In his penultimate blog post, Michael discusses how the re-rehearsals have changed the run and the audience's reaction to Edmund, as well as his reflections on how Edmund relates to the other characters and the audience.
Transcript of Podcast
We have now put all the minor changes we made in the re-rehearsal period into the performance. The re-rehearsal period was about broadening and deepening the production. Initially, I used the re-rehearsal period to bring some of the later aspects of Edmund's personality into the earlier parts of the play. So, rather than Edmund having straight forward journey from ‘happy go-lucky’ guy to military king, now some of his toughness appears earlier and some of his geekiness later. This way, he seems like the same character all the way through the play. He is just operating in different ways. I think this makes him more of a coherent character.
However, when I performed this more complex Edmund for the first time some of the audience began booing in places early on in the play, where they never had done before. I had thought, and hoped, that making the character more real would result in a greater level of belief from the audience. Barry [Kyle, Master of Play] suggested that it was because of some of the nastiness I had introduced into Edmund at the beginning of the play. The audience were seeing the Edmund they expected they were going to see. This worried me at first because I don’t like my characters to be too predictable to an audience. I could have encouraged this booing, but I think that it is detrimental to the tragedy of the play. I am not sure that I am doing anything differently now, but the audiences do not seem to be booing quite so much.
In re-rehearsal we did some ‘hot seating’ work which allowed me to really appreciate what Edmund stood for, which was great. I started to get anxious about how much the audience is charmed by him. He is almost like the conventional charming villain. He has great wit. It makes me wonder what impression of Edmund that the audience leave with. Perhaps they’re thinking ‘wasn’t he funny’!
Edmund's relationship with the audience and other characters
I went to watch Cymbeline and noticed how much Mark [Rylance, Posthumus] is able to listen to an audience. I don’t just mean when they laugh. He is able to listen more closely than that. At the beginning of the season I had been putting a lot of energy into trying to convert the audience to Edmund's way of thinking. After seeing Mark, I thought I would try and listen to the audience in the same way, and not work so hard to convince them. I have to be careful that this does not affect the amount of energy I am putting into the role. I find that if I don’t inject enough physical and vocal energy into what I’m doing then the audience also reacts with less energy.
In rehearsal I spent a lot of time thinking about Edmund's relationship with the other characters. Now that the show is up and running I spend my time thinking about the audience. I think that this is because most of the character work has been done now and that I am secure in what we decided. I also think that it is necessary for me to think a lot about my relationship with the audience because Edmund has a unique relationship with them.
I don’t feel that many of the scenes in King Lear have changed that much since the rehearsal period. What has changed, though, is that we all trust each other a lot more than we used to, which means that the scenes tend to flow more easily.
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.