Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Pre-Rehearsal

In this first interview, Ewan talks about his initial sceptism towards Shakespeare, but how he is already changing his viewpoint as he begins rehearsals at the Globe.

Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

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

Ewan Stewart:

I remember getting taken to see The Merchant of Venice in a theatre in Edinburgh. I enjoyed it. I was into Shakespeare and I did a Shakespeare at School, I did Twelfth Night and I gave my Malvolio, a triumph. So yeah, I was into Shakespeare at school, I liked it, anything that wasn’t to do with maths or anything serious. I probably just bluffed my way through, I didn’t really know what I was saying, but, you know, I acted it with bravado and hoped for the best.

HB:

So how did you first get into acting?

ES:

I suppose, to be honest, my dad was a variety, not acting, but he was a variety act in Scotland, so I got into it that way. I was more into the notion of just being in show biz in one way and then I started to get into theatre from a company that was at lyceum theatre in Edinburgh. But with the school, the school was good about going to the theatre and we saw a lot of straight plays and I just really loved it and it was a great company and great plays.

HB:

So was Edinburgh a good place to grow up in terms of drama and things?

ES:

Yeah, I think not bad. Pretty good, even now it’s got quite a few theatres ...

HB:

... and the festival.

ES:

And the festival,of course, yeah.

HB:

And what about Shakespeare, acting Shakespeare?

ES:

I’ve never done that professionally, I’ve never done that as a professional actor. I’ve always kind of shied away from it a little bit, to be honest. I didn’t think it was my thing. So, you know, I’ve really been knocked away by how much I’ve enjoyed so far doing this. Everything really connected with it, the play and especially in a way the theatre.

HB:

So if we move onto the play, what were your initial impressions of Much Ado [About Nothing]?

ES:

Initially, before I even read it, and this ties in to not having done Shakespeare before, I just felt, “Oh God, really?” And the more I read it the more I kind of got into it, the more I looked at it. But initially, not that positive if I’m honest, but again that ties in with, I suppose, just a degree of ignorance about what it meant. But, yeah, so as I looked at it more, the more I really kind of relished the notion of it all.

HB:

I mean it’s not one I ever studied or did at university?

ES:

No, it’s a good one from a point of view of, in some ways it’s more accessible because of the majority of it being in prose, so I think that make it immediately more accessible.

HB:

Let’s move onto your character then. What were your initial impressions of Don Pedro?

ES:

I thought, “Yeah, actually this is really quite a good part”. Looking at it, I thought, “This is really interesting. A lot of kind of interesting characteristics of the man, quite complex.”

HB:

How do you kind of approach it? Do you just read the play before hand, particularly looking at your character, I suppose? Or do you see like your character from other character’s points of view?

ES:

No, pure selfishness, I’m hardly even looking at other bits in it to start with.

HB:

I think that’s natural and then I guess that’s why it changes so much when you get into rehearsal.

ES:

Yes, exactly, and then you get it more on the context with everybody else. But to start with how much do I have to say, how much am I on stage.

HB:

Do you do any kind of research before hand or do you just read the play and then come in kind of with a blank canvas?

ES:

I pretty much come with a blank canvas, but I’m happy to look at research once I get here, not that much. I think Shakespeare is a little bit different and that was one of the things that really struck me, going into the Globe, because Glynn [MacDonald, Movement] who was helping us to understand the place, talked to us in such terms of fantastical notions. For us now, in the theatre, like this is the place where it centres around passion or this was the circle of love or - do you know what I mean? There’s something about it that let me off the hook of taking it overly seriously. It takes part in a fantastical world already, before you’ve even done anything, this theatre is this wonderful realm. You have to understand the social standing of the world, you have to understand the relationship between men and women, women’s place in society, in this case.

HB:

Status perhaps?

ES:

Status for me is a big thing because he is the kind of the king pin in the world in terms of status and the people defer to him. So you have to really kind of look at that and what’s the modern equivalent of that, try and find that out, what that meant to be a soldier.

HB:

So I just finally want to ask you about what you’ve been doing so far really?

ES:

Right, translating it for ourselves or that we paraphrased the Shakespearean language, so that there were no bits that were vague. It’s a terrible thing to be vague as an actor, to not know what you’re saying. I mean that goes back to when I was a kid, when I was a kid doing it at school, it would never have crossed my mind. You know, I just say it, it sounds good, it’s Shakespeare, you know. But now I can’t really get away with that, I don’t want to get away with it, I want to know if I see some expression that is not in common parlance then you have to question what it means. If I don’t know what it means nobody else will basically, I suppose. So we sat around a table and we played quite a bit of keepy-uppy with a ball, trying to keep that in the air, which was great fun, it’s a great game. And we were trying to go for our record, our current record is 116 hits to keep it in the air.

HB:

Is it always the same person that lets you down?

ES:

No, we all have our share of shame.

HB:

That’s good, I think.

ES:

No none of that. What else have we done? Well, after we sat round translating it for ourselves and making sure we knew exactly what we were saying, then we started very loosely putting it on its feet, as we say, blocking it and seeing where everyone stands on the stage.

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