Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 1

In his first blog post Keith discusses the first week of rehearsals, voice and movement exercises and the experience of stepping onto the Globe stage for the first time.

Transcript of Podcast

Rehearsals

At the moment, Mike [Alfreds, Master of Play] is getting us to explore the text and the characters in a very physical, free way. First, we work on part of a scene, saying the lines in a very natural, almost monotone way. After this, we’ll try the scene twice: once with the script, then once without, using our own words. This is really helpful as it clarifies what we’re saying and helps us to find our character quickly.

Before we started rehearsals, we had to prepare three lists containing lines from the play. The first was of those lines where our character describes themselves, the second where they describe other people, and the third where others describe them. Taking each character in turn, we discussed these lists as a group, and then moved on to the physicality of the character. In this exercise, the actor playing each character remains sitting while the rest of the company get up and try out the role, exploring how they think that character might move, or how they might speak. This is really useful, as it can often suggest new ideas for how to play certain parts of your character that you can then take away and develop. It’s really a crash course in understanding the play, because we all get the chance to work on all the characters.

Voice and Movement

We’ve also been doing some interesting voice work in preparation for working on the Globe stage. Actors often get stuck on using their ‘head voice’ (when your voice sounds very high and strained) when they should also use their chest voice so they can speak clearly without effort. Hopefully, when we get on the stage, we won’t be tempted to bellow and people will still be able to hear and understand us.

We’re also doing a lot of work on stillness. That sounds strange from an actor, but stillness is very important. If you are relaxed on stage, you can focus the energy of your performance. Many of the characters in the play are very energetic, but that energy must be controlled or our performances will turn into something from a pantomime.

In the same way, Mike [Alfreds] is teaching us to control our energy through the way we speak the verse. He is encouraging to trust the language and to speak through it alone, not to overburden it with extra emotion. As one of the lovers, my scenes are very highly charged, but if we channel that energy through the language, the audience will be able to hear clearly what we are saying whilst at the same time understand why our characters are as energetic as they are. The lovers are often played as a group, as 4 shouting lunatics, but in fact they are distinct individuals. Demetrius (unlike Lysander) is a man of action; he knows what he thinks and therefore what he should do, like Laertes in Hamlet, or Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet. At the beginning, he is adamant that he doesn’t love Helena, but in the second half of the play he is adamant that he does. Both times, he is being truthful, even though these two positions could not be more different, - that’s what makes the comedy.

The Globe Stage

I walked out onto the Globe stage for the first time on our first day here, and it was an amazing experience. At first, I thought, this is going to be really, really hard work, but having played some scenes on the stage, it’s really exciting. If we can learn to play the space, it’ll be dynamic to watch, like watching the best football team in the world. I hope.

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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