Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal

In this interview, Charles gives Benedick's and Beatrice's relationship a modern perspective. He also talks about how quickly the reheasal weeks are passing, admiting that he's happy to be working on Saturdays for the extra time.

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Time: 12 minutes, 42 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Paul Shuter:

We’re now at just about the end of the third week of rehearsals. What’s been happening since we last spoke?

Charles Edwards:

Well, I think the last time we spoke we were in the first week, so we were…

PS:

…Just about to do the last couple of scenes of the read through.

CE:

That’s right. So that first week we’ve spent working through very thoroughly, basically finding out what every word means, what we’re saying to each other and Giles [Block, Master of Text] was very much in attendance, helping out with meanings and phrasings and stuff like that. We’ve done a little bit of cutting which tends to come up during rehearsal when something’s just too obscure, you can’t make it work however you play it. So here and there there’s a few little bits and pieces that have gone, lines that had no – well, there’s a few little chunks. And then the first day of the second week was up on our feet and just working through and at the moment, if we carry on going as we are, we’ll get to the end of the play by the end of this week. So then the final two weeks I imagine will be recapping and doing things in more detail. Yeah up on our feet - actually everyone has been very good about learning lines. So there are not that many scripts around anymore which is pretty good, I think, pretty speedy work.

PS:

For three weeks in.

CE:

Yeah, not bad. So yeah, we’re motoring along.

PS:

And, roughly, where are you? Are you still in act four or are you are you on to act five?

CE:

We have just done the wedding, yesterday we did the wedding. Just this morning Emily Best [Eve Best, Beatrice] and I have been doing the scene between Benedick and Beatrice that happens after that and now I think they’ve moved on to another scene with Dogberry and the Watch.

PS:

Yeah, so you really are pretty much through it. Have you worked on a back story for your character at all?

CE:

Yes we have. I mean particularly the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice and we’ve had all kinds of versions, but it seems to us that it’s been a long term thing. They’ve known each other perhaps even for ten years, maybe more, and something clearly happened in the past. It’s either one of two things: that it was a brief intense flirtation, that then Benedick ruined by fear of commitment and we had this image of him going off to war and Beatrice chucking his record collection out of the window after him; and the other version, which Emily came up with this morning which is rather nice, and she said she was watching Friends last night and their relationship, between Ross and Rachel which is this sort of on-off, you know, they know each other incredibly well, they enjoy each other a lot, they enjoy each other’s wit and minds and brains, but every time it’s Benedick that has backed off through fear which I guess is a very male thing, fear of commitment, and I think that’s the key to the two of them.

PS:

So when people tell you that the other is pining and declining, it’s not that you’ve never thought about a relationship before, it’s just that you’ve never gone that final.

CE:

I think that’s right, I think that’s right. But very much in denial, certainly from Benedick’s point of view, and also never committing verbally to anything so that he can then turn around later and say, “What? I never said that!” So it’s again a very male – you know, the woman is often more ready with her emotions and verbalising that, the man less so.

PS:

And that takes me to the relationships now. As well as the relationship with Beatrice, perhaps we’ll come back to that, what are the other relationships that are important?

CE:

Well it’s the man, it’s the sort of code of the army and again, you know, it’s up in the air, the relationship between Claudio and Benedick is an important one. But we just remembered this morning, when Beatrice is telling Benedick to kill Claudio he’s sort of said, “Yeah, but what exactly do Claudio and Benedick mean to each other?” And then in the first scene Jeremy [Herrin], the director, said, “Of course Shakespeare does pop that thing in about ‘every month he hath a new sworn brother’”, which implies that Benedick’s relationship with Claudio, or with any co-worker, co-soldier, is perhaps not a deep one. Although in the terms of the army and being soldiers together of course those relationships are very deep.

PS:

You tend to associate those has been quite significant.

CE:

But she may just be saying that about him and it may be untrue, but it might be true and he might be quite flighty in his friendships, Benedick. So again that’s sort of up in the air at the moment, but then again the relationship with Don Pedro is one of commander and soldier. What he says, what Pedro says or ‘Don Ped’ as he’s been called, what he says goes.

PS:

And is your view at the moment that he’s pretty much a professional soldier?

CE:

Benedick?

PS:

Yes.

CE:

Yes, a reluctant one, I think. You know, it’s a living and I think it’s – and in the world we’re creating, you know, it’s what many men do. Yes I think he’s a reluctant soldier, but I think he’s probably pretty good at it. But we also came up with the idea that Claudio’s come home covered in honours and that Benedick is sort of slightly hanging onto his shirt tails a little bit which could be quite fun. But that’s what’s lovely about this point in rehearsals, nothing’s decided.

PS:

Yes, lots of doors are opening and not many are closing.

CE:

Yeah, absolutely. So it’s a very productive time.

PS:

What about the relationship with Beatrice’s family, is that a long standing one do you think?

CE:

I think his relationship with Leonato is a good one, a respectful one. He often defers - well, because he’s the governor as well as anything else, he knows him reasonably well.

PS:

This is a sort of a fairly small society with not that many families in a nobility or oligarchy of some sort.

CE:

Absolutely. And you know Leonato comments often about the previous, the past relationship, between Benedick and Beatrice, saying, “Oh God don’t get the two of them together, they’ll never...” So maybe he is, Leonato, is being party to their past and then maybe he knew that they were on the verge of getting together at one point and then he blew it. Yes and Hero, yeah he doesn’t really pay much attention to Hero. As he says he “noted her not, but he looked on her”. He’s not very interested in Hero. It doesn’t seem.

