Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Pre-Rehearsal

In this introductory interview, Matthew talks about learning Shakespeare at school in Scotland and how Don John's motivations link him to another of Shakespeare's villians, Iago.

Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

My name is Hayley Bartley and these are the Adopt An Actor Podcasts for 2011. I’m here with Matthew Pidgeon who plays Don John and the Sexton in Much Ado About Nothing. So my first question is what was your experience of Shakespeare at school?

Matthew Pidgeon:

Like a lot of people, I found Shakespeare at school pretty turgid and boring. We used to sit in class and we’d all take a turn about to read a speech. So you kind of go around the room and you get these very insecure, uptight, little Scottish boys and girls reading this very low, quiet, monotone. And we didn’t understand what it meant and I don’t know whether the teacher particularly understood what it meant either. So that’s my memory, so I wasn’t particularly impressed with it. I’m being slightly unfair because I do remember, in primary school, I had a very inspirational teacher who showed us the Trevor Nunn, Ian McKellen, Judy Dench Macbeth and I think I was probably about eleven or twelve and that really blew me away. We watched the whole thing and I think the whole class were really excited by that.

HB:

And so how did you first get into acting?

MP:

I did a whole bunch of youth theatre stuff when I was a kid, my sister was is actress as well, my older sister, through the same drama teachers I got into youth theatre. I just loved it, I loved showing off and jumping around and being silly.

HB:

And so, moving onto the play, what were your impressions of the play coming into rehearsals?

MP:

I remember to get into drama school, which was more than twenty years ago, I did a speech by Benedick. You had to do a Shakespeare speech and a modern speech and I did the speech, “This can be no trick”, after the gulling scene. And I guess I just thought it was very funny and I hadn’t really thought too much about the other relationships within the play, I really thought about the Beatrice-Benedick-thing.

HB:

Even though, it’s kind of the subplot. Really the Hero-Claudio is the main plot, but it’s not seen that way because Beatrice and Benedick are seen as the main characters almost.

MP:

Yes they are and talking about this being a plot, I think it’s a very modern piece of writing. And there’s the plot of getting together, but I don’t think that’s what people like, I think people like seeing them obviously liking each other and fighting it and that’s a sort of very modern relationship. One plot has honour and birth and blood and we think of these things as being, I suppose, old fashioned values, medieval almost. And the other is a very modern part of the play which is just two people that obviously like each other not getting on.

HB:

No, you’re right actually. That’s an interesting way of looking at it. So what were your initial impressions of your characters?

MP:

My initial impression of the Sexton was it’s there and I think all of that stuff is quite fun.

HB:

It’s nice to double, I think in any Shakespeare play, because that’s what would’ve been done. I think that’s a great opportunity.

MP:

I’ve done it before actually, doubled. I did a production of The Tempest where I played Stefano the drunkard and Antonio the evil brother. And I really enjoyed that, so I guess, I thought a bit about that. Don John, I think, is an interesting character. He doesn’t say a lot, so I guess I wonder why I didn’t say a lot.

HB:

Well, I’ve just been talking to Ony who plays Hero and I’m like, “She doesn’t say a lot, but she’s on a lot.”

MP:

Well, he’s just this kind of malevolent presence, isn’t he?! He’s there, Don John, but he’s not hugely profound, I wouldn’t have thought. He’s not like Iago, not this huge old prevailing evil that kind of swallows up the stage, but he is there and he is significant and he is interesting. And I suppose it does say things about the other characters of the play as well.

HB:

Yeah, I think it will be interesting, as you go along, to think about your relationships with some of the characters, perhaps like your brother and things like that, but I don’t know whether it’s probably too early...

MP:

...Yeah I don’t know, I mean they are complex. You know, I mean is Don Pedro wholly good, is Claudio wholly good, is Benedick wholly good, is Don John wholly bad? Who knows?

HB:

Do you do any research before rehearsals or do you come in with a blank canvas?

MP:

I suppose I read the play a few times. I had the Arden edition so I went through that and I read the foreword and I tried to understand what various obscure words meant. I did a bit of stuff online, so I suppose in theory I did do a bit of research. But I think the answers are in the play so I’m not that concerned with a lot of back story.

HB:

But I think it’s nice because you’ve obviously been thinking about other characters. How he’s connected maybe to Iago and things like that.

MP:

Yes I mean I did, I can’t deny I did go on Google and looked up a lot of stuff and I read things as well.

HB:

So I just want to ask about the first day of rehearsal. So for people who don’t know what you do on that day.

MP:

On our first day we had a ‘Meet and Greet’ where we met everyone in the theatre and we got a little bit familiar with the workings of the theatre itself. We found out where we were going, where we were rehearsing, that kind of stuff. And the first piece of work we did on the play was just to sit down and start reading through it. And that was the first day.

HB:

It was Just kind of very introductory then I suppose.

MP:

Absolutely, yeah.

HB:

Have you been here before?

MP:

No, I have not been here before.

HB:

No, so a new experience.

MP:

It’s great to be here. It’s just strange. Your every need is catered to and you’re very well looked after. It’s just a great set up, you know.

HB:

It’s good and that was pretty much my last question so thank you very much.

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