Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 4

This is Liam's fourth blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard II in which he talks about how the production is progressing and the outcome of the first full run, amongst other things.

Transcript of Podcast

First Run

We have just finished our second full run through of the play; we did our first yesterday. Usually I always hate first runs because everyone wants to cut their wrists afterwards, but actually, weirdly enough I quite enjoyed it yesterday! And so predictably enough I thought this morning's attempt was really not very good. I just seemed more aware that bits of it weren’t right. But that's OK; that's what happens at first - you don’t really get two on the trot that you’re happy with. It was good to see all the bits that I was not involved in too; there were whole scenes that I’d never seen before. I really enjoyed watching them and piecing everything together. And as for the bits that I was in, I found myself getting really nervous before them! I kept telling myself ‘this is so silly’, and so I consciously managed to make myself enjoy it most of the time. I just needed to relax a bit.

The full run gives an energy to the play that you haven’t had before because you’ve never had the full story. There's a kind of engine driving it because you go through the whole life span of the play and you go through the life span of your character. That idea of ‘completeness’ supports you in your work. We haven’t had that before because we have just been coming in and doing scenes in isolation. So it does feel very different; I felt as if I was going into each scene with a very, very, very present memory of what I’d just done previously. That affects the way you play the scene. And all the time I was trying not to think about the next scene coming up, but subconsciously you do tend to think ahead! In many ways I think that just serves to energise the whole play.

The first run was too long, and I don’t think it was much shorter today for the second run. The first half of the play was about an hour and forty minutes (which is a bit too long), but the second half was probably OK for length coming in at about an hour. I thought Tim [Carroll, Master of Play] would do some cuts, but in fact he only did some tiny little ones. It will probably speed up with practice. During the run some things will slow up and some things will quicken up: it is constantly evolving.

Progress

I think the decisions I have made so far have been on the right track. There's been nothing as yet that has made me think ‘I’ve got that horribly wrong’. I’ve just got to do things with confidence and relaxation really and trust in the decisions I’ve made. After these two runs I’ve been struck by how everything seems to happen very quickly in the play. I have also noticed that a lot of Bolingbroke's action takes place off stage. He has to do a lot of thinking behind the scenes because things just move so quickly on stage. They really, really do. Bolingbroke's biggest bit off stage is his banishment, but then as soon as he comes back to England it's a real snowball of events; its just one thing after another, and then before we know it Richard has capitulated and Bolingbroke's being hailed king. I therefore have to be extremely focussed before I re-enter the stage from the banishment as so much has changed in the main plot. While he's banished he hears the news that his father (John of Gaunt) has died, and because he was banished he wasn’t able to be with him or at his funeral. Also Richard has seized all of his lands and all of his possessions, which would have come to him from his father. I think really that is the spark which brings him back. Whether or not he’d come back without that all having happened is the real question, but I don’t have to answer it so I won’t worry too much about that! For me it just means imagining all of this vital news and then making the decision to come back and do something about it.

I’m reasonably happy with everything at the moment. It will be good to have an audience to play to: there are a few points in the play where I say things directly to the audience and that's kind of hard for me at present without anyone there. It’ll be good to actually have an audience to experiment with. I’m still a little bit uncomfortable with Act 1, Scene 3 where there's a joust between Mowbray and myself. For the first time yesterday we were handed helmets and spears and so we need to practice that. We’ve kind of been stumbling with the scene just because we haven’t had the chance to get used to the armour. So there are a few technical bits to work on, but on the whole I feel on top of things. I feel OK about Bolingbroke too. I’m beginning to understand him more and more. This week I’ve noticed that as the play progresses he becomes increasingly quiet. He says an awful lot more at the beginning of the play then he does towards the end. It appears that as he gains power and respect and all the rest of it, the less he seems to say. I think that's an affect of the general approval for him. This may seem a bit generalised and a bit clichéd but I’m working on the idea of someone who only speaks when it's important for them to do so; on all other occasions he remains silent.

Musical

I think we’ve got a kind of musical afternoon planned for today. We are going to be doing a jig rehearsal first and then I think we’re going to be listening to some of the music that has been arranged for the play and plotting some of the scene changes that will involve musical accompaniment. Tomorrow we are going to do another run, and then Saturday is the first technical rehearsal so we’ll finally move over to Middle Temple Hall. We’ll have two or three very long days of acting from about 9.30 in the morning until 10.30 at night. We get a day off on Monday and then carry on with the tech on Tuesday. We’ve got the dress rehearsal on Wednesday afternoon and then the first preview is Wednesday night. It is so soon! There will be lots of things to sort out during the technical rehearsals; lots of little things you wouldn’t even think of such as if you’re standing near the audience you’ve got to be careful your not whacking them with your sword when you turn around! So we probably won’t work in much detail on the meaning or setting of scenes from now on because we just don’t have the time. But that's OK because you learn other things from the runs: it's just the next stage of development really. Obviously, once you open it will grow and develop some more and that's the final phase. It will change and develop yet again when we come back to the Globe. So it's going to be a really long few days coming up, but it will be good to get into Middle Temple Hall and good to get into costume and good to get used to things like having spears and swords. I’m looking forward to it!

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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