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RSS Rehearsal Notes 3

This is Ann's third and final blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III in which she talks about continuing rehearsals and understanding and developing a character.

Transcript of Podcast

This is Ann's third and final blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III in which she talks about continuing rehearsals and understanding and developing a character.

Rehearsals

Recently, we’ve all shifted gears during rehearsals. Now, each day when we come to rehearsal, we will run several scenes together instead of concentrating on one scene at a time. So, we might run a group of scenes in sequence, a whole act, or even most of the play. This shift of gear is different for different actors: for me, it really lets me know the points during the play where I know what I’m doing and when I don’t know. For the Red Company as a whole, I think it's the sort of shift in gear when we suddenly realize that “We’re doing a play in a few weeks!” Starting to run the play during rehearsals allows us to see the play as a whole as opposed to seeing just our scenes and those other bits we’ve happened to watch during rehearsals. So right now, we’re at the next stage of piecing it all together.

As we run sections of the play; I try to really get a sense of what is actually going on within this world, the world of the play that we as a company are creating. For me personally, the most important thing to do during these rehearsals; is to establish what I’m doing; what my character's intentions are in the play at different moments. This doesn’t mean that the way I play scenes will stay the same every time we do them, but, I have to make sure that my character's intentions, the platform for which I can start to experiment with my scenes, is secure.

Character Development

For me, figuring out what the character wants is the most important thing, if you can figure out the intention behind what you’re doing, then, your movements are going to convey that naturally. Take the Bosworth battle (v.4 – v.5), for example; if I’m not careful, my character will appear to be running around on stage for no good reason when in fact there's a very specific reason behind it; I’m looking for Richard. Whilst I’m on stage, it's important that I have no doubt about why I’m there even if I don’t have a line where I share this with the audience; “I’m running around looking for Richard.” If I know that's what I’m doing, then I will hopefully be able to communicate this reason to them without telling them directly. It will help the audience understand that there's a reason for me to be running around all over the place, even if they’re not sure exactly what that reason is.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently really figuring out what Catesby wants. Catesby wants to promote and encourage Richard. Of course, as with most characters, he wants different things at different stages of the play. But, the main thing he wants is for Richard to be King; he wants to make sure that happens. One way Catesby promotes Richard is by suggesting to Hastings that Richard should be King:

Catesby: Many good morrows to my noble lord!

Hastings: Good morrow, Catesby; you are early stirring.
What news, what news, in this our tottering state?

Catesby: It is a reeling world indeed, my lord,
And I believe will never stand upright
Till Richard wear the garland of the realm.

Hastings: How Wear the garland! Dost thou mean the crown? 

Catesby: Ay, my good lord.
(iii. 2. 35 – 42)

Beyond that, he supports him and makes sure that he gets what he wants. He encourages Richard by being loyal to him, being a friend, and being a sort of political advisor. In order to communicate that, Kathryn [Hunter, Richard III] and I have done a great deal of work developing the relationship between these two men. In the play, these two characters trust one another. They have a friendship based on similar interests and beliefs. Catesby had believed in Richard's father and he believes in Richard. He believes that Richard is the best person to rule England because he's a fighter. He will be a strong King who will be able to restore English rule in France and also cure England. Catesby recognizes that the state is sort of infected by an overly indulgent court and he knows that Richard is the person who's going to put things right.

Catesby is always trying to support Richard. A significant part of Catesby's political journey is the point in the play where Richard begins to show that he's under a lot of pressure. At that point, it becomes about keeping Richard up right, in power, in control. That's not to say that I think Catesby is after power of his own because I do not list “gaining political power” as one of his objectives. There is one exchange between Buckingham and Catesby, however, that does indicates that Catesby could hope to be in a position of power in the future:

Buckingham: What think’st thou then of Stanley? Will not he?

Catesby: He will do all in all as Hastings doth.

Buckingham: Well then, no more but this: go, gentle Catesby,
And, as it were afar off, sound thou Lord Hastings
How he doth stand affected to our purpose,
And summon him tomorrow to the Tower
To sit about the coronation.
If thou dost find him tractable to us,
Encourage him, and tell him all our reasons;
If he be leaden, icy, cold, unwilling,
Be thou so too, and so break off the talk,
And give us notice of his inclination;
For we tomorrow hold divided councils,
Wherein thyself shalt highly be employed.
(iii. 1. 167 - 180)

While I don’t consider political power one of Catesby's main objectives, I do think there is an element of “I’ve got to keep on the right side of Richard” in Catesby's objectives which overrules any concerns he might have over whether what he's doing is right or wrong. As opposed to Buckingham, who, throughout the play he has insecurities about supporting Richard and remaining in his favour. When he falls, he realises his mistakes and his faults:

Buckingham: …This is the day which in King Edward's time
I wished might fall on me when I was found
False to his children and his wife's allies;
This is the day wherein I wished to fall
By the false faith of him whom most I trusted;
This, this All Soul's Day to my fearful soul
Is the determined respite of my wrongs.
(iv. 1. 16 – 19)

In contrast, Catesby definitely wants to stay on the safe side of Richard and doesn’t have any concerns about what he has to do to stay there. Fundamentally, though, I think Catesby is motivated to do what he does for Richard because he genuinely wants a better England.

Character Profiles

Early on in rehearsal, we (the company) did an exercise with Barry [Kyle, Master of Play] where we each profiled one of the characters we portray. The profile was created from a set of detailed questions about the character's background and role in the play. He asked us questions such as ‘What's their full name?’ ‘What's their job?’ and ‘What's their darkest secret?’ I chose to profile the murderer. I suggested that the murderer's darkest secret was that he secretly loved other men. And one day, Barry suggested that maybe Richard was once my lover! I think these sorts of details are really important when playing a character on stage; the more you know about them, the more natural your performance becomes. Barry's suggestion added a closeness to the relationship between Richard and the murderer, but also a distrust; could one of them use this secret against the other? Even though we haven’t agreed whether to keep this ‘secret’, starting to think about potential details of this relationship have been a great help in starting to develop the character. Barry also suggested that, even though I’d only selected one of my two characters, that there are many parallels between the Murderer and Catesby, and he's right. These two men both feel a bit out of place in this society and are therefore willing to serve Richard. Though they belong to separate social classes, they support Richard for the same reason; they hope that Richard will bring them a better England in which they may find a future. The existing society doesn’t need them, and they hope that Richard's England will offer them a more active role.

In continuing to develop the character of the murderer, it's been really helpful to get a bit of feedback. Now that we’ve started to run the play, the other actors in the company have become a sort of first audience. Now, when we do the murderers scene, Barry, Abby, and several actors in the company can watch. I think they like the murderers, I think they like the characters; they’ve been giving us good feedback. What we are learning is that this scene is highly enjoyable for the audience. These two men will make the audience laugh when they least expect it. At least I hope so.

Starting to run the play during rehearsals is a very important part of an actor's journey. That journey begins when she reads the play for the first time. And everything that actor does between that reading through the performance is the journey that actor makes; that's her job! An actor reads a play and says to himself about every character: “What's this person doing here?” and so begins the discovery about that character. Those ideas that you come up with, even the ones you come up with early on, I think, are very important because that's an actor's initial response. At this stage in rehearsals, it's important for an actor to remember these initial responses as well as all the work we’ve done over the last few weeks; the combination will help us take the last steps towards performance.

With thanks to Melinda Scott

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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