Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Production Notes 1

This is Amanda's fifth blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III. In it she talks about the first night, playing to an audience, and his changing opinions as the production progresses.

Transcript of Podcast

The First Night

The first night was a really interesting experience. Some of the company compared it to a rock concert, walking out onto a stage and being able to see every one of a huge audience. First night audiences are usually full of friends and family, either of company members or of the theatre, and they are always very supportive. I had mixed feelings after the performance; on the one hand it was nice to perform to an audience in that space, on the other, I was suddenly aware of how much work needed to be done before the production was complete. I enjoyed playing in the Globe space. As a space, it's not that different to other theatres I’ve played where you can see your audience relatively well. But, at the Globe, the space has a unique effect on the play; one suddenly understands why we’ve staged and interpreted scenes in certain ways because that's how it will work best in that atmosphere. As an actor, you can and should communicate with your audience, wherever you’re performing. The unique challenge for an actor in the Globe is to keep your own focus. There is so much going on in the audience that you have to really concentrate to keep focused on what is happening on-stage, especially because, without lighting, our focus is vital for guiding the audience through the story of the play.

Playing to an Audience

All scenes are changing slightly now that we have an audience to play to. For example, in III.vii, we’ve been exploring how much fun Richard and Buckingham are having in the process of trying to get Richard on the throne. What we have to remember at the same time is just how high the stakes are for them. They need to get Richard on the throne; who knows what could happen to them if they fail. I think we’ve found the right balance now between these two poles, and it has a great effect on an audience. We’re actively using the audience as the citizens of London, and we can use the text of the play to encourage them to respond. At the beginning of the scene, I tell Richard that the citizens:

… spake not a word,
But, like dumb statues or breathing stones,
Stared on each other, and looked deadly pale.
(III.vii.24-26)

When I say this, I look at them, just to make sure they understand their role, and so when I’m asking them to shout for Richard later in the scene, they’re more than willing. In a way, we trick them into shouting for Richard; they cry out “Yes, we want Richard to be king,” and cheer when he accepts the crown. It's only in the interval when they realise what they’ve done!

Because we do encourage the audience to respond, there is a danger that they might go too far and respond too much. In fact, that happened the other day, when two audience members wouldn’t stop shouting and cheering at everything. We had to win the audience back, so I directed my line “No, so God help me, they spake not a word” (III.vii.24) directly to them, making it a direct command. The rest of the audience laughed and clapped, which stopped them from doing anything more. Usually, audiences are fine and behave themselves.

Changing Opinions

I mentioned a while ago that I thought Buckingham was a tragic character, that he was corrupted by Richard. Now, I’m not so sure; he's a bit more ambitious than I thought he was and he's quite happy to build this relationship with Richard and work with him. That's the difference; he's happy to do what he does. I originally thought that Buckingham didn’t intend for the princes to be killed, that by asking Richard for “some little breath, some pause… Before [he] positively speak[s]” (IV.ii.24-25), and then coming back and demanding “Th’earldom of Hereford and the movables / Which [Richard had] promised…” (IV.ii.89-90), he was testing Richard, trying to get what he felt was his before refusing to kill the princes. Now, I think it's much more straightforward; he's simply looking to get paid for what he's done before he does anything else, and once he's paid, he’ll get on with whatever he's asked to do. This has had a great effect on the scene where Buckingham is executed (V.i), because suddenly, he's much more frightened. He realises that he's been ‘playing’ too much;

That high All-seer which [he] dallied with
Hath turned [his] feigned prayer on my head
(V.i.20-21)

He is now afraid of death, that he might go to hell; the scene is much more poignant. I mentioned before that we were changing and cutting bits from our Battle of Bosworth sequence. What happened was that we took what we had worked out in the rehearsal room onto the stage, with the company in full costume, and suddenly, it didn’t work. Physical work, tableaux, highly stylised movements such as a ‘tidal wave’ effect that worked so well in the rehearsal room all became unusable when we were all on the Globe stage in costume; their theatricality was lost. The combination of space and costumes meant this work lost its impact, and we’ve had to prune it. Another problem was helmets; dressing women in men's costumes looks fine; no-one has had any problems in believing us to be the characters we’re playing, but this all changed when we put helmets on. Suddenly, we looked like we were little girls dressing up as men; the helmets are so large that they dwarf us. I think you need to be about 6’5’’ to wear one convincingly. As a result, our ‘battle’, rather than looking strong, looked a little weak. What we have now looks much more convincing and works well.

**Please note, no audio file is available for this update**

Back to top

ADD YOUR THOUGHTS TO THE CONVERSation

We welcome your opinions. This is a public forum. Libellous and abusive comments are not allowed. Please read our Forum Rules.