In this week's rehearsal notes, Laura [Pyper, Cressida] talks about getting the play on its feet, her work on accents and reveals her changing impressions of Cressida.
Transcript of Podcast
Putting the play on its feet
The first two weeks sitting in a circle and reading through was brilliant. But we’ve started putting it on its feet now. We all understand what we’re talking about and to get up sooner would have been stupid. Also, we all trust each other after spending so much time together; we’re not afraid to make fools of ourselves, or to say “I’m really sorry, I don’t know what that means.” So we’re not afraid to do anything, the worst Matthew [Dunster, director] can say is “that was rubbish” and then we can try something else. It’s really been a new experience for me as an actor, it’s great just to abandon all ego, get out there and do it.
We did Act 1.2 yesterday, which is quite a tricky scene. It’s my first time onstage, there are soldiers coming through, Pandarus is gossiping; there is a lot going on, a lot of movement, so it was fantastic to place the action. Working with Matthew [Kelly, Pandarus] is just a joy – he is hilarious! One of the hardest things to do in acting is to laugh believably, but I really do! I think we’ve got a good rapport and we just tease each other so I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Changing impressions of Cressida
My attitude to Cressida has completely changed. At first I thought “I want to fight her corner” and have her as this person who is completely in love with Troilus and is in complete pain in the second half of the play. But actually, now I have discovered that she actually quite enjoys the attention of men and enjoys working out how to play them. Someone said the great thing about this play is that everyone is flawed and I think that is so true, Cressida can resist everything except temptation, and to try to pretend she isn’t as weak as others isn’t honest. So I think that’s the way it’s got to go now. She really does betray Troilus and so to fight that would be stupid, but if you present her as a young girl discovering herself, I think it is more understandable.
Matthew said to us on the first day of our read-through, “I want you the Trojans to speak with Northern accents, but don’t worry, we’ve got six weeks to get there.” Read throughs are always a bit terrifying anyway, so no one did it on the first day. But on the second day, I just thought, “I’m going to do it now!” Otherwise you get scared and never do it! You just have to put yourself out there and start laying the groundwork.
To help, at the end of last week, we had an accent coaching session. The accent coach is brilliant, it is very interesting, she just says “if you’re from here, you’d do it like this” and then she just does that accent! It is really quite amazing. It really helps that Matthew is northern, so he can sort us out too. He said that where he is from – Oldham, I think – everyone is very economical with the language, very direct and to the point. He explained that it’s similarly in Troilus and Cressida a military language, so lots of people shouting orders and needing to be heard. It’s not wishy-washy and I think Cressida is quite like that too, she is direct and she doesn’t have a filter, she just says it how it is.
In comparison, the Greeks are from all over the place, so the actors playing those characters are all using their own accents, which I’m sure is very deliberate. I guess the idea is that the Greeks are all a bunch of mongrel states, whereas the Trojans are a really tight community. We never see any of the Greek families or set up.
I love doing accents, it helps me detach from myself. I just have to practise, I love playing with them and anyone who knows me knows that I do that in real life anyway! I’ve got one friend in particular, we’ll just be talking normally and then we’ll break into Australian, and then start making up little characters and being silly. You learn it by copying people and just practising it round the house, talking to yourself (like a loser!)
I’m from Northern Ireland myself, so it would be a bit strange if I was Irish in this play – the audience would think where on earth is that Cressida from?! But I love it that it’s not RP, it is so easy just to do Shakespeare like that. I think that is what is going to make this play really fun and real.
We have certain times allocated for the music and we have drumming for the end of the play, but I have no rhythm! Dancing or anything rhythmic is a nightmare for me! So they decided just to put me on the bass line. I’m there with the boys – I’m a bit of a laughing stock! Yesterday we were on the stage having a go at banging the drums.
These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as s / he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his / her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.