PS:

That’s a pretty dismissive line really isn’t it?

CE:

Yes, it is, but then he’s showing off at the same time. PS: Yes, is that fun to play all that showing off?

CE:

It is. I mean we’re playing with that too, you know, how much of it is integral to him, how much of it is real, how much of it is bluff and bluster. So we’re still toying with all that.

PS:

That’s going to be good ground to come back to it in two or three weeks time and see just where you’re coming down. Okay, so Beatrice, I mean you probably covered most of that, the surreal history to that.

CE:

Yes, I think there has to be because it is mentioned so many times and she’s very honest about it at one time with Don Pedro, she says, “He lent his heart to me while...” I can’t remember the lines, but you know, she’s very honest about it.

PS:

Since we talked two weeks ago, have you had any sort of revelations about - “yeah, he’s not like that, he’s like this”?

CE:

I think so. I think the temptation with Benedick is to make all his chat showy and exhibitionist and there is a bit of that, but Jeremy, we were talking yesterday, and he said, “You know I think he can be quite cold.” There’s a lot of talk about his success with women and we were saying, “Well you know a lot of men who do have that success who are now essentially quite flip about it and perhaps don’t have much going on”, which of course changes throughout the course of the play, but at the beginning we’re going to experiment with playing him more cold, I think is the word, and to make all those statements about women perhaps dangerously or uncomfortably unpleasant. I don’t think he’s a misogynist, but it is his patter and whether you play that patter with panache and wit, which is in there anyway so sometimes you don’t need to play it if it’s in the words, if you lay too much on top of it it becomes something else. I’m sure it would be funny but maybe that’s not right, so we’re experimenting with that.

PS:

We haven’t talked at all about costume and about how the play is set. So can you tell us a little bit about that?

CE:

Yeah, well it’s looking lovely. I had a fitting yesterday and everyone’s coming back from the skin market where the fittings are with big smiles on their faces. Beautifully designed, it’s very sort of Moroccan, sort of steamy, hot. And the costumes, they’re very smart, military style, but with very sort of baggy trousers.

PS:

So an early modern costume?

CE:

Yeah, I mean – do you know what, I can’t be absolutely specific about the period.

PS:

Not modern dress?

CE:

Not modern dress, but they are very nice looking, they are very original. They’re very different and very smart and there’s a few flowing robes and Moroccan slippers and that kind of thing. And we’ve got this water on the stage as well so we’re trying to make use of that, a bit of paddling and you know.

PS:

Perhaps you could just explain where the water is?

CE:

It’s at the front so there’s a little bit that comes up from beyond the Globe stage in a little platform within which will be a pond and either side of which are two sets of stairs leading down into the yard, so we’ll be doing a lot of entering and exiting through that. But the water is just there to give – it’s a sort of courtyard of Leonato’s house and there’ll be – it’s an orange grove and the two pillars will be trees and above which the branches of the orange trees will spread and oranges will be there to be picked. And there’s a ladder to be used if you want to go up and pick an orange or hide up a tree which I’m going to do.

PS:

There’s something convenient to hide.

CE:

Yes, there’s is. There’s quite a lot of hiding places. It’s sort of steamy and you know and it looks very lovely.

PS:

Have you done much work in the theatre yet?

CE:

No, I can’t wait to go back in there. We’ve had one session with Glynn [MacDonald, movement] onstage, that’s the only session.

PS:

And then I suppose it’s being used for The Bible and then teching All’s Well [That Ends Well].

CE:

Absolutely, All’s Well. So yes I can’t wait to get to have another look in there because when you think of where to position yourself on the stage you’ve got more to think about than you have in a traditional proscenium arch theatre because there’s obviously many more view points. So I think what we’ve decided is that you keep it moving but having said that only move when you have a reason to and on a line when you’ve got a motivation to move, but as long as it’s all changing, I mean in any show it’s great to just keep it moving.

PS:

This is going to become a conventional last question: a high point and a low point?

CE:

What a low point? Low point? You see low point is difficult to answer because there are no low points, we’re all having such a great time.

PS:

Least high point, perhaps I could rephrase the question.

CE:

Do you know what? I had a slight panic when the Bank holidays came along because I thought - I looked at the diary the other night and as you’ve just said we’re near the end of the third week and I thought, “Oh God, we haven’t got that much time!” I’m someone who always likes to work as much as possible in the time given. But as we’re now working Saturdays – personally I’m quite pleased with being called in on Saturdays because we get Mondays work done on Saturday and we’ll get to the end of the play. High point: well we did have a session with Sian [Williams, choreography] for the jig which I think probably has been a high point. There’s a lot to know, because not only is there the jig to do, there’s also the mask to do, the dance that happens as part of the action. So there’ll be a lot of dance steps to learn, but the feeling in the room during and after that session was very good, everyone was euphoric so we had a really good time doing that and I look forward to more.

PS:

People often say that and that’s what it produces in the theatre. Euphoria, it’s just the word.

CE:

That’s right. And it’s great fun to do and it’s great fun to watch. And also the great thing about this play is that there is a dance built in at the end anyway. So it can serve all purposes and she’s wonderful, Sian, she’s terrific.

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