There’s been no lows, it’s sort of, it’s all jolly. It seems to be trickling along fairly easily. Maybe that’s the low. It’s very dangerous!
PB: Too easy so far!
JG: Too easy! It’s going to be a disaster any minute!
PB: Thank you very much.