Shakespeare's Globe

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In his fourth blog post, Paul discusses the challenges of re-rehearals, Edgar's relationship with other characters and the interaction between action of the play and the audience.

Transcript of Podcast

Re-rehearsals

I met the re-rehearsals with some trepidation. When you work on a play for a few months you develop set ways of playing the scenes and you have worked out how things should be done. It is, therefore, very challenging to start rehearsals again and face the prospect of your ideas being altered. I have thought of the whole process as a human bone! You begin with broken ideas, which are like fragments of bone, and fuse them together until you have a fully functioning bone. However, if you break the bone again, there is always a chance that it will not heal fully.

Before the re-rehearsal period I had worked out how to play the ‘madness’ scenes and I had started to associate particular images with these scenes. I found it difficult to be presented with new images in the re-rehearsals (e.g. I now come on stage, as Poor Tom, with a cradle). However, I have enjoyed this. Small changes took place during this time and some bits have been cut back further. I think that it has ‘freshened’ the play up.

It was also very challenging going back onto the stage after the re-rehearsal period. However, we all now have the confidence for working in that space and interacting with the audience (knowing when to draw them in or exclude them). We are currently trying out all of the new thoughts and ideas.

During the re-rehearsal period, Barry [Kyle, Master of Play] wanted me to broaden and deepen the concept of madness in my character. I was also keen to concentrate on the portrayal of the relationship between Edgar and Gloucester. Was it coming across clearly? We looked at ‘tweaking’ the beginning of the second half of the play, which begins with a rather ‘dense’ speech. I want to make sure that people understand it, and so I have been working on really drawing them in to the speech. It is a difficult speech and often people are more interested in the costume of Poor Tom.

Edgar and other characters

I was talking to Geoffrey [Whitehead, Gloucester] about the relationship that Edgar has with his father. Edgar is a man who loves his father, but is sent away from him in very intense circumstances. Edgar warns his father against being too proud. I think that at first the audience thinks that Edgar is a weak and strange character, whereas Edmund is very cool. This may be because I only appear in two very short scenes at the beginning of the play, and then I suddenly come back on and declare that I am going to act mad. However, I do not think that Edgar is weak or strange. Michael [Gould, Edmund] and I were discussing the two brothers, and the change that happens to them in the play.

I think that Edgar and Cordelia share similar qualities. They both characters who try to harmonise the world on stage, particularly with their fathers. I think this is where the parallels come from.

Madness and disguise

I do think that there may be an element of real madness in Edgar. It is extraordinary, and actually mad, to suddenly decide that you are going to act mad. Shakespeare has a plethora of disguises that he gives to characters, but for Edgar he chooses madness. It is an interesting journey of discovery for Edgar, and at the end of it he emerges a man. At the beginning of the play he is quite cerebral, but as the play develops he begins to ‘root’ himself. We became very interested in the images of Christianity that he talks about, like being chased by the devil. Edgar goes into the wilderness to discover himself, and he learns that he is a redeemer and can help his father and Lear.

There is a big theme in the play of appearance and reality, particularly with Edgar and Kent – who change their appearance (physically). However, there is also the idea of what people truly want and what they display to other characters. How honest is everyone? Who can you trust? It is finally in the last scene, after everything that my character goes through, can I say that I am Edgar. This is a very important part in the play for me as I am finally honest about my identity.

The play and the audience

I love performing the play in the evenings when you can see the transition from day into night. The play gets darker and more intense as the playing conditions in the theatre change. Things were a bit unsettled when we first went back on to the stage after the re-rehearsal period. However, it has begun to gel together and we have captured the play again and the audience really wants the play to ‘flow’.

We had a very good show last Friday, and I felt that this was because of the audience. I love the interaction with the audience at the Globe. It is almost as if we do a different play every night, because each individual show is different. The interaction always changes, depending on the scene or the speech. I have found that there are two types of soliloquies. Some are like magnets; they draw people in to what you are saying. Others I call ‘electric’ soliloquies as the words go straight out to the audience. My soliloquies start off as magnetic and as they play develops they become more electric. Conversely, Edmunds’ speeches become more magnetic.

Often the people at the side of the theatre can feel a bit isolated from the action, and so at one point of the play I share a moment with them so they feel a part of what is going on. It is when Gloucester is about to jump off the ‘cliff’, and I wink to the audience as I am ‘helping’ him do this!

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 change frequently as the rehearsal process progresses.

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