Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Pre-Rehearsal

"Wherever you look there’s a 75% chance you’re going to be looking at a person. So I used to look at galleries, not necessarily at people. And then it took me a while to actually get used to looking people in the eye." In his first interview Pearce discusses how he tries to find something comedic in every role he takes and his experience of performing at the Globe.

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Time: 5 minutes 50 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Phil Brooks:

Welcome to the 2013 Adopt an Actor podcast series. My name is Phil Brooks and I’m here talking to Pearce Quigley, who plays the role of Bottom in the upcoming Globe production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

How familiar were you with the play?

Pearce Quigley:

Not at all. I think I’ve seen it somewhere, once, but then when we read it here I thought ‘oh I don’t think I have seen it’.  I’m familiar with aspects of it, like the man being turned into the donkey and all that kind of stuff. Oh, when I was at drama school I did that Puck speech, - “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows…” - so I was familiar with that speech, and I still knew it actually when the actor was reading it in read through. So no, I didn’t know it at all.

PB:

So what were your initial impressions of the play?

PQ:

Well, before we did the read throughs at the start of rehearsals, I just tried to find a BBC version of it or a film of it, and I saw that Kevin Kline one. But there always not very satisfying really . . . I’d hardly call it research material just because those films tend to be very different to what you end up doing on stage, in lots and lots of ways. That’s why I tried to find a BBC production of it because they’re usually quite faithful and look like theatre productions even if they’re not, even if they’re studio. And I found one with Helen Mirren and – I’m terrible with names, but he was absolutely amazing – a Yorkshire actor, he died very young, he was Bottom, and it was beautiful. But then again, it was all very subtle and close camera angles a lot of it, so it was great and it was faithful to the text –it was the same text that we’ve got, I think.      

PB:

What about the character of Bottom? What were your initial impressions of him? Did you know much about him before you began?

PQ:

Not really, just that he got changed into a donkey. I knew he got turned into a donkey . . . I didn’t know why, what the reason was, what happened subsequently…

PB:

What have you found out about him now that you’ve started to begin the process?

PQ:

Well we’ve only being doing table work at the moment which is where you sit round and say the Shakespearean line as it is in the text and then translate it into modern day language – just make sense of the line really. So we’ve haven’t got up yet and done any acting, as it were, so I haven’t got a clue yet, I really don’t know. There’s a million, six billion, different ways you could do it, I’ve got no clue yet. Well a lot of people have said, ‘oh what a fantastic part and it’s hilarious’. Whenever I hear that I always think, ‘Is it? Why is it? Is that because you’ve seen someone do it who was amazing and funny?’ I mean, once I understand it I understand it, but initially, I don’t get it, necessarily. The lovers I thought were hilarious. Once they’ve been infected by the love potion, some of their lines are, to me, genuinely laugh out loud funny. They’re brilliant. The way they change, and the way they speak to each other is outrageous! Some of Bottom’s stuff doesn’t seem particularly different to other Shakespearean fools I’m familiar with, where it’s quite hard to mine any meaning out of it, never mind comedy. Whereas it seems to me that the lovers, they’re quite obviously funny.  And I suppose the play within the play that the mechanicals do, that Bottoms part of, is very, very funny – or potentially is very, very funny – but all the stuff once he changes into a donkey, I don’t yet know why that will be funny, or if it will be funny. I have no idea.

PB:

Have you performed Shakespeare before?

PQ:

Yes, just fools, really. Two years ago I was Robin in Dr Faustus, who was Faustus’s servant’s servant, I think. And then last year I was Grumio in The Taming of the Shrew.

PB:

So you know The Globe quite well, you’re used to the audience and working [in the] round. How do you find it compares to working in other theatres?

PQ:

I love it. It’s unique, and I think I was always a little snotty about it . . . not snotty about it but, because I’d never worked here and I’d never been asked to work here, I had that luxury of having an opinion about something I wasn’t familiar with. Which was maybe slightly negative, in that I thought ‘well it’s just kind of theatre for tourists’, like the RSC, I sometimes used to think was like that. The reality of it is very different. It’s an absolute gift to work here. In my experience so far, anyway, it’s always been either virtually full or full. The audience are there because they’re so excited to see Shakespeare.  Half the audience are standing up- it’s outside, it could be raining, it’s noisy, they’re round you, it’s brilliant. They’re not far away from you – I didn’t quite know where to look, initially. I had to look out, because a lot of my stuff in both of those plays were asides. So you have look out – even if you’re not doing asides, wherever you look there’s a 75% chance you’re going to be looking at a person. So I used to look at galleries or something, not necessarily at people. And then it took me a while to actually get used to looking people in the eye.   

PB:

You’ve mentioned that you’ve played quite a few Shakespearean fools before. Do you find yourself drawn to those characters in particular?

PQ:

I’ve always tried to find something funny in anything that I’ve ever done. Even if it’s not necessarily there, I’ll try and make it funny or find something funny in it. So when you do something that’s supposed to by funny, I shrivel slightly. It’s the expectation. You think if it’s supposed to be funny, then I probably won’t be funny.

Oh it was Brian Glover in the TV production I saw with Helen Mirren playing Titania, and Brian Glover was absolutely fantastic.

PB:

Great, thank you very much.

PQ:

Thank you very much.

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