In this first bulletin, Paul talks about his early experiences of Shakespeare, becoming an actor and preparing for this part.
Transcript of Podcast
Early experiences of Shakespeare
My first experience of Shakespeare was studying Macbeth in school. I was one of those kids, unfortunately, who thought it was boring. It didn’t come alive on the page at all. I had all of those preconceptions. Then they took us to see The Duchess of Malfi, which obviously isn’t Shakespeare, but by another writer from that time. It was amazing to see the difference from just being read by a teacher to being performed by professional actors. It was so alive and it could be useful today. Since leaving drama school I’ve not done any Shakespeare at all. The reason for that is that I was with an agent who wanted to push me in a certain direction – TV and film, specific types of roles (Northern, Mancunian) – so I didn’t get a look-in for any Shakespeare, which was quite disappointing. So this is my first time in the saddle. Troilus is a big part, he’s on stage a lot and has a lot of lines, so it is quite a massive undertaking since I’ve not really been born and bred into it. It is a challenge.
Becoming an actor
I didn’t get into acting until quite late on – I never acted as a child. I took it up after school. I was a sportsman, I used to play a lot of ice hockey, but I was injured, so I couldn’t do that, and somebody was looking for someone to play a part in a play – it turned out to be Banquo in Macbeth, I said I’d give it a go. It sounds very cliché, but I fell in love with it. So my first experience of acting was Shakespeare. I did some amateur things in the summer between school and college, and did some dance things, and then I chose to do Theatre Studies for an A Level. Then I thought I’d try my luck further and try to get to drama school, and I did, so here I am. I went to Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. I lived in Liverpool for three years. It’s a wonderful city, wonderful place to be a student.
I did an abundance of work on the part during the audition process. It’s one of those things, unlike television or film auditions, theatre auditions always require a lot more than just a surface level of leaning the lines – especially for Shakespeare. The last thing you want to do is to walk into an audition not knowing your stuff. You are not going to know everything, obviously, but you want to show you have really put in some work and some time. So I was quite clued up on my part. I had about a week’s notice before the audition, which was good. I was asked look at and bring in any speech from the part. Troilus has a lot of lines in the play, so there was a lot to look at, some good things to choose from. It was a good amount of time to prepare. I knew I had the part for about a month before we started. I went through the normal addition process; I had three recalls, and then I was cast. Then I came back to audition with various Cressidas because that part hadn’t been cast yet. That was bizarre. It is something as an actor you are never privy to – being on that side of the fence, and it is somewhere you’ve always wanted know more about and to be. It was so fascinating to see how people audition, to see the good and bad things that they do (and that I probably do as well!). So I’m learning some really good tips for myself for later.
Preparation before rehearsals
I had about a month between the auditions and starting rehearsals. I went on holiday. In a way that was part of the preparation. Because I’d done a lot of the auditions I wanted to divorce myself from it, and get away. We didn’t have the cut version of the script we are using then, so I took my copy of the Arden edition of the play with me. I just read it and went over it. Read it all, all the notes, and read everybody else’s part. I tried to read it as a story rather than something I was attached to. That was useful, although it wasn’t the most relaxing holiday reading.
First impressions of the character
As we start the rehearsal process I haven’t made many decisions about Troilus. The things that I do believe in today are his youth and his arrogance – perhaps a brutish confidence rather than arrogance. I am fairly sure he is a sympathetic character, with loads of everyman qualities, but he is very young and very emotional and driven by his emotions. He is 23 – Shakespeare does tell us his age – but I would say he is a lot younger than that in maturity.
These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as s / he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his / her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.