“It’s an incredibly rich, dense tapestry of images and ideas and mythical references.”
It’s tech week, and Michelle talks about taking the opportunity to speak to the whole audience, overcoming tricky moments in the play, and the joy of seeing what she is a part of.
Time: 6 minutes 38 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
So if you could talk us through what happens in tech week?
So this is the time that we will get to be on stage for the first time, get to see the configuration of the space – I mean at the Globe it’s fairly standard, that the Globe is the Globe. We’ve got a slight addition to the front of the stage, so you get to play on that. Figure out sight lines- obviously in the Globe the audience are pretty much all around you, so figuring out where the best place to be is for the audience to get you at certain moments – moments where you need to keep in motion so you access all of the audience rather than just a particular section. It’s quite easy to get very groundling centric – so any opportunity you can find to look at the sky, and look at the balconies and look at the gallery and all of that. So it’s a chance to practice that without the pressure of performance. You get to wear your costumes for the first time; and figure out any alterations as obviously most of rehearsals is spent in your tracksuit bottoms and trainers and suddenly you’re strapped into a corset for the first time and what that does to your idea of the character. And what that does literally to your breath and how you need to use your voice in that space. It is what it says on the tin, it’s a very technical week, so things that have been incredibly creative for the last five weeks in rehearsals tend to just, not fall by the wayside, but parked in a separate bay for a few days in the hope that they will all come back for first night.
How does wearing the costume help with your character?
I guess it gives an aesthetic to the character that I certainly…with the difference with Hippolyta and Titania, one is incredibly free and not wearing very much, and then the other character’s incredibly bound, and literally very strapped into this Elizabethan dress. And, this is Hippolyta now, having gone from being an Amazon, so wearing very free, flowing clothes, movement is easy and accessible to suddenly become being strapped in to this Elizabethan costume is imprisoning. And then you have to find a way to find power within that, as opposed to being disempowered by it. Yeah, it’s interesting.
What have been the challenges of putting this production together?
I think it’s an incredibly rich, maybe it’s an obvious thing to say because it’s Shakespeare, but it’s an incredibly rich, dense tapestry of images, and ideas, and mythical references. Some of which – certainly an Elizabethan audience would have been incredibly well read about the myth of Hippolyta and Theseus, and Phaedra and Hippolytus. And Philomel gets mentioned quite a lot, the Elizabethan audience would have known those reference s. So how you try and communicate those, based on an assumption that most of our audience will not know those references. And making sure that this is a text that you continue to send out to the audience; often this space is an incredibly exposing space, as joyous as it is, there’s nowhere to hide, literally. And there’s no real characters to hide behind ‘cause it’s you speaking his words as you really. So being brave to keep giving it out, ‘cause often when you get frightened which inevitably you do when you first go in front of 1200 people, the tendency is to just cling to your fellow cast members. And I think the more you do it, you get more confident about sending this incredible play out. But it’s epic, and the space is epic and being brave enough to face that has been the biggest challenge.
Are there any scenes that you are still finding difficult to unlock?
Not necessarily unlock, there were- certainly leading up to the first few previews – that Act 5, the play within a play, they’re always quite tricky moments. Usually for the on stage characters that watch they play, they have these very obtuse oblique lines that get thrown back to the play within the play. And figuring out who they were and why they said it, and again historically you can contextualise those. We know that Queen Elizabeth loved to get involved, we know that she loved to dance, so it’s no accident that Hippolyta has comments about the play and Theseus has comments about the play, and as the play continues to go on they begin to direct the play and Hippolyta ends up dancing with Bottom. But that’s the historical context. How you make that read for an audience now has to be a very physical thing. So that took a while to figure out how to make that read and I think we’re exploring that. I think, in terms of unlocking the scenes, the doors are definitely open now, but I think we need to go in the room and play a bit more with all of them I think.
How have you found seeing the play in its entirety?
It’s brilliantly episodic. And I think that’s one of the joys of it, certainly for an audience you’re never given time to settle because each of these worlds are so individual, and it’s been rehearsed episodically as well. Some rehearsal rooms you can be in all of the time and you know very much- even scenes you’re not in you know what that world is. Brilliantly and quite true to how it would have been we didn’t know what we were part of until right at the last minute. So there’s a joy of seeing what you are part of but then there is also this weaving that has to happen between the scenes as it can’t exist episodically, it has to exist as a whole. So finding ways to weave scenes together has been I guess the challenge of tech week and into previews.
I guess during tech week that’s the first time you work with the musicians, and they all come together?
We’ve had hints at it, with this show because music is so much part of the production it wouldn’t have served the piece well to have been surprised by the music. I guess the biggest thing that we didn’t have in rehearsals were the sound effects, so things like when Bottom comes on with his head there’s a sound effect there. And making sure that you are in communication with the musicians, that it’s a dialogue between the two of you, because there’s no point in having the sound effect, and you talking over it otherwise it gets lost. So how you work together actually, that’s the biggest thing yeah.