Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 6

In her penultimate blog post Sarah discusses her feelings of anticipation, the tech week and developing Dogberry on stage.

Transcript of Podcast

Last week

I had my hair cut and dyed – Dogberry takes shape! In rehearsals we’ve been working on lots of physical gags for the Watch scenes. It's a gag fest! I’m trying lots of silly things. I'm apologetic at first but then I go all out for them! I find that helps the whole scene; I know that once I stop feeling self-conscious, I'll have a lot of fun and the work will be more successful. I now know what I’m saying too; no more line worries. Whilst Dogberry has serious things to say, I do think he's physically stupid. He hasn’t got any idea of physical direction – none of the Watch do – so there are quite a few physical gags that we’ve been working on which will add to the general clumsiness of those scenes. I think it's good to have lots of gags which we can then pare down; that's better than going out there with nothing to entertain the audience! So rehearsals are good fun and I haven’t felt ‘This isn’t funny’ or ‘This isn’t working.’ We’ve all chipped in with ideas and put them into the scenes. We’re not developing gags at the expense of the words – I think the words speak for themselves. Though once you’ve worked on a funny gag for a while, you do start to wonder whether it's actually funny anymore. We’ll have to just wait and see what an audience makes of it all.

Playing comedy

To play the comedy, I think it's important to find the truth in it. When people found out I was playing Dogberry, they tended to say ‘Oh, he's the funny one,’ so I did feel pressure to be funny. However, I knew I wouldn’t just be looking for gags – you can’t do it that way, because true comedy comes from seriousness and from the characters being serious. Arthur Lowe was an extremely serious man in Dad's Army. Obviously, we pull funny faces but that comes out of whatever we’re doing at the time in the context of the story. In my experience, if you don’t worry about whether something is funny or not, then it will be funny. As I become increasingly sure of Dogberry's character, I find it easier not to worry and just find the comedy in him. The more we run it, the more I’ll learn about him. The joy of doing a run is that things will grow – we’ll pare down some of the comedy bits, but we’ll gain other things as a result of seeing the play come together as a whole.

Dogberry and the Watch

I think Dogberry feels as though the rest of the Watch are a bit of a raggedy bunch but they’re the best he's got. Hopefully he can get them into shape, or maybe Verges could train them for him. I think Dogberry becomes increasingly fond of them as the play progresses: they catch two villains, so they’ve done something right, and the subsequent examination gives Dogberry's status a boost.

I hope Dogberry would say ‘Well done’ to the Watch and congratulate them at some point after the arrest – offstage if not onstage. I think he's ultimately very proud of his men. At the beginning of the play he perhaps seems a bit gruff with them; he's worried that they’ve got to go out there tonight without him, and they’ve got to be responsible. He does get impatient with all their ridiculous questions because they really should know the answers. Dogberry shouldn’t have to keep thinking up the answers for them. He's very fond of Verges (as long as Verges backs him at all times) but I also think that he couldn’t really function without Verges. There's a sort of dependence there. I have realised that there's a lot of love in this play and that doesn't exclude the Watch; they care deeply about each other, and there are lots of triangles: I’m in awe of Leonato, Verges worships Dogberry, and we’re both completely in awe of the Prince. There's love left, right and centre! Well, I suppose it's to do with being impressed by another person's status and power... perhaps as we’re an all female company, that dynamic leans towards love.

Lines & anticipation

I know my lines, but a little voice in my head keeps saying ‘No, you forget when you’re slightly nervous.’ That's annoying; I want to get on and play the scene without drying - I've dried a couple of times in rehearsal. It's the only thing that has been annoying me; jigging is getting much easier and I’m very excited about understanding where my feet are! I was talking to Jules [Melvin, Verges] about the way the audience roar at the end of the show: there's this explosion of sound whenever a Globe jig begins. I’m looking forward to being a part of that. It's been fascinating to see Romeo and Juliet thing going on, very exciting. I went to see Romeo and Juliet on Saturday night and I spent the whole time with sweaty palms... one minute I thought ‘Oh! That will be us next week’ and the next minute I thought ‘I can’t wait, can’t wait, can’t wait!’

Technical rehearsal

I’ve been itching to get onstage during the tech. When I did get onstage, I thought about the theatre being full of people and I dried, which was odd. So I’m filled with excitement and fear – the state I’m usually in during a tech – but this time I’m more scared and excited than usual, because Much Ado About Nothing is going to be such a different experience for me in that space. I’ll be able to see everybody and every movement that the crowd makes… I’m so used to being in a dark theatre that the space here is quite nerve-wrecking. I think it's healthy to be nervous though, and I know I don't need to worry about Voice now. I’m confident that the audience will hear me!

Compared to technical rehearsals in other theatres, this seems easier: there are no complicated lighting queues to sort out for a start. The Globe is much more immediate, open to the elements. In that way, it's more fun. Also, I’ve never enjoyed wearing a costume as much as I enjoy wearing Dogberry's Elizabethan clothes. I love them! It really feels like getting dressed up – the beards and moustaches are great fun. I have a black doublet and hose made of silk, which very comfortable and relatively light weight. The doublet is a little tight, but I’m relieved that I’m not wearing a corset: a lot of the Company members playing male characters wear corsets to flatten their chests. I’ve also got green stockings and leather shoes. Getting into and out of the costume takes a bit of time and practice though. I put my shirt on first then I work my way up from the bottom: stockings and shoes on, then the doublet and hose which are laced together... I get into them as though I’m an astronaut climbing into a space suit. Then all the buttons and ties are done up. You can’t do the cuffs yourself – that's the only bit I need help with now – apart from that, I can do it all myself. The girls wearing corsets have to rely more heavily on the dressers, but I like the idea of being able to do it myself. I also have to put almond oil in my hair to make it greasy, which is very good for my hair but means I’m going to have greasy hair all day every day for the next few months.

I like to see what all the other characters are wearing too - that just helps to build up the world of the play. Romeo and Juliet starts at 7.30pm so our technical rehearsal hasn't been going on too late into the night either: the hours feel very civilised. We’re going to have another run tomorrow, which I’m looking forward to because that will help me grasp how the story fits together. I can’t quite believe how fast Sunday [the first night of previews] is approaching.

Character development

Being on the stage has helped me to feel happier with Dogberry, but I believe the audience will make the real difference and little things in the Watch scenes will keep changing all the time. Sunday [First Preview] will be quite a shock. We might find that something really doesn’t work whilst something else works so well that we have to wait five minutes for everyone to quiet down before we speak again. We’ve done the Watch scene onstage in front of tour groups [visiting the theatre during the technical rehearsal] who didn’t make a sound; Jules [Melvin, Verges] and I came off and thought ‘This isn’t going to work!’ but we really have to wait until the theatre's full before we decide.

There's a part of me that can’t quite believe that Sunday's going to come. I can’t imagine myself going out in front of all those people. I am almost petrified, but I guess that's the only way to be at this stage. Next week I’ll have performed, and I’ll be able to tell you how the gags went!

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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