Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal

In this interview, Eve discusses her relationship with Benedick, including a possible history between them. Eve also reveals her feelings at this point in rehearsals and how week 4 is often her meltdown period!

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Time: 20 minutes, 36 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Paul Shuter:

Here we are in week four – is it really week four?

Eve Best:

Yes, it really is week four, oh my God!

PS:

We last spoke a couple of weeks ago, when you were working through the play for the first time on your feet. I think you were at about Act Four, so what has happened since then?

EB:

Well, like you said, it's week four, which in my experience, is meltdown week. So the beginning of this week started bang on cue for me with meltdown, in which I burst into tears on Mary, the lovely voice coach, and said I just don't know what to do, I've got no idea anymore, who I am, or where I am, what I'm saying or why I am saying it, or where we are…

PS:

that does sound a bit meltdown-ish…

EB:

or what's going on. The thing is, when you are in it, you always forget that there is a point in rehearsal when that tends to happen, and it is ultimately, hopefully, a good thing. But when you are inside it... The first week and the first readthrough everything seems clear, and then the process of rehearsal is going into the woods, and night has fallen, and you have slightly lost your way, and you can't remember where you were going in the first place. And then, eventually, the sun comes up, and you work your way through the woods.

PS:

So you are heading for glad confident morning?

EB:

I'm hoping, yes. Technically, what we have done, we have worked through the play on its feet, just quite methodically, all the way through once. We're just coming back to each little section again, for the second time. So when you asked me if I had made any discoveries about Beatrice or any decisions, I feel a million miles away from her right now, but that's okay. It is all part of the process, I keep telling myself it is all right – touch wood.

PS:

It’s what always happens. Okay, what about back story then?

EB:

Well you just had a very interesting thing about Don John’s version of what happened and Claudio's version of what happened. I think that is so brilliant, because it is exactly like life. Because, actually, what are the facts? They are always very vague, and always entirely defined by who you are talking to. Everybody has got a different version of what the back story is. I did a Pinter play on Broadway – it is a very obscure piece of writing, in so far as everybody comes out of the play going, “Oh my God! Did she have children? Were they really married?” Because none of that information is provided. And everybody asked us, had you all sat down and decided what the true back story was? We hadn’t at all, everybody had a completely different version of events to everybody else, and we hadn’t shared any of it. The story was completely clear to all of us and I think that is so wonderfully truthful, and the case with real-life. So with this, for instance, Charlie and I have talked about what actually happened between Benedict and Beatrice in the past, because she says, talking about his heart: Indeed my lord, he lent it me awhile, and I gave him use for it, a double heart for his single one. What actually was it that happened between them, and how long ago was it? How big a deal was it? I think as far as she was concerned it was a very big deal, and she was very broken-hearted, and it was extremely significant. As far as he is concerned, it was very much brushed under the carpet and forgotten about – I don’t know…

PS:

I could tell you, but I shouldn't…

EB:

you probably shouldn't...

PS:

He [Charles Edwards, playing Benedick] has talked through that particular bit of the back story.

EB:

That is very interesting, and we have tried to consolidate it a little bit between us and actually established that it is very difficult to do, in the same way as in real life, because it is entirely subjective.

PS:

Particularly in the case of a love affair that goes wrong, or doesn’t quite start, each person is going to go away with a different version of events. That actually must be very strong, not completely sharing it.

EB:

It is impossible to absolutely pin down and also it is a mistake to attempt to do it in a way, because you then diminish the emotional possibilities around it. You start trying to twist the play towards a particular version of events you have invented, which is never a good idea.

PS:

But your Beatrice has had feelings for Benedick?

EB:

Oh, very strongly, I think very strong ones, and that particular moment in the play, we just looked at it the other day, and it is a wonderful moment, because it is almost the first time in the story of the play that she appears to open up in a rather frank way. It is the first time she doesn't bat something off, or make witty repartee. She is honest in a very emotionally frank way, and that is very interesting to explore with somebody who has had the boxing gloves on all the way through until then. Moments of vulnerability and emotional rawness are interesting to explore.

