This is Zoe's first blog entry for the 2007 production of Othello her career prior to this production, first impressions of her character and beginning rehearsals, amongst other things.
Transcript of Podcast
Before the Globe
I suppose I should start with drama school. I went to the Central School of Speech and Drama and left in 2003. We spent a lot of time doing Shakespeare there. For a couple of terms we focussed on comedies and then we focussed on tragedies. There were a few opportunities to share parts so, for example, I played Rosalind with another girl and then in our final term before we went into our third year, all the girls did a project on Richard II and all the boys did Macbeth and so we got to play all the nice male parts which are always a bit weightier and bigger! When I left central I was very lucky and got a lovely film job directed by Richard Eyre called Stage Beauty where I played Nell Gwynne. It was lovely and a dream jobs – I was on cloud nine the whole time I was doing it! That led me down a television and film path and so the doors of the theatre world were firmly closing which was a bit worrying. At drama school you pretty much do all theatre. You spend two or three weeks on television work and the rest of it was about building character sand putting on plays. I finally got my first theatre job in 2005 which was a play called Epitaph for George Dillon by John Osborne and Anthony Creighton which was great because it got me back on the theatre track. This production of Othello is the first Shakespeare play that I’ll be doing professionally so it's very exciting and a big challenge.
I had three meetings in all. At the first one I read with Wilson Milan the director and Dominic Dromgoole the artistic director of the Globe. They called me back on the following Friday night to work on the stage. I had to perform on the stage which was a little bit daunting and I thought that was going to be it. I think they had a little bit of trouble working out who they wanted to play it and got it down to two people and then Wilson decided that he needed to see us all again. I then came in for about three hours on the next Thursday. I found out that I had got the job that Thursday and it started the next Monday! It was lovely to get it finally, and there was a mad rush over the weekend.
First impressions of Desdemona
I read the play at drama school and we’d studied scenes in classes. It wasn’t a play I had been in before as a whole play. I’d seen it on stage and I knew the story and I knew the play. I love the part of Desdemona because she is one of the few younger parts who I think shows real strength. She has a real weight behind her.When we first see her she is doing an incredibly defiant thing. She stands up to her father which at that time would have been huge – not only to be marrying a black man and going against her father's wishes – but to declare her love for Othello in front of her entire family.
What I love about the early part of her relationship with Othello is that she very much fell in love with him through listening to his tales about his adventures through the world and the dangers that he found and the battles that he fought. She responded to that and I think there's a passion that she has which is akin to his passion. I think they have found a kindred spirit in each other. I think that's why their love has to be so ferocious at the beginning for the audience to believe how much he is betrayed at the end. I felt that she's actually a very moral person and it would have taken such a lot for her to have defied her father and the only way she would have defied him is because she absolutely fell in love with Othello and she had to be with him. I think if you start from that you’ve already got a character who is not only ruled by her passions and emotions but also by her morals. She's very fervent in her defence and standing up for what she believes in. She's very resolute in her defence of Cassio, she fights for him. When she knows and believes something in her mind she absolutely stands her ground and I think that's a lovely quality. It makes her very direct.
As you keep exploring the language you find a lot of her words are to do with her senses. She talks about her eyes, her ears and her voice – it all comes from her soul and her being – she's a very sensual, sensitive person. I very much want to veer away from making her too angelic and ‘airy fairy’ because I think she's absolutely direct. She knows she hasn’t betrayed Othello and she knows who she loves. I think, at the moment, that's very much how I’m wanting to play her.
Acting at Shakespeare's Globe
We haven’t had a proper text session on the stage yet. We have had a movement session. I have to say its terrifying! I keep getting these lurches in my stomach every time I think of the first night and walking out seeing lots of people. Its one thing playing to an empty auditorium but quite another playing in front of all those people. I’m trying to block those thoughts! But hopefully by the end of the rehearsal process I’ll be much more comfortable!
The First Week of Rehearsals
The crux of it has been to read through the play and keep rereading it to absolutely iron out any little problems we have - any worries about character and any worries about the shear mechanics of how the play works. So we’ve been reading it a lot and by doing that we have been finding out new things every time. We’ve also had a couple of voice sessions with Patsy Rodenberg who's just fantastic and absolutely brings it alive. She makes you aware of the danger of the text because speaking Shakespeare is not like speaking a play that would be written today. Patsy believes that you speak every single line to survive. You’re speaking as if you’re just about to change the world. There is so much weight and gravitas to everything you say therefore your voice is so important on relaying that.
We’ve also had brilliant help with research from Dr Farah Karim-Cooper. We can literally say ‘what was Desdemona's education like? And suddenly I’ve got an answer which is fantastic. So this first week has been about finding out as much as we can about the characters, the place where we are – Venice and Cyprus - and really sort of setting the scene. When we’re on stage we won’t have complicated backdrops. We have to believe where we are and what we’re doing to make the audience then believe it. Its been a good week so far.
The design of the production is set in the renaissance. I’ve seen a couple of pictures which I think they’re going to base my costume on. I think I’ll have two main costumes. The first one is for when I start off in Venice. It will be quite formal and strict – showing her full background and that patrician family that's she from. When I go to Cyprus it becomes very romantic with lighter colours and it might become a little more bohemian. The costumes will defiantly reflect the two different places and what they represent.
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.