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RSS Rehearsal Notes 1

This is Ann's first blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III in which she talks about the first week of rehearsals, her roles in the production, improvisation as a rehearsal technique and choral singing.

Transcript of Podcast

This is Ann's first blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III in which she talks about the first week of rehearsals, her roles in the production, improvisation as a rehearsal technique and choral singing.

First Week of Rehearsals

The first week of rehearsals was fantastic! It was very exciting to start working here, and yet at the same time I didn’t feel nervous at all. We spent the first week of rehearsals getting to know everybody in the company and doing lots of group movement work. Barry [Kyle, Master of Play] is planning on using group movement in several different scenes so we’re exploring how to move as a group, like a flock of birds. To do this, you simply have to be extra-aware of everyone around you; where they are and what they’re doing/how they’re moving. One exercise we did was to have the group standing in a triangle formation (lines of 1, then 3, then 4, then 5 people (and so on) in front of each other), with the person standing alone at the ‘top’ of the pyramid as the ‘leader’ of the group. Everyone in the group then has to essentially ‘follow the leader’, copying the way they move and the speed at which they do so, whilst at the same time being careful not to get in the way of anyone else. This sounds fairly straightforward, but we play the game so that no one person is ‘leader’ for very long. Whenever the ‘leader’ turns into the triangle, in any direction, they give up their role as leader to whoever now finds themselves at the tip of the triangle. In this way, the ‘leader’ of the group can often change very quickly, and you have to keep on your toes to stay together as a group. After having tried several group exercises, we then started to look at how we can use group movement at different points in the play. One scene we tried was act 2 scene 3, where three citizens discuss what will happen now that Edward IV has died. The actors playing the three citizens were asked to try the scene whilst the rest of the group joined the scene as state officials, perhaps policemen. Just by our presence as a group, those actors playing the citizens were forced to play the scene as though they were being watched. We were thinking about how we can create an unsettled atmosphere, how we could suggest instability within the world of the play, and this exercise seemed to do that quite well. I don’t know if we’ll use it when we come to putting all the scenes together later on, but group work will play a large part in the production.

My Characters

I’m playing Catesby and the First Murderer in Richard III, and I have to admit, I’m really looking forward to playing some male characters on stage. It seems to me that often, whenever you play a female role, you are often hindered by people's expectations of your character simply because that character is a woman. For example, whenever your character is upset, you are expected to be far more emotional than you would be if your character was a man. Likewise, when I had to play a mother in one play, I was asked to play the character in a far softer, more traditionally maternal way than I originally thought would suit that character. Playing male characters means there is no pressure to fulfil any such expectations, which is great!

I think Catesby is a fantastic part; it's a small part, but a good small part, because he has such a strong function in the play. I see him as Richard's spy, a secret agent. We see more of him as the play goes on, as Richard gains more and more power, which means I have a lot to do! My first impression of the murderers’ scene (act I scene 4) was how funny it is; you see two people trying to do their job but they haven’t got a clue what they’re doing:

Second Murderer: … Shall I stab him as he sleeps?

First Murderer: No. He’ll say ‘twas done cowardly
when he wakes.

Second Murderer: Why, he shall never wake until the
great Judgement Day.

First Murderer: Why, then he’ll say we stabbed him
sleeping
(ll. 101 – 107)

The first murderer totally fails to understand that killing a person in their sleep means they won’t wake up again… The scene is hilarious, but obviously I’m not sure yet exactly how we’ll approach it; whether we’ll actively play it ‘for laughs’ or not.

Improvisation in Rehearsals

We’ve been using improvisation in rehearsals to help us find ways into our scenes, and this was especially useful when looking at the murderers’ scene. It's a common temptation for an actor to allow the way you play a scene to be influenced by the fact that you, the actor (not the character), know exactly what's going to happen at that point in the play, and that knowledge can blur your character's journey through the scene. The murderers’ intention at the start of that scene is simply to kill Clarence. That's it. It's when that intention is affected by Clarence's pleading that things start to go wrong for them. To help us start the scene with a clear intention, Barry [Kyle, Master of Play], got us to improvise the scene as though the murder goes according to plan. Clarence didn’t get the opportunity to talk to us; we taunted him, shouted at him, (in fact, I’ve lost my voice a little as a result!), and then killed him without any fuss. Having improvised the scene as though our initial intention is fulfilled has really helped us clarify what this intention is, and should really help us to develop the scene as it appears in the play, when this same intention is totally altered by Clarence's pleading.

Singing

As well as group movement work, we’ve also had a lot of group singing rehearsals. A lot of the music in the play will be unaccompanied, a cappella singing. At the moment we’re working with Belinda [Sykes, Master of Singing] on some Eastern European songs. One point in the play I know we’ll be using singing is the beginning of act 1 scene 2, when Lady Anne enters following her husband's body. The songs we’re rehearsing at the moment are songs of mourning, such as would have been sung at a funeral. Interestingly, in Eastern European Music, such songs would most often be sung by women so although most of the company are playing men in the play, when we’re singing as a group, we’re singing as a female chorus.

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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