PS:

Perhaps this is the moment, since that is where we have got to, to delve into a couple of the scenes. The thing that I would like to ask you about is Act Two, Scene One, when you are talking to the Prince, and he says perhaps I should find you a husband, and you say, "I would rather have one of your father’s getting." What is going on?

EB:

We did it the other day, and it seems to me, or at least how we played the last time we did it, is that she is having fun. It is not remotely serious, it is banter, the atmosphere is of a party, a celebration, it is a joke, a tease, a flirty joke. At which he suddenly, completely plays her at her own game and, for real, proposes. And it is absolutely terrifying, it is as if the needle has been taken off the gramophone and suddenly she has got herself into this pickle, having made this absurd flirty remark, and then he takes her literally and proposes quite seriously. I think it gives her a real fright and I find myself then having to negotiate gently out of it, without causing offence...

PS:

because turning a Prince down is not easy…

EB:

it is a bit tricky! suddenly being hoisted by own petard, as it were, and it is just such a lovely moment – also another moment of “help, this has gone a little bit too far, I didn't mean it to get to this stage”. And then it leads to another moment of openness about her mother. They are oases, portals of light, suddenly, when her armour drops because it feels like her armour, is quite firm.

PS:

but it might be quite fragile?

EB:

I think it is quite fragile.

PS:

the fact that Hero is getting married, does that make it more fragile?

EB:

Hugely, yes.

PS:

Because in this production, Hero is a younger relative...

EB:

Yes, I feel about her as if she is my younger sister, quite a lot younger, and I feel very adoring of her, and protective of her. She has always been there. It is a very significant moment. I remember when my own sister got married, there is, of course, such happiness for that person who is so close to you, and at the same time, there is a loss. Particularly in this context, when her heart is absolutely raw and bubbling, and exploding, because of the information that Benedick is in love with her. So there is huge, huge vulnerability going on, and the prospect of suddenly being left on your own with Leonato and Antonio, sitting round the fire… What does she do? What is there for her to do? That is another thing that has been occupying me a lot, how does she actually spend her time? I was talking about it with Giles, talking about reading. Should she read a lot? I tried it with a book at one point, and it just didn't feel right. Reading is actually a very solitary activity, and is something that requires quietness, and for you to be apart. Masha [in Three Sisters] has a stage direction that she is reading, i.e. the information is, don't speak to me, I am occupied. There is something that is defensive and close about reading in public. It says, “I am shut off”. The thing about Beatrice is that her mind is so active, and so resilient and alive, and looking for food all the time, so engaged, and actually what she wants to do is talk. That is the only thing that these people really do – there was no TV, no computers, no Xbox, none of the delightful distractions, or ghastly distractions, that we have created for ourselves.

PS:

And no work.

EB:

No work, no actual role for her within the household, because she is in this old midway point of being neither a servant, nor really part of the family – she is an outsider. She can't really do the servants’ work. She is not cosseted, or manicured, or hemmed-in, in the way Hero is, and there is nobody fixing her future because she is an orphan. She is not going to inherit the cash. And there is this question of how does one fill one’s time. I think she goes for a lot of walks. I think she walks it off a lot.

PS:

Solitary walks?

EB:

Yes, like a dog, needing the exercise…

PS:

She has to burn the energy up?

EB:

Yes, that's it, energy of thought. We saw All’s Well That Ends Well last night, and one of the things that is very striking, and one of the things which I think the Globe picks up on – the space and the audience pickup on so strongly – is the energy of these people’s thinking. They are so, so, quick. Some alchemical magic happens when people go into the theatre, the audience become so sharp in their perception and the quality of their listening, and clarity of argument and thought is so strong and in the 21st-century we are much lazier about this. The whole relish of using language and words is quite foreign to us, we are much more a visual age. We don't engage in debate as a form of exercise, a game, for fun, as recreation. We just don't talk to each other in the same way. We don't use language in the same way.

