Shakespeare's Globe

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“Beatrice launches a verbal assault on Benedick, and of course he’s gulled. And that’s the central point for him, the penny drops and he starts to think of himself as having some flaws he would like to correct.”
In his second interview, Simon talks about the character of Benedick and his important moments, and what voice and movement work he has been working on, and the language in the play.

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Time: 6 minutes 54 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Phil Brooks: So welcome to the Adopt an Actor Podcast series. This is the second interview with Simon Bubb who is playing Benedick.

And what have you been doing in rehearsals so far?

Simon Bubb: Well we’ve now got the play up on its feet which means we’ve started working out where we might be standing on stage for each scene. The way we’ve working with this one is just before each scene we’ll sit round in a circle one more time and talk about it, and talk about what each character wants from a scene. And then we will just get up and give it a go and rather than Max [Webster, director] telling us where to stand from the very beginning, we just see what feels right, and he can have a look at it and then say yeah that was great or stand over there it’s a much stronger position or you know, if you stand over there you won’t be in someone else’s way. So that’s where we’ve got to.

PB: Do you find it easier to work in that, get it up on its feet and move around than sitting and planning things so much?

SB: Yeah, yeah I think it’s quite important when you’re first blocking the play to have a sense of freedom; to be able to play and to make mistakes, to make choices that you probably know are over the top or wrong, but they might reveal something about the relationship between the characters which you can then clarify and pair down.

PB: Have you found there are any specific relationships that are important to your character?

SB: Yes. It’s very important at the beginning of the play that Benedick is part of a sort of triumvirate of solders with Claudio and Don Pedro. Particularly the relationship with Claudio because he’s… we’ve discussed what exactly the relationship is between the two of them. It’s very interesting that Beatrice in the very opening of the play says that Benedick every month has a new sworn brother. Which we’ve discussed what that might be and it’s, we think that Benedick likes to have a younger soldier as a sort of straight man, or just as somebody who he can… he probably likes having a younger person who idolises him. And theres also a few references in the play to money in connection with Benedick. Benedick is not such a high social class as Claudio, who’s an actual count, and we thought possibly Benedick actually, he ends being with these young guys and gets them to buy all the drinks. So that’s a very important relationship at the start because its then very disappointing for Benedick who thinks that Claudio is the same mind as him, in terms of the way they view relationships and love. It’s very disappointing for Benedick when Claudio then falls in love and is left on his own, which then perhaps sets him up to be ready to fall in love with Beatrice. 

PB: Are there many specific scenes or moments that are important as well?

SB: I think that there’s the… Obviously the other very important relationship is the one with Beatrice, which has a history which we’ve tried to work out, a history of what happened to them however many years before the play starts. We discussed the possibility that when the play starts they are not completely full of hatred towards each other. That there may even be, there seems to be a flirtatious element, particularly in the party. Then she launches a verbal assault on him that seems to switch him into full-on ‘I can’t bare this woman’. And of course he’s gulled, so that’s the central point for him, the penny drops and he starts to think about himself as having some flaws that he would like to correct. And then the next major turning point is when he’s given a choice after the wedding scene goes horribly wrong, he’s given a choice to effectively kill his best mate or be with the woman he loves. And suddenly the play gets very serious.

PB: Suddenly twists and the whole thing changes…

SB: Which just shows you an interesting depth to his character.

PB: Have you done much specific character work looking at voice and movement?

SB: I am generally trying to explore what Benedick’s movement might be in comparison to my own. He’s more of a natural soldier than I ever could be. So I haven’t done any sort of rigorous movement work but I am trying to…it’s just little things like centre of gravity. Different people move from a different part of their body and I think his is fairly low down. In terms of voice that’s something I’m still exploring. I think that Benedick has a much more boisterous energy than I do. So I, when we were first rehearsing and putting the play on its feet I perhaps fell into the trap of trying to, I just ended up shouting and talking fast, because I had to try and get that energy into the performance, which means if you’re not careful you can just come out as a generalised wash…

PB: Just a big noise…

SB: Yeah, rather than finding the specific reason for each line that he says.

PB: Are there things you’ve noticed about his language?

SB: He loves speaking to persuade people. He loves speaking in a way that’s memorable. So there’s a great pleasure to be had that the other characters find, particularly Don Pedro who likes to wind him up and watch him go. When you get him on a favourite topic which is usually women or relationships, he has a very quick mind and can come up with imagery that’s quite amusing and quite memorable off the top of his head. And the other thing is of course how much he speaks in prose, there’s hardly any verse. And prose is, it is the language of covering things up, rather than verse which is when you’re just speaking straight from the heart. But also prose is the language of comedy because verse, blank verse has such a regular rhythm, you can’t trick the audience into… you know the key to good comedy is you’re in control of when the punchline is gonna come and that’s more difficult in verse. So he likes to speak in prose and vary the rhythms of his speech.

PB: And what’s coming up next in rehearsals?

SB: Well we are, just today we are about to do a dance call. I haven’t done Shakespeare in quite a while and it’s, I've remembered just how tired you get in rehearsals, and it’s not really the Shakespeare, the acting that does it. It’s all the dancing…

PB: All the extra things.

SB: Yeah, all the dancing and the music. So we’ve got a session working on the steps, and that’s great because it will make the show much more… hopefully a full entire experience with music and dancing as well. And then we’re gonna spend another few days going through the blocking a second time and honing it.

PB: Brilliant thank you very much.

SB: Thank you.

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