Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes

Mike will be playing Caska, one of Caesar's conspirators.

Transcript of Podcast

Mike will be playing Caska, one of Caesar's conspirators. Mike finds that he works better if he starts rehearsals without any definite ideas about the character he will be playing – this way he can be more open to the director's comments. In rehearsals, Mike has focused on detailed character exploration, addressing questions such as what is Caska's exact position in the Senate? Mike notes that Caska quiets the throngs of people twice in the first scene of the play. Casca is also able to stab Caesar first which Mike feels may be because of all the conspirators Caska is the closest to Caesar. Besides his relationship with Caesar, Mike is also studying Caska's relationships with Brutus, Cassius (especially in the second scene), and Cicero. Mike is currently exploring why CasKa chooses to tell the story of Caesar's rejection of the crown in the way he does. Mike suspects he is trying to communicate something to Brutus and Cassius.

Much of the beginning of the rehearsal period has been dedicated to connecting with the other company members, memorising names and the parts that other people will be playing. Mike found that he connected very well with the actor who plays Mark Antony and wanted to experiment with that connection on stage—building a relationship between Mark Antony and Caska. However, when they examined the text, the only time that Mark Antony acknowledges Caska is after he murdered Caesar when he simply addresses him, mockingly as, "…my valiant Caska…" (Act 3, scene 1, line 187).

Mike is interested in the importance of body and spirit throughout the play. He points out that the spirit of Caesar is all that Brutus really wants to kill ("O that we could come by Caesar's spirit/ And not dismember Caesar!" Act 2, scene 1, line 164), but in fact, as Brutus comments, Caesar's spirit outlives them all ("O Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet./ Thy spirit walks abroad and turns our swords/ In our own proper entrails." Act 5, scene 3, line 105.) The idea of the power of Caesar's spirit is mentioned even at the very beginning of the play in Act 1 Scene 2 when Cassius, works to ‘stir up’ Brutus’ feelings of jealousy telling him, "… ‘Brutus’ will start a spirit as soon as ‘Caesar’." (Lines 145-6). Mike will continue to look at the significance of body and spirit and the frequency of the use of those two words as the rehearsal period progresses.

Mike is very excited about the way the assassination is being rehearsed. Caska's line, "Speak hands for me!" (Act 3, scene 1, line76) is traditionally spoken before Caska stabs Caesar. However, in this production, the line will not be delivered until after Caska has stabbed Caesar and will be used as a way of saying to the other conspirators, ‘Join me in this!’ Mike notes the folio indicates that the stabbing happens after the line, but that in Plutarch's original manuscript, the lines are closer to the performance choices the company has made. In fact, in Plutarch's original manuscript, the line is said in Greek and is translated as ‘Brothers, help me.’ The fact that it was originally delivered in Greek makes Mike wonder about Act 1 Scene 2 where Caska claims he does not understand Cicero when he speaks in Greek. Mike wonders if Caska really did understand Greek, but did not wish to reveal the content of Cicero's speech to Brutus and Cassius - he is convinced that Caska knows more than he admits.

Mike feels that Caska might be afraid of Caesar and the consequences if he were to reveal privileged information. He notes that in historical sources Caesar does not appear to be as kind as he often presented in productions of Julius Caesar. Mike is exploring the ways that his character hints at this especially in lines such as "I can as well be hanged as tell the manner of it." (Act 1, scene 2, Line 235) and "I durst not laugh, for fear of opening my lips and receiving the bad air." (Lines 248-9.) Mike compares Caska to the ‘bad kid’ at the back of the classroom who doesn’t know how to join in with the class. The fact remains that Caska is not a soldier and therefore is different from most of the other characters in the play. In this production Mark Antony mocks Caska when he shakes his hand after the assassination – the form of address "valiant Caska" is used sarcastically.

The company have been exploring ways of playing Act 1 Scene 3. The whole scene could be performed with a lot of noise and chaos, but the company are experimenting playing it in an eerie silence based on the idea that when people are afraid, they do not necessarily scream and run about. Mike is glad to be given the opportunity to explore ideas in rehearsal that are not the obvious choices for a scene.

Mike is working to prepare himself to play for the audience in the Globe. He feels that the knowledge that the original Globe opened four hundred years ago will drive a lot of the energy behind his playing. Mike has never performed at the Globe before, but saw a performance last year – he remembers feeling incredibly involved in the show, even just as an audience member. Mike is curious, though, about how audience members—especially American ones—will react to hearing an American accent on the stage. More generally, he is interested to see how some of the choices that the company have made, such as all male casting, effect the audience's experience. Mike is also intrigued by the idea that Julius Caesar presents an Elizabethan view of Roman history, for him this adds another layer to the play and has brought a whole new set of challenges.

Looking ahead, Mike's biggest challenge is to play the changes in time and distance throughout the play so that they are real to the audience. Mike is most interested in story telling, making people forget that they are in a theatre when they’re watching the play. He admires actors such as Spencer Tracy and Ralph Richardson who he feels had an incredible command of their playing space, giving performances which were ‘honest’ or ‘truthful’. Mike's task, as he sees it, will be to engage his fellow actors and the audience and measure up to his own ideal of the best possible performance.

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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