This is Bruce's final blog post. This week he reflects on how the play has progressed from the earliest stages of rehearsals and looks ahead to taking King Lear to the Tokyo Globe.
Transcript of Podcast
From research to performance
The play is getting more and more ‘fluent’. The play was rehearsed very well and when we began the performances we went on stage with a solid story and structure. At this stage in the run we are looking for effects (moments that create a reaction from the audience) rather than trying to change the story or structure.
When I begin a play, my understanding of the character I am playing comes from looking at the play as a whole. My research for Kent was essentially getting to grips with every line that he said, the situation that he is in and the decisions he is making due to these situations. I believe that a person/character is typified by an accumulation of their actions. I did not do much research outside of the play when exploring the character of Kent (such as looking at Earls in the Elizabethan times). I did research the themes related to the play from external sources. I remember researching the stocks, because Kent is put in the stocks.
My current ideas on Kent have changed from my preconceived ideas of him. I now feel that I can play his actions as more ‘urgent’ rather than calm. The entire play has become more extreme, in relation to the actions of the characters, as they no longer seem at ease with everything.
Shakespeare's language can be difficult and there is no substitute for the hard work of going through the speeches line by line. It is useful to refer to dictionaries and glossaries that are often at the back of the text. There is a very good book that I use called ‘Onions, a Shakespearean Glossary’ (edited by Mr Onions), he talks about all of the phrases and words in the plays that have gone out of common use, and puts them into context. There are even times now during performances that I will suddenly realise exactly what something means. The way in which you speak the language is also very difficult, but the verse can help you with this as it puts emphasis on certain words. Learning lines is a real challenge and you can only remember them if you understand them and if you are familiar with the situations that they are spoken in.
I remember the first preview performance of King Lear was very frightening. But I realised that it is my role to deliver the story as clearly as possible to an audience who may not know the story. During the last month the play has really started to ‘hum’. Each actor in the play needs to be sure of what is going to happen next and if an actor is still doubtful then he will not have the impulsiveness that many characters need. It takes a long time for the actions of the character you are playing to feel like second nature.
The company is going to the Tokyo Globe once this run has finished. We will be there for two weeks performing King Lear. We may have to make changes in terms of entrances and exits through the Yard. I have been told that the Tokyo Globe is a modern building with the same floor plan as this Globe. It does not have a high stage, and although the Yard is the same shape, the area has seats in it. Therefore it may not be possible to make entrances and exits through it. I am very excited about going, however, I am not sure what to expect!
This has been a long run, and it is challenging to keep the performance fresh. You have to remember that there is a new audience in every show, and therefore the story is new for them and they have to be able to understand what is going on. It is the audience that helps to keep the performance fresh as each one brings out a different quality in the show. At the Globe in particular the audience is very dominating and you cannot pretend that they are not there as you can in other theatres.
If I could play any other character in King Lear then I would play the Fool (But I would have to know how to play the ukulele). I think that Albany is also an interesting character.
These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as s / he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his / her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.