Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 3

In her third blog post Sarah discusses a visit by the Tudor Group, working on voice and whether or not Dogberry should be armed.

Transcript of Podcast

Rehearsals

I’m rehearsing my first scene – Act three, scene three – this afternoon, and the other scenes follow shortly after, so there won’t be much waiting around in between calls. In the first scene, I basically meet the Watch and decide who's going to be Constable for that evening; I have to work out who's the most responsible. I think the first thing we’ll have to do when we get into the rehearsal room is to work out who actually speaks the lines in those scenes. In the text, they’ve been allotted to the 1st and 2nd watchman, but there could be any number of watchmen. It will be interesting just working out who's who. What else happens in that scene? I suppose I order the watchmen about in a very self-important way, telling them what to do – be careful of vagrants and drunkards and thieves and so on – then off I go.

What else this week? The Tudor Group came in to talk to us about the social and cultural context of the period. They certainly know their stuff. I didn’t get a chance to ask them about why Dogberry boasts about being a house holder – I wanted to know what that meant in terms of his status. I also wanted to ask what my profession might have been, because the Watch would have been volunteers, definitely unpaid. Dogberry must have had a day job! The only research I had done until that point was to tape an episode of Dad's Army, and again that made me think about what Dogberry's career might have been. I can’t seem to come up with answers at the moment: I’ve slowed down even further in trying to work out who he is! I was going to learn the first scene but I decided to wait until we’ve rehearsed it a little. I am familiar with it, but as long as I’m unclear about what some of it means, there's no point just learning the words. I’m looking forward to clarifying those bits and pieces this afternoon. After today, I will be word perfect! I’m sure if I hadn’t rehearsed in the third week of any other show, I’d be panicking. I’d think ‘there's just no way I can do this’ but actually I’m feeling quite calm. I was talking to Yolanda [Vazquez, Beatrice] the other day and she said she was quite scared because she has tomorrow and the next day off, so perhaps it's more scary having time off once you’ve already started rehearsals! Everything I’ve come in for over the past three weeks has been immensely helpful, even though it hasn’t involved work on my scenes themselves until now.

Voice

I’ve just had a Voice session with Stewart [Pearce, Master of Voice]. We did lots of breathing, and it was quite illuminating. That might seem strange: everyone's always breathing, but actors are trained to breathe in a special, controlled way to make sure you’ve got enough air to say your lines properly. Stewart and I talked about how we’re always taught to breathe from the diaphragm. Well, actually, it's not a very natural thing to do. Breath doesn’t come from there. The diaphragm is a muscle that's used for breathing, but a lot of the pushing in and out also happens through the ribs and the back. That was quite an eye opener – I’ve always been taught, ‘It's from the diaphragm’ – of course it is, but from the ribs are just as important. At this late stage in my career, I’m being told I can breathe from here and there. Another ‘voice’ thing I was thinking about the other day is that I’ve got into the habit of using a silly voice for Dogberry: I wonder whether I’m barking up the wrong tree with that one. Well, I’ll talk to Tamara [Harvey, Master of Play] about it. I put on this voice at the audition and I kept it. I’m only slightly concerned about whether that's right or not.

Song and dance

The jig is wonderful. We’ve all got cameos that show little glimpses of the story. I did wonder at one point whether I could put my hand up and say maybe a little character trait of Dogberry's is that he gets everything slightly wrong, maybe he should muddle his steps too. That would solve my problem with being unable to count the bars properly! I love doing the jig in a big group and the singing yesterday was amazing. There's going to be a song for the tomb scene and possibly one for the wedding too, but I’m not too sure about that one. The singing sounded great and everyone's keen to remember their parts. I’ve opted for the middle part. I could sing the top but I thought that might be a bit straining. I could probably also sing the bottom too… but as I never really know where I want to be, I’ve opted for the middle! There was a very interesting bit of the session where we ran through it and we did quite a nasal version, which really freed my voice up. It was much stronger when we sang like that.

Weapon?

I don’t think I’ll wear a weapon, and I’m quite pleased about that. Swords are difficult to handle by all accounts. At first I did want something to hold – the Tudor Group showed us a cudgel and I thought ‘Oh, that's what Dogberry would have,’ but actually I don’t think he’d have anything. The only thing he does have is a lantern, which he gives to another Watchman, as though he's passing over some great responsibility. Deep down, Dogberry is incredibly frightened of any sort of criminal and I don’t think he’d want any sort of weapon on him in case it provoked an attack! I don’t think he’d even want to touch a sword, let alone draw one.

Today's Wednesday and I’ve got my first call to work on a Dogberry scene. I’ve been called on Thursday and then again Friday; I’ll be an old hat with this rehearsal business by next week!

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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