Shakespeare's Globe

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“It’s very, very pleasing hearing their shock. It’s just a lovely thing to listen to.” In his final interview, James talks about the audience’s response to his favourite moment in the play. He also discusses how audience reactions can morph and evolve with each performance.

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Time: 5 minutes 15 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Rachel Ely: So, how was opening night?

James Garnon: It was fine, I think! First preview for me was quite stressful, actually, because of the costume changes we discussed and the way things sort of altered, and I threw up three times on opening night. I think it was food poisoning, but it might have been nerves. I don’t get nervous, or if I do get nervous it doesn’t manifest itself in a way that I’m aware of. So it could have been my system was absolutely terrified and made me throw up, whilst I had no idea of it at the time.

RE: Offstage, I hope?

JG: Offstage, yeah! In the middle of the show as well, which is also why I don’t think it’s nerves, because it was during the show, rather than before. But I seem to remember it was fine, and most of the previews where we jiggled about with bits and bobs, but I think it was all fairly easy. We carried on playing with, as indeed we still are in the clown scenes, mucking about and trying things, and dumping jokes that weren’t working, and putting in different things . . . but it’s fine.

RE: Well, how was press night?

JG: Press night was fine, as it always is here really, because there’s a lot of other companies in the building ,the other actors come and watch. It’s a very supportive . . . the press night. A lot of the audience that are there are aware and have booked because it’s press night, so it’s a very positive space. And as we’ve said, because the audience are such an important part of the play. It’s kind of good – you have this weird mix on press night. A bunch of audience that are really just there to write notes and criticise, and then a large section of the audience who are there to enjoy and support. So it’s a weird one. I never really like press night in that respect because it doesn’t really give you a fair reflection of what actually is going on. Two shows later you probably find out where the show actually is. Early preview audiences are very excited because they know they’re seeing something fresh and they’re the first people to see it, so they’re very invested and excited in seeing it. Then as you get further on into previews you start getting audiences who aren’t quite sure because the reviews haven’t come out yet and maybe they’ve heard a couple of things, but they don’t quite know yet whether or not they like it because they haven’t been told whether they like it or not yet. And then you get to press night and everyone’s very excited because they’re there on a special night, and then audiences start coming in and for a while are influenced heavily by what they’ve read, and depending on what they’ve read they either act either in concert with or reaction to what they’ve read. And then as you get further on down the line that’s all disappeared – people are back to just watching the play.

RE: How have the Globe’s distractions, like helicopters or birds or audiences in general, been affecting your performance, if at all?

 JG: Hugely. I’m always quite keen acknowledging when the loud planes and things enter in, I quite like it. I think it’s unhelpful if the audience are experiencing something that we’re not acknowledging. But it’s a kind of hard game to work out when and how to use them, and we realised quite early on that the planes in the first scene weren’t so helpful – the first scene with Trinculo and Stephano – and if we did acknowledge a plane in that section they weren’t quite ready for it. But when we’re in the drunk scene – after the audience have gone out for an interval and had a little gin and tonic or whatever – they’re much happier with that sort of breaking it up. So we found it was better to do it in those scenes. However it does still need to happen at a good moment for it to be useful, and we have no rule to what the things are going to be.  Sometimes the planes are Prospero’s spirits and thus very frightening, and sometimes planes and helicopters are just weird insects, which then leads on to ‘the isle is full of noises, sounds and sweet airs’. If you’ve acknowledged something weird that we’ve all got freaked out, that’s handy. Similarly we’ve had babies crying, that happened one night when I was doing Caliban’s soliloquy, and I cast the audience in that quite often – not always but quite often – cast them as spirits of the island and Prospero’s spirits. And when a baby cried that was one of the spirits coming to annoy me. And just as I was focussing on it his parents took the baby out of the room, which was disappointing until my very next line, which was ‘nor lead me like a fire brand in the dark out of my way’, which sort of seemed appropriate.  So you had the baby noise going off and you think ‘wow’ – if you make yourself available to happy accidents, accidents become happy accidents. So that’s all been rather satisfying.

 RE: What is your favourite moment in the play?

JG: One of my favourite moments – if you really want one of my favourite moments? One of my favourite moments is actually when I’m under the gabardine on stage, and I’m sitting on the stage, and I hear Trevor [Fox, Trinculo] come on and – I don’t know what on earth Trevor does, I haven’t got a clue – but the audience titter, and they titter at about four things – I know he produces a fish, I think they titter at the fish. But I don’t know which the fish moment is, I don’t know when they’re laughing when they’ve just sort of seen him. And he empties out his codpiece which is soaking wet over somebody, and you always know when that moment is, because no matter what laugher has happened that’s always sort of very big. And it’s very pleasing hearing, you know, their shock – it’s just a lovely thing to listen to.    

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