This is Chu's second blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard II in which he discusses continuing rehearsals, Aumerles relationship with his father and costume in the production.
Transcript of Podcast
Today, I’ve been working on some of my key scenes in the play: act 5 scenes 2 and 3. After Richard is deposed, Aumerle becomes involved in a plot to kill the newly-crowned Bolingbroke, (now King Henry IV), at Oxford. In v.2, Aumerle's father, the Duke of York, catches him in possession of a letter that contains details of the plot to kill the king plus the conspirators’ names, including Aumerle’s. York immediately leaves to tell the king, even though he knows that the king may kill Aumerle when he finds out about the plot. The Duchess of York, Aumerle's mother, urges him to get to the king first and beg forgiveness, and in v.3, the whole York family confront each other in front of the king.
Aumerle and his father
Throughout rehearsals, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between Aumerle and his father. Bill Stewart [Duke of York] and I think that, at the beginning of the play, they are quite close. Although none of the early scenes of the play show Aumerle and York speaking together, Bill and I have decided that they are fairly close at the beginning of the play, and we’re starting to think about how we can convey this to an audience during those scenes where we’re both on stage even though we don’t speak to each other. However, their relationship changes when Richard leaves for Ireland and Bolingbroke returns from exile; Aumerle is a staunch supporter of Richard and can’t be particularly happy with his father for wavering in his loyalty to the king and supporting Bolingbroke. At the beginning of v.2, Aumerle doesn’t say very much to the Duke; his answers are short, almost rude:
York: […] Do these joust and triumphs hold?
Aumerle: For aught I know, my lord, they do.
York: You will be there, I know.
Aumerle: If God prevent not, I purpose so.
However, if I overplay this rudeness, there's a danger that Aumerle will come across as nothing more than a surly teenager. I was chatting about this with Tim [Carroll], who reminded me that the most important thing in this scene is the story of the play. You can spend a great deal of time looking at the relationship between Aumerle and his parents, but the most important thing for me to remember when I enter the scene is that I’m reading a secret letter that I quickly have to try and hide. Any implied family relationships always have to take second place to the story of the play. Later in Act V, when the Duchess arrives and begs the King for Aumerle's life, against the wishes of her husband, these family relationships are now central to this story. It would be unheard of for a lady, even a Duchess, to go against the wishes of her husband in the presence of the King (she pleads for Aumerle's life), and even more unheard of to then refuse a Royal command, (to stand up), three times. Her son is threatened; such is the extremity of the situation that any sense of etiquette goes out the window. I think one of the questions underpinning the play as a whole is to what extent should loyalty to the crown, or any authority to which you have sworn allegiance, affect your reaction to a particular situation. We’re only just starting to find answers to this question, but at that particular moment, loyalty to the crown and loyalty to the head of the family are swept away by hers, and Aumerle’s, desperation.
We’re starting to go for regular costume fittings now. I have to admit, my costume is amazing. I’ve been told that because of the fabrics that’ve been used to make it, together with all the gold thread, it's worth about £20,000. 400 years ago, it would have been worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, as would some of the clothes worn by the actors in the original Globe. It's interesting; clothes worn by those actors playing lords, nobles, kings and other high ranking characters 400 years ago would often have been donated to the company by members of the gentry. They were worth a fortune, even though the gentry would probably have the gold and jewels removed from the clothes before they gave them away. It's quite incredible to have a costume made especially for me. Luca [Costigliolo, Master of Clothing] and his team took very detailed measurements before making the costume, so if I lose or gain weight over the summer, I’m really going to suffer… The whole costume is going to look fantastic, even though it's mainly salmon-pink. Salmon-pink is not my colour. Still, it's a very rich colour, very ostentatious, very fitting for the character, I think. It's important for us to get into costume as soon as possible, because it really helps us to get to grips with Elizabethan etiquette and manners. Although we’ve done a lot of research and practice on how to bow correctly, how to present ourselves etc. The clothing really does help you to get your ‘Elizabethan head’ on, and since every character is a product of their environment, this will be vital in the later stages of rehearsals.
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.