PS:

Mind you, if you got Shakespeare writing the words for you, it helps.

EB:

It really helps, thank God.

PS:

The thing I keep thinking is (I will cut this bit out, because it's really not relevant), does Beatrice turn into Elizabeth Bennett in another hundred and fifty years?

EB:

I think that's so interesting – yes – I think that is absolutely right. That character of course pops into one's head, as does Darcy. There are elements of that relationship that seem familiar when exploring Benedick and Beatrice. Benedick is a very different character to Darcy, but the element of conflict between the two, turning into passion and love, or at least that being too sides of the same coin…

PS:

it's not indifference is it?

EB:

No, it is not indifference, it is passion, and the attraction being so clear between them, and the element of sparring – two people sparring, being equally matched; the Elizabeth Bennett correlation is very right. Being one of five girls… The fate of being a woman with a brain, unlikely to get married in a world that doesn't allow you to work.

PS:

We should get back on track. Costume?

EB:

I've had one costume fitting. I can't remember if we have talked about this before? I turned up in rehearsal thinking that, if this was a modern day production, she would be in trousers. At least, I felt I wanted to wear trousers, purely for practical purposes. There is nothing vain, or desirous of drawing attention to herself, about the character and so to wear trousers is simply a practical measure. And yet if you are in Elizabethan times, to do that would be so extreme and perverse that it would be too requiring of comment. So, obviously, scrap that idea. I think it was also "wearing the inside out". Actually, what is interesting about her as a character, as opposed to Viola or Rosalind, what is important for the audience is to see the person doing fifty percent of the talking on the stage, wearing a skirt. Because that is unusual. Viola and Rosalind have to dress up as men in order to give themselves the permission to talk. Certainly, that is what happens to Rosalind, and I think to Viola too, to an extent. The extraordinary liberation happens inside these women as a result of looking like men, and what is wonderful and exceptional about Beatrice as a character is that she gives herself that permission to speak, as a woman, delighting in the fact that she is a woman, and celebrating it. So in that respect trousers would have been completely inappropriate. So I'm wearing a skirt, and it is practical, I asked for it to be unfussy, so it is as simple as possible. It's non-feminine, not masculine, but it's not girly. It is really practical and simple, and that is good for me. Flat shoes so I can run around. It does not draw attention to itself.

PS:

And something more grand for the wedding?

EB:

And then something different for the wedding, because that is an important story, and we have not looked at that yet.

PS:

That is a ‘best frock’ moment?

EB:

Yes it is best frock moment, and I think there is something necessary to make clear about suddenly in terms of what is going on inside. She has emotional vulnerability suddenly feeling that suddenly "oh gosh he might propose" and suddenly caring, suddenly minding for the first time in years, possibly my life, what I look like. Suddenly being aware of being attractive, or of caring to attract. Engaging in all of that.

PS:

Are you playing that morning of the wedding with a streaming cold? Or is that just a tactical thing to get the girls off your back.

EB:

It is difficult about this cold. I think it is not a very real, huge, streaming cold. First of all it is tricky because it has to disappear by the time the wedding. Simply one can't play the whole Claudio scene with a streaming cold, it would just be too distracting for the audience. It just would not feel appropriate. But if one set it up as a real reality, one would have to carry it through. So it feels to me that certainly there is something – a "not-at-one’s-best-ness”. I think she hasn't slept a wink, and as a result have the equivalent of feeling like an appalling hangover, plus really run down, probably quite bunged up, in the way that you are when you haven't slept, and you have probably been crying most of the night. So there is that, and also a large element of just leave me alone, I am not in the mood. And absolute terror, so confused and exhausted raw, bleeding inside, and a large element of psychosomatic as well…

PS:

Which then would go when there is a crisis…

EB:

Yes when there is a crisis, exactly. I'm the poorest person in the whole world, for that moment, and then it goes. 

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