Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 3

As rehearsals progressed Yolanda spent more time working on individual scenes.

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As rehearsals progressed Yolanda spent more time working on individual scenes. She approaches the text by working through each scene line by line ensuring she understands what it means and how Adriana relates to the other characters in that scene. She then decides Adriana’s ‘wants’ for the scene – her reasons for being there and what she hopes to achieve. Much of this is achieved through group discussion. The end result is a joint decision between the actors and director. Yolanda has to bear in mind that the way she says a line has a direct effect on other characters. The actors try to be flexible and not to fix the way a moment is played, so that each performance will be spontaneous. However, this is only possible if the actors are clear about their character’s motivation and relationship to the other characters in the scene.

Yolanda likes to explore the emotion behind the lines and then work on the metre. She has worked with the Master of Verse, Tim Carroll, on speaking the lines. Tim has even done sessions that have involved, breaking down the verse into sections on a blackboard! Yolanda has found this very helpful as it has enabled her to examine the verse afresh. Everything to inform the performance comes from the verse, it is not necessary for Yolanda to look outside of the text itself for information as it is all contained in the play. It is important for all of the actors to look at the stressed and unstressed syllables of the iambic pentameter and decide which words they should emphasise. The company has experimented with different ways of saying the verse. In one exercise they worked to speak the verse in different styles or tempos e.g. as rock song or as a rap.

One of Yolanda’s biggest challenges has been to combine all her discoveries from rehearsal into her performance. Sometimes discoveries from earlier in the rehearsal process have been abandoned as Yolanda’s understanding of the play and her character develops. However this does not mean that this work has been a waste of time as everything Yolanda has done in the rehearsal room will make a contribution to her final performance.

Towards the end of the rehearsal process the company begin to run the play which Yolanda finds useful as it can help her place Adriana within the context of the play as a whole. Yolanda had been playing Adriana’s first scene almost as a ‘rant’, but running the play has helped her to find her character’s quieter moments and the times when Adriana feels sorry for herself and turns inward, rather than projecting outward anger. Yolanda feels that Adriana is very much in love with Antipholus of Ephesus and wants her marriage to be perfect, she fluctuates quickly between anger and an extreme longing for Antipholus to love her.

None of Adriana’s lines have been cut which is unusual for productions of Shakespeare’s plays. In fact some have been re-instated. At the end of Act 2 Scene 1 Adriana’s speech that begins, "Unfeeling fools can with such wrongs dispense" is often subject to cuts, usually from "I see the jewel best enamelled.." onwards. Generally it is felt that it is very difficult to make sense of these lines in performance. However Yolanda felt that she had discovered an interpretation that would be clearly understandable within the context of the production, and so the lines were reinstated.

It takes less than two months from the time the actors first meet together with the director to read through the script, until the opening performance. Yolanda and her fellow cast members rehearsed in a rehearsal room for six weeks. After six weeks the cast moved to the Globe for a week of technical rehearsals. During tech rehearsals the actors rehearse (in costume) their entrances, exits and the use of any special effects (like scenery changes or use of trap doors). Following the tech rehearsals are the dress rehearsals, during which the actors run the play exactly as they would during a performance.

Before the play opens officially there are several preview performances. No reporters from the press are allowed to attend the preview performances. During the previews the director still takes notes and makes sure the play works with the audience. The director will also return periodically throughout the performance period to monitor the production, giving notes to the actors when necessary.

Even in the days leading up to the technical rehearsals Yolanda discovered new elements for her portrayal of Adriana. This is challenging but also very stimulating. After weeks of rehearsal the company look forward to putting the play on the stage in front of an audience. The first performance of The Comedy of Errors was extraordinary for the actors, they had no idea whether the audience would laugh at the comedy, or listen to the story of the play. As soon as Yolanda saw the audience she felt all her nerves disappear. She found the audience to be incredibly supportive and compares the experience to being a ‘rock star’ on stage. This is in direct contrast to a dark auditorium in which the actors cannot see, or communicate with, the audience.

Yolanda can now feel confident to develop moments or elements of her performance, knowing that they work for an audience. In the Globe Yolanda’s performance has to be bigger than it would be in the rehearsal room, otherwise she would feel dwarfed by the whole building. Adriana’s impatience works well on stage as it allows Yolanda to pace over a wide space while watching the doors on opposite sides of the stage, to ensure Antipholus does not return home unnoticed. Yolanda has also found that all of the lines that refer to the role of women receive a strong response from the audience – who generally take Adriana’s side of the argument! Some decisions that Yolanda took in rehearsal have only really begun to work in performance on the Globe stage. For example at one point Adriana wraps herself around Antipholus’ leg, clinging to him like a vine. Yolanda knew she wanted Enzo (who plays Antipholus) to walk around the stage, dragging her behind him, but this didn’t really work in rehearsal. On the Globe stage, however, the size of the stage and the reaction of the audience, means that the moment works in the way that Yolanda had visualised and becomes part of the scene.

 

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.

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