Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal 2

Janie talks about rehearsing the jig and its link with her dance backrground and she also reveals that her character is not just the bossy boots Countess she first thought she was.

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Time: 10 minutes 3 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

Have you done any specific text work so far?

Janie Dee:

Yes. With Giles [Block, Master of Text]?

HB:

Yes.

JD:

Yes he’s great, but I think I was saying last time that I thought, “I know what this means, it means whatever I think it means.” And he’s gone, “It doesn’t quite mean that.” He’s had to re-teach me what I’ve learnt because I’m not a Shakespearean scholar like he is. So I will go on total instinct, for example, if I’m saying to Helena, “Do you love him or not, tell me. If you do, if it be so, you have wound a goodly clue” [I. iii]. Well that to me sounds like you’ve given me a very good clue that you are in love with him. But it doesn’t mean that, it means you have got yourself a nice knot, you have wound yourself a nice problem to unwind, which is great that I know that. I still think the audience will hear, “You have wound a goodly clue”, and they will think, “Yeah, she does look like she’s in love with him”, you know, because that’s the immediate thing you hear. And I think that’s okay. “If you do not”, I say, “foreswear, for I charge thee heaven will work in thee for thine avail, to tell me truly” [I. iii]. She says, “There”, you know, “all the best things are going to work inside me to help you if you’re truthful with me”, which says a lot about what she’s thinking. So we’ve had to pull it apart and he’s helped me with that so much and been very encouraging. I think it can be agony for him as well. Of course, when you’re sitting in the room and I’m saying, “Well I think it means this”, and John [Dove, Director] goes, “Yeah, I think you’re right”. And then you look over and see Giles with his head in his hands, just about to go off pop, you know, because he can’t believe. And I say, “Sorry Giles, is that not right?” And he’ll say, “Not exactly.” He has to sit there so awkwardly being wound up in knots by us.

HB:

Yes, because if you’re passionate about a certain line and you think that’s right, he doesn’t want to put you down.

JD:

No he doesn’t. And also, it’s not always right either. We must follow our instincts sometimes and bring something fresh out of it. I think that’s good too, as long as we don’t interpret it so that the play is twisted. Well what we do is we sit there, we have a chat about the scene usually and sometimes about all sorts of other things, but we then eventually come back to the verse or the prose. And then I usually speak it and then I might stop and say, “I don’t really know what I’m saying there to be honest.” And he will say, “Well, I think it’s this”. “Oh okay, let me do it again, try it again with that in mind.”

HB:

And do you do it on an individual basis?

JD:

I did a session with Ellie [Piercy, Helena] the other day, along this scene about calling her my daughter and her squirming. We went through that together and it was very interesting and it was a chance also to just talk to each other without anyone else listening, apart from Giles.

HB:

Yeah and how about any voice or movement sessions?

JD:

We had a lovely movement session with Sian [Williams, Choreographer] and I was, well still am, a dancer and I love it when we get into the physical again. It can all get a bit stuck, you know, physically. You know, the set is the set, the stage doesn’t turn around, the curtains don’t come in. So we come on, we do the scenes, and we go off again, one way or another. So to get freed up with a lovely movement class is great. She’s very good, she does sort of actor’s movement, which means everybody’s able to do it, but it’s very intelligently given. One is nicely warm and ready at the end of it which is the most important thing. And then we did the jig...

HB:

...I was going to ask about the jig, how is it going?

JD:

Great! I hadn’t realised that we have a real orchestra. I don’t know, eight musicians up there on the balcony playing. Oh, wonderful! Between scenes that happens and I just hadn’t thought about that.

HB:

So have you had many jig sessions?

JD:

Two, but they’ve gone very well.

HB:

I suppose you can’t spend loads of time on it, but it is still pretty important, it’s the final thing...

JD:

...The last impression. No, it’s going to be great. She’s done about half of the jig with us so far.

HB:

Is there any scene or moment in the play that is significant to the interpretation of your character? What’s that defining moment that perhaps sums up your character?

