Shakespeare's Globe

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"The audience are part of that play more than in any other theatre". Paul talks about first previews at the Globe and how the audience make it feel more like a rock concert than a play.

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Time: 8 minutes 41 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

You’re now into performance. You’re still in previews. So how is it going? How was the first night and how was the first week?

Paul Chahidi:

Well the first - even though I’ve done quite a few previews at the Globe, I haven’t worked here for about 10 years and, I mean, you just never tire, you never become jaded about the first night at the Globe, really. It’s extraordinary, it is like being - probably loads of actors have said this - it’s like being at a rock concert; more like a rock concert than a play. And I’ve never encountered a more friendly, warm or supportive audience than I have at first nights at the Globe - or generally at the Globe to be honest - because I think the space asks everyone to be active and 500 people are standing and you can see them all, it’s much more a participatory experience than in a darkened proscenium arch theatre. And it’s enormously exciting and very nerve-wracking and we were aware that the play was in a rough state compared to what we would like it to be, but it wasn’t bad. And I think we went into previews going ‘well, it’s a preview. There are lots of things which we want to address which we haven’t done yet and we will look at that’ - that’s what previews are for because we rehearse round it - but that first night was just brilliant. And the first preview is extraordinary because you go in as innocent as you’ll ever be about the play because you have done it to the same group of 4 or 5 people for a month and a half up to then and everyone is bored of everything, you know. You don’t get any response from your stage managers or actors; you’re not surprising anyone in the room. But then when you go out there and they’re suddenly laughing at bits you never expected them to, or very silent in bits you thought they might laugh at, it is a real education. And Mark Rylance said, just before went into that, the preview period, he said, ‘this is the next stage of rehearsals, where you will be rehearsing with the audience and they are almost like the missing character in the play’. And they are very much this kind of personality; the audience are very much a part of that play more than in any other theatre.

Hayley:

So what about the audience then: are they reacting in the ways you expected?

Paul:

They are in some - I mean, you try not to expect too much, you kind of try to keep an open mind about things and not try and force them to laugh or anything, just see where it goes. You play it as truthfully as you can in rehearsals and then offer it up to your audience and see where they go with it and how they react. But no, I mean there are some bits of text where it’s clearly a bit jokey and you expect to laugh, sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. And then there are other bits that you think, ‘Well, I never even noticed that in rehearsals’. And then the audience are laughing at it because there is some witty interchange there. I knew they would enjoy Mark [Rylance] as Richard and he knows how to relate to the audience with such ease, and is very playful. But, you know, there are certain things like, he’ll come onstage in a long gown when he’s been crowned and he’ll swish it over the heads of the audience and they love that. You know, things like that just come out from performance and it’s great, it’s great.

Hayley:

I love Mark’s little hand, it’s so cute. It’s disgusting but cute…

Paul:

‘It’s disgusting but cute’; I’ll tell him that. I would say it’s more disgusting than cute.

Hayley:

How about having the audience behind you then, in the Lord’s Rooms? That’s different…

Paul:

Yes, because I understand that’s not done very often anymore and that was always what we used to do when I was last here and I think that the Lord’s used to sit there. It’s great, it’s not many people but it does just remind you as an actor that it isn’t just audience on 3 sides, it is on 4, and I just think that’s lovely. What we were encouraged to think about - and I think people who have worked at the Globe before already know it, but it’s always good to be reminded - is you can’t stay still in one place for a long, long time because in any position at the Globe you’ll be blocked by the pillars. And that’s fine but you should move it around a bit and play with big long diagonals and techniques like that so that, you know, you kind of vary it. You might feel like you’ve got your back to, if you’re in a corner with some of the audience, but then there’ll be people on the sides of you who will see your reactions who you’ll be facing. It isn’t like a proscenium arch theatre, in a sense there’s no bad place to be. In fact the only that – I remember Mark was talking about, and he reminded us of this – is a bit of a weak position, I don’t know why, is in a line between the two pillars. If you stand in that line it somehow really weakens you. Mark calls it the valley of death because if you stand one pace upstage or downstage of that you are suddenly in a really strong position. You need to be bold because, for instance, one thing I’ve found, and we’ve all found, is if you’ve got an intimate scene with two people, your natural inclination is to go really close to the actor and play it close to them because it’s intimate. However, if you’re in the audience, it actually feels like you’re excluding them if you do that. You can do it a bit but you are excluding them and it’s a big space and there are people all round. So actually, ironically, what happens is if you increase the distance between you, for instance, if you go one person to one corner and another person to the other downstage of the pillars, and have a very intimate conversation there, it works, it stays intimate and it allows the audience in. And the joy of the space is that it rewards you if you do that kind of thing and big diagonals work brilliantly, absolutely brilliantly. And, of course, if you’re the one upstage, you, like I said, will do a bit upstage and then move and the other person will adjust to you; they might end up upstage. And you keep fluid and poised to adjust.

Hayley:

How about distractions at the Globe? Now this is something you will be used to having performed here before, but how are you finding it so far? – so this is things like birds and planes and even seeing the audience doing things.

Paul:

I’m not bothered by that at all. We’ve had some big old army helicopters coming over. I think we are going to have quite a few of those because of the Olympics. And they’re not like the normal tourist ones, they are deafening. I mean, Peter Hamilton Dyer, whose played a lot here, he just had to stop at one point and let the Chinook helicopter pass. It was ten times louder than a plane and it just passed and it was fine, you know, it was fine. Same with when the rain comes and everyone gets their macks out. You either decide to top it and go big with your voice, or you just give it a moment and let it pass and then carry on. The audience were doing a bit of hissing at Richard III, you don’t often get that…

Hayley:

They were cheering when I was there…

Paul:

And they cheered later…

Hayley:

At an awful King…

Paul:

I know they love him don’t they? There was a bit of hissing, comedy hissing, when he came on crowned as king and they were going ‘sssssss’, like that and that’s when he swished the robe over their heads, and they loved that.

Hayley:

So just one more question which is going back to the jig: how does this jig perhaps differ from a normal season jig? Is there anything to do with the Original Practices that was used in it.

Paul:

Gosh, this will be traditional – I think, because we are Original Practices, we’re just doing authentic, kind of, Elizabethan dance moves, put together by Sian Williams, who is our brilliant choreographer. And so it’s very much in keeping with the whole style of the whole production. And it works in harmony with the costumes and things because you can only move in a certain way in those costumes. So there are a lot of galliards and leaping, you know, it’s very traditional moves. But it doesn’t mean it’s boring, it’s quite energetic in places and certainly some of the guys at the front doing their leaps, it’s very athletic. And I mean the jig, I’ve got to say it’s the most brilliant end to a show. Just as an audience member of jigs I’ve seen, it’s like if you’ve enjoyed the play, or even if you haven’t, I just think the jig is amazing, it’s so uplifting and emotional and enjoyable and powerful. And it’s like the perfect button at the end of the show to go ‘right, now you can applaud if you enjoyed it.’ And it just gets everyone, it whips everyone up into a real frenzy, it’s fantastic.

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