This is Joseph's first blog post. This week he discuesses how he became an actor and his training, his first impressions of the Globe, and paraphrasing the play in modern English.
Transcript of Podcast
My first performance was as Jesus in an Easter pageant at Church, and I remember seeing people crying, and I thought well that’s a reaction, I like that. From the age of about eight I was in various school plays, and I thought: ‘I can do this’. I’m old enough to be of the generation that was required to learn poetry by heart at school, and right up until I was 16 learning lines was part of my life. I think that we genetically have a need to memorise and tell stories, it is a way humans have always passed on history and knowledge, and this need to memorize comes right through to rap. The rhythm of iambic pentameter is said to have the same measure as a heart beat, and this makes it feel very natural to speak, which aids this process of memorisation. It’s such a shame that we’ve taken poetry out of schools, hardly any teachers encourage students to memorize. Why is it that kids can memorize reams of what seems to us to be nonsensical noise, called rap, and yet they aren’t being challenged to memorise Wordsworth, Shakespeare, or even modern poets. Though I have to admit memorizing lines as a child was much easier than it is now! When I was younger I was doing it to show-off and to get applause, but when you’re memorizing for a play you’re learning the lines, and then you have to remember the directions, what the other actors are doing, the action, it is a lot to take on. But when all those things mesh it aids the process of memorisation, because when you walk this way or hold someone’s hand, the lines come back to you, it’s in the memory of your body as well as your verbal memory, well that’s how it feels for me anyhow. The mind is unpredictable. Occasionally something happens and you dry up, a word goes, and hopefully another will come to mind. That has happened to me, your mind is dealing with a lot when you’re stage, and it’s tiring. When I was younger I gave this less thought, but as you get older you begin to respect the work it entails more. I’m not saying it’s the toughest job in the world but I don’t think people realise what the process is and often I don’t think actors themselves understand it fully.
I went to university because I thought perhaps I wouldn’t have a career as an actor. I didn’t have that much confidence in myself. I read English, and I thought I was probably going to teach and get married. But that didn’t happen, I became very involved in theatre at university. I got so involved that finally I ended up going to the New York University to do drama. I was there in the late sixties, when New York was the hottest place to be, it was just thrilling. It was teeming with people at the forefront of the arts, a hotbed of creativity. It was also a turbulent time in the States, with the civil rights movement happening, and Martin Luther King’s assassination, it seemed as though change was afoot.
I’d started doing a PhD in theatre history and theory at New York, but I needed to do some research in England for a one-man show that I was also preparing. When I came over here someone suggested I take the show to the Edinburgh Festival, and I did. I won some awards, and I thought I’ll just stay for a year but I ended up staying, getting married and having a child, and of course I didn’t go back to finish the PhD. I ended up at the RSC and that’s exactly where I wanted to be, because Shakespeare is my great love and here I am some 30 years on still doing it.
This is my first time at the Globe. It is exciting to be here doing a play that I did years ago in the states, playing Edmund. Now I’m playing his father. It’s nice to have lived to have done that. I find it thrilling here, it’s such an audience orientated venue, in the way that it was in Shakespeare’s time when the audience was very much part of the event. I’m looking forward to the experience of performing at the Globe, I’ve had a little preparation as I’ve done a promenade productions of Pericles and The Winter’s Tale where the audience were in and around the action. But I’m not looking forward to getting my eyes put out.
In the first week we did something that I think is very useful when you rehearse Shakespeare, which is to read the play and paraphrase it in normal everyday English as we went along. So for example, Gloucester says ‘Edmund, how now, what news?’ which you would paraphrase as ‘Hello Edmund, what’s going on?’ It means everyone knows exactly what is going on.
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.