I played Bottom in the previous tour and I found that reviving the play was different than other rehearsals periods. I’ve revived productions before, and because you know what the show can be it can be frustrating having to start from scratch all over again.
Transcript of Podcast
Hi, my name’s Will Mannering and I’m playing Bottom in this revival of the 2009 A Midsummer Night’s Dream tour. I played Bottom in the previous tour and I found that reviving the play was different than other rehearsals periods. I’ve revived productions before, and because you know what the show can be it can be frustrating having to start from scratch all over again. However, you can’t let that frustration affect what you’re doing, because it’s not fair on the other actors, especially people who haven’t been in the show before. So you have to scrub the decks clean, exorcise the play and your part from you and start again. This is especially important for comedy, because once you’ve used a gag, it’s dead and you have to get rid of it. Audiences feel that a gag has been used before, so you have to be ruthless with them when they’re not working. When you take the brave step of starting again it becomes a pleasure and a joy to do, because it’s fresh and new. Needless to say, we’ve put a lot of old gags in that work, but we found them ourselves and put them in as appropriate, where appropriate.
There is nothing that can prepare an actor for the shock of the change of atmosphere from rehearsals to performance. As an actor you have to learn dexterity with your work, because you’re coming across people from very different social backgrounds as you tour. People in different parts of the country find different things funny, they find different things sad, so you have to listen and be very agile when it comes to working. You can’t just charge ahead and play and shout, you have to learn, as an individual and as a company, how to work audiences.
The best place to learn these skills is at the Globe, which is the most inclusive space in the world, bar none, and so we’ve adapted our play to work on the Globe stage. While on tour we perform on a small wooden trailer, but on the Globe stage we’ve just put on the tent that covers it. It’s not been a problem for me, because I’ve played this stage so much, and all the other actors who’ve never performed here before have done exceptionally well. Performing here is about maintaining depth and diagonals and talking to the audience and understanding that you have almost 360 degrees to play to, and speaking clearly and telling the story in a clear unfussy fashion. You don’t just play it bigger because the theatre’s bigger. You have to be more truthful, because the audience will see through you; the building gives them license to see through you. The conceit between the audience and the actors is very clear: we can see them, they know we can see them, so they, once they are settled, are very very cool and in control, and they feel that because there are more of them than there are of us.
Having started and Greenwich and then transferring to the Globe, it doesn’t really feel like we’re properly on tour yet! We’ll be properly touring after this. Next we’re going to the Shugborough Estate in Staffordshire, and from there we’re on to Brighton. My granny lives in Brighton, so I might go round to her for tea and fish and chips! But I think you’ll next be hearing from me after Wardour Castle in Salisbury.