Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

In his second blog post Joseph discusses how rehearsals have progressed and his first impression of his role

Transcript of Podcast

Rehearsals so far

I’m absolutely terrified! I think I’ve made decisions that I will change, that will not last - they’re simply spring boards and stepping stones to what I really want to create in the end. At the end of this week in rehearsals I’m surprised I’ve done so much work in one week! I’ve had a lot going on. We’ve had voice, movement, we’re now learning jigs, we’ve read the play and discussed the meaning of things, put the play in an historical context, we’ve had lectures and talks about the Romans, about the time of Coriolanus when they were just building the legend and tradition of Rome. They had not got the rituals and that whole thing yet. It's a rougher, more butch society.

The danger with these plays is that what you’ve seen before influences you. If you’ve seen somebody do it really well you have to try and put that out of your mind. I remember the wonderful actor, well I though he was a great actor in my day, called Clement McKellen who played Cominius, he was a matinee idol, 6’6”and lean and huge voice and aggressive. Every time I come to do a bit he comes to mind, and that's not the way I want to do it!

First impressions of Cominius

When I first read the play the first thing that came to mind was that he is a wonderfully gentle politician. He's a great warrior, but in the politics of the play he's a measured man, everything is considered. I have no doubts that he has a very clear sense of who is and his position in the society and his class and all that, but he tries to be the consul of the people. Although the patricians may get 98% of his attention he affords the plebs the 2% that they deserve. He thinks he is being fair and he does it gently!

Rehearsals this week

We’ve got through the whole play now and we’re going back from the beginning. Today we’ve been rehearsing the kind of hustings of the play. Coriolanus has been elected by the Patricians as the new consort and he's going to the people now. He's gone down to the market place to meet the farmers and all those other people and they have to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ and it's not going to turn out very nicely. We’re at the point where things are coming to a head and it's very difficult for Jonathan, who plays Coriolanus, because it's a scene that rises in tempo from now until he is banished and there are a lot of stepping stones that are not fully set yet. It's fun but it's difficult.

It's difficult for us all because our listening to his arguments is no longer listening as in a reading, it's listening to a man trying to convince his peers. For me just listening to what he says sometimes distracts me, but it's a very delicate time so actually listening to the arguments rather than worrying about whether your cue comes up is important. It's a conversation - how you react to the points that he's making. If he's saying ‘The people are curs’ you have to react to show whether your character believes that. These people may be plebeians but they are Romans too and they have certain rights and we agreed to those rights is probably what Cominius might be thinking. Coriolanus wants to abnegate those rights and believes the plebians don’t deserve them. We may also think this, but we might have another enemy where we need the plebeians to come and be the foot soldiers. It's one man trying to destroy one aspect of the state and although he's one of us, how do we deal with this? It's the heart of the play, the one man one vote democratic issue and we’re continuing with that this afternoon.

It's interesting because most people say Coriolanus has no humility but I think in our production he has no political sense. He doesn’t understand the give and take of politics. He's a simple man with direct responses to things and he doesn’t know how to bite his tongue or find a nicer way to say things and consider the other person's feelings.

 

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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