Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Pre-Rehearsal

"I got vertigo; I wanted to jump. So I'm probably going to crowd surf at some point!"
In this pre-rehearsal interview, Bethan Cullinane talks about her delight and nerves when standing on the Globe stage for the first time. She also discusses the excitment of playing two roles and her useful 'five list' method for getting to know her characters.

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Time: 7 minutes 26 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

Welcome to the 2013 Adopt an Actor podcast series. My name’s Hayley Bartley and I’m here talking with Bethan Cullinane who plays Cordelia and Lear’s Fool in the upcoming Globe production of King Lear.

So my first question is: how familiar were you with the play? Did you read it before starting?

Bethan Cullinane:

I had. I studied it at drama school so I had done a couple of different speeches and read the play. I had never actually seen it in performance but I had watched a video of it; of one of the performances whilst I was at drama school. I like to read it and then watch a production, but there wasn’t a production for me to watch, so I watched a film of it.

HB:

Brilliant. So what were your initial impressions of the play then?

BC:

Just how sad it is. It’s this incredibly tragic play which is why with this production - when I spoke to Bill [Buckhurst], our director, he mentioned finding humour in it and also that it had been done as a travelling tour; so, sort of, this group of actors travelling together. So, you have to find that lightness; you can’t just turn up and be all gloom. And the jig at the end I am looking forward to as well, so finding the humour in it, and actually realising there is a lot of humour in it, is really exciting.

HB:

And especially for you then because you’re playing – not so much with Cordelia, but with Lear’s Fool. So what were your initial impressions of these two characters?

BC:

When I found out they were doubling that, I was like, ‘that’s amazing, yeah, brilliant!’ For Cordelia, obviously a very tragic story for Cordelia, but she’s, sort of, this pure, honest character, and kind of the heroine in a way. Definitely a character that’s a lot closer to home for young actresses to play; generally they are roles that will come up with similarities with other younger characters. And then the Fool, at this point I don’t even know where to start with that. Apparently, initially when the play was first done, the boy who played Cordelia doubled as the Fool; so that was always the pairing which was comforting because you know that you’re not being completely thrust into this crazy world. But, yes, I’m looking forward to it. The weird thing is that when I was at Rada, the first presentation you do in first year – so it’s not a show, you do workshop in your acting class – you’re given a scene from a play, and I did a play called Wild Spring, playing an actress. And the scene that I did, she’s coming off stage having played the Fool in King Lear. And so all of this scene, and this speech, where she’s talking to herself in the mirror, is all about the first woman to play the Fool. ‘A woman playing the fool’ and all that sort of thing. So that’s really exciting. I don’t know yet whether I am going to play it as a man or a woman or a thing; whether it needs to be a particular gender. But, yes, just at the moment I am, kind of, working out all the jokes without trying to be funny. Working out the logic of the jokes and then hopefully, once I’ve got that down, everything else will fall into place.

HB:

So, my next question is: have you performed Shakespeare before?

BC:

I have, yes. I went to Rada and they are brilliant; the text classes you have there are fantastic. Throughout your three years, instead of putting on a whole play, you’ll read a play and then pick a couple of sections or speeches and really break it down and learn how to speak verse. And then when I left drama school, the biggest job that I got a couple of months after leaving was playing Ophelia in Hamlet. And that was a tour that went around and so I was doing that for several months, two shows a day, ten shows a week, something crazy like that. That was brilliant because obviously the verse is there and I think when you come to it, sometimes it can feel like a poem; with the rhythm, sometimes you feel like you have to say it in a certain way. But then having to do it over and over again for such a long time, you realise that yes that’s set but there is still so much to play with over the top of it. So, yes, speaking the same lines of Shakespeare two times a day for several months was – yes, I’ve done Shakespeare!

HB:

And have you performed at the Globe before?

BC:

I haven’t, no. We went on stage our first day here and it was amazing. It was really sunny and you just saw that blue arc that is left of the sky from the stage and the auditorium. And I got vertigo; I wanted to jump. So I’m probably going to crowd surf at some point.

HB:

It’s good that Dominic [Dromgoole], the artistic director, said at the Meet and Greet this morning, how there’s actors in the company that have performed here many times before, so that must be quite useful I imagine.

BC:

It’s really useful. I think with our company, it’s only the three girls that haven’t worked on the Globe stage before, which is really nice because you have people there supporting you who really know how it feels, how much you need to project, how big your performance needs to be to fill that space, and hopefully you will learn that once you start getting on there as well.

HB:

And my final question for this interview is: have you done any preparation for your roles before rehearsals have started?

BC:

Yes. Something that I like to do, and I do it for everything, is my lists; I call them my five lists. So I write down for the character, in this case for both characters, I read through the play and I write down: everything other characters say about my character, everything that I say about other characters, everything my characters says about themselves, everything my character says about the world, and everything the writer (so Shakespeare) says about the world that we are in as well. Doing that you’ve, kind of, got an autobiography in a way on your character, because you have everything that is written in the book. Everything about your character is put into a couple of lists that you can flick through. And I find it really useful because in rehearsal, if sometimes I feel like I’m straying from what is written and I’m adding too much of my own imagination – there’s nothing wrong with adding your own stuff on top but it is written in such a way that you need to stay true to what is written as well. So it’s really useful to come back to those lists and look through and go, ‘actually, it’s not how my character reacts to so and so because they’ve said this about them. It’s just really helpful to keep coming back to.

HB:

Is that something you were taught at drama school or is it something you just like to do?

BC:

Yes it was something that I was taught in my first year by Alex Clifton, my acting teacher in the first year. And I think most of the acting teachers at Rada teach that to start off with and it’s just a really nice way to start. It’s really useful to find out about your character and bring it all in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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