JD:

The only moment I can think of, at this point, is the most secret moment, when she’s all alone and she says, after she’s heard from the tell-tale Steward that Helena’s in love with her son, she says, “It was like that for me when I was young.” And she’s all alone and she says, “If ever we are nature’s, these are ours, this thorn” [I. iii]. “These are ours”, I haven’t got what that is. I think it mean’s ‘passions’, these feelings are ours. “This thorn, doth to our rose of youth rightly belong. This to our blood is born, it is the show and seal of nature’s truth, where love’s strong passion is impressed in youth, by our remembrances of days foregone, such were our faults, or then we thought them none” [I. iii]. “Here she is”, I say, “Her eye is sick on it, observe her now” [I. iii] And for me that is just a little moment of her knowing what Helena’s going through and ultimately, because of that, having to say, “Well come on, let’s try and make this work”, because she understands how it’s right to answer it. If you’ve got those kinds of feelings inside of you, should you squash them down? No, I think she’s sort of saying its nature’s way of saying, “You’re ready. It’s love, pulsing through.” I think this is where she reveals her soft bit, nowhere else really. Very cross with Helena when she cries too much, she says, “don’t do that in front of everybody, that’s enough now, stop it.” She asks to be alone, to have a moment, and that’s what she thinks before she speaks to Helena, that’s what comes to mind. For me it’s her journey to saying, “I know what you’re going through.” I don’t know if she knows if she’s going to go for it or against it until the end, but I think she does understand Helena, she’s human. So that reassured me that although she’s called ‘The Countess’, she’s not some bossy boots. She can be and she has to be sometimes, but there is a real person there too, a living, breathing, sexual woman, who still understands how good it is to be alive and possibly how difficult it is not to be young. With the clown there is a moment as well, “Oh to be young again if we could.” She’s talking to him and they’re having such a good time and being so naughty, inappropriate as well which is so great. Inappropriate feelings [laughs], you know, it’s great. So those are the two bits I suppose that wave up to me.

HB:

Finally I just want to ask, do you think your initial impressions of your character have changed or been confirmed since the beginning of the process? Were your initial impressions that she is ‘The Countess’...

JD:

...Yeah they’ve changed. They’ve changed because I thought she was a countess who was a bit bawdy at first. Now I see her more refined, but with something very strong inside. But on the outside she is incredibly well refined, she’s not outwardly bawdy, it seeps out [laughs]. She’s a mother with responsibilities, she’s also a woman who is probably having to come to terms with possibly failing as a mother within the play. I haven’t really thought about that until now, but that’s probably part of it, she keeps doing the wrong thing. She thought she was doing the right thing and it turns out badly. She went on her gut instinct and, as many women will understand, you listen to that. Yeah I know what to do here, do it, and hope it’s going to be okay. Luckily it is okay in the end, that it was proved right...

HB:

...Alls well that ends well...

JD:

...Alls well that ends well, that’s right, in this fairy story. It’s a very hopeful play. I think the way that John Dove is handling it, he’s handling it very, very well. He’s eking out what Shakespeare hoped people would, I like to think that. It’s very exciting being in a room with him, you know, he keeps looking at it and saying, “Oh, this is great! Do you see what he’s doing? This is what he’s doing here...” And then he’ll explain to us and we now think, “Helena, oh what a rotten thing you’ve done to all these people, Helena, by saying you’re dead.” There’s these wonderful moments in the text that give you that chaos of what she’s created by lying. By telling everybody and how they react to her death and manage it. Bertram nearly gets sentenced because of her pretend death. And only the audience know, the people on stage, in Roussillon, the people in Paris, they believe she’s dead, they take it very seriously.

HB:

I think it’s nice how it echoes Much Ado [About Nothing] as well with the whole fake death.

JD:

It’s the same problem in Much Ado with Claudio. I remember when I was in it, Peter Hall’s company in Bath, and the Claudio character was just so hateful, you didn’t really want him to get back with Hero in the end. But John’s really attacking this with a vengeance to make Bertram sympathetic, ultimately. Not to make him a goody, he’s not, he’s terrible, but to make us understand what spurs him.

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