Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 7

This is Sarah's final blog post. This week she discusses the first previews, surprises during the run and her overall experience of performing at the Globe.

Transcript of Podcast

First Preview

My feelings on the evening of our first performance: extreme panic and then, two minutes before I went onstage, a cold calm – a sudden moment of slow motion for which I was quite grateful, because until then I’d felt so nervous that I thought I was going cry! Then something inside me said ‘This is crazy, you’re going to enjoy it. It's going to be fine.’ I did enjoy it and it was fine. The first thing I noticed when I went onstage was the colours all around me – all the people in the audience were wearing clothes in different colours, a sea of people. The image that went through my head was of little beads on a warm cushion; the atmosphere in the theatre felt very warm, not at all frightening. I’m used to going out into the blackness of an auditorium and being aware of people's heads, but here the experience is completely different. I’m amazed that, at the Globe, my nerves don’t stay with me in the way they usually do. I still get nervous before every performance, but it's not a sickening feeling – nerves are mixed with an eagerness to get out there.

The first preview was amazing in terms of audience response: their laughing and clapping, their joy at our being there to tell a story. Now we’re settling into the show, and I'm getting used to the way the audience responds at different moments. The Watch's first scene [III.1] comes at the very end of the first half of the play; people are actually quite tired by then. Everyone gives such a good show – especially Yolanda [Vazquez, Beatrice] and Josie [Lawrence, Benedick] that the audience laughs so much all the way through the first half. They’re a bit tired by the time the Watch comes on; I almost want to say ‘We come back in the second half, and we’re probably funnier then!’ During the previews, we’ll find out what does and doesn’t work, and we can make adjustments. People seem to be laughing at most of the gags, which is great. Each audience is different though, and different people will find different things funny. A friend went to see the show the other night and was really tickled by the false exiting (after Dogberry has spoken to Leonato), but other people have responded well to the interrogation scene: the Watch use their weapons to make a dock to hold Borachio and Conrade in, but this doubles up as a witness stand too and things get rather confused.

Surprises

I'm surprised at how much the audience understand – I don’t know whether everyone has read the play or if they’re laughing because they know instinctively that the lines are funny. There are some lines that I never thought would work. I mean, all the ‘ass’ wordplay gets a roar – the volume of the laughter and their readiness to take us in and clap us off is brilliant. There is the feeling that we shouldn’t make the audience laugh too much because we want to let the play build, but sometimes that's just impossible. Especially at the Globe, I think. If people are going to clap, they’re going to clap. They’re enjoying themselves and I’m really happy with the play too. I’m rediscovering things about the character. For instance, I’d forgotten about the malapropisms whilst I was learning my lines. The ‘Dogberryisms’ got a bit sidelined, but I remembered what a huge part of his character they are over the last couple of shows. He gets so many of his words muddled up and that had simply become part of the line for me, but now I’m pinning his mistakes down and playing with them more specifically. At the end of the first half, I come on and say ‘There will now be fifteen minute integral.’ I’d lost confidence in doing that, so I said ‘interval’ for the several of the early previews, but now I say ‘integral’ and it's interesting to see who laughs just because I’m there, and who laughs because they’ve actually heard me say ‘integral’. There's a real mixture of responses and I like being able to see that variation.

During last night's performance, I was struck by how many of the other characters I don’t see at all and how many characters overlap with Dogberry. I never see Benedick on stage, which is quite bizarre. I see Beatrice because we cross over from one scene to another. I overlap with Hero too. That surprised me, and made me wonder how the overlaps effect the way the different worlds in the play relate to one another.

Direct address

I’m still a bit scared of actually pinpointing people in the audience – saying a line to one person. Really, I only have one line addressed out to the audience:

A marvellous witty fellow, I assure you; but I will go about with him. [IV.2.25]

Generally I do look out at people when I say that line, but I can’t quite catch anybody's eye. I suppose that will come in time, as my confidence increases. I usually see the audience beaming away when I do look out, although I worry that I’ll make eye contact with someone who isn’t smiling! It would be so upsetting if that happened that I sometimes think I’d rather not look. I expect it's easier for Josie [Lawrence, Benedick] and Yolanda [Vazquez, Beatrice] to embrace that kind of direct communication, because they have lots of lines about marriage and love and beauty which can be very inclusive. Dogberry doesn’t really have anything like that.

Overall

I’m enjoying every one of my scenes. It's odd to have the first hour and a quarter to wait before I go on stage, but I’ll get used to that. It is quite nice being able to come into the building and relax before putting on a tight costume! I don’t do a warm up, but every time I get to my first scene [III.3] and realise that I should have warmed up, because I do quite a lot of shouting… in future, I will do a warm up. Until a couple of days ago we were rehearsing, so that was a bit of a warm up, but just doing a jig call and not warming the voice up is not good and I will definitely start. I’ve never done that in the past, but this space makes different demands on your voice. I wonder where I could do a warm up… most people warm up in the yard before the show, but there aren’t many places to go once the show has started. The dressing room would be empty, so I could do a little warm up in there. I’ll have to find out whether it's well sound-proofed - I wouldn't want to interrupt the show!

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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