Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal 2

"I would be lying if we weren't all starting to think, 'Oh God! We've only got two weeks left!'...but I know it will be fine." It's the end of the 4th week and Paul discusses the stimulating exercises they have been doing in rehearsals with a focus on text and voice.

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Time: 10 minutes 15 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

So, how many weeks are we in to rehearsal now, do you think?

Paul Chahidi:

We are coming to the end of the fourth week and I believe-I really hope I am right or else I’m in for a nasty shock-we’ve got two more weeks to go and then we go into the theatre and tech it and I think at the end of that week is when we start our first preview. 

Hayley:

Well, we’ll check that, but hopefully.

Paul:

Yeah, let’s check!

Hayley:

So, what have you been doing in rehearsals since we last spoke?

Paul:

Well, we still haven’t done a read-through, I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen, and it seems to be fine. We’ve been sort of breaking it up into scenes now where not everyone’s called all day but still doing a lot of games and exercises with the scenes and  the verse-work and a lot of the work has centred on not worrying about the staging in any way but getting everyone to speak the verse as though they’re in the same play, by which I guess I mean setting up an underlying pulse which everyone is part of through the way they speak the words. While the language line-to-line may go from a regular iambic pentameter line to some irregular ones, you’ll always come back to the regular whenever you can, which is: De dum, de dum de dum de dum de dum five times. It’s just to get everyone speaking verse in the same way and create a style, a unifying style of speaking it, rather than some people mumbling and pausing: “To be, or not (pause) to be, (pause) that is (pause) the question”. You know, I mean it might as well not be in verse at all and the verse is there to help you and I think a lot of rehearsals with Shakespeare are about relaxing everyone, whilst also showing them what they need to do to rise to the challenge of the verse but showing them that that is there, there are lots of little tools for the actor within the verse form and the language which will help you and you’ll have more help by adhering to it than you will if you ignore it.

Hayley:

Ok, so maybe we’ve touched on this a little bit then, but have you done any text-work? 

Paul:

I mean I, I’d done quite a bit of Shakespeare, so in terms of understanding the language I’d kind of done my research so it was more about the verse and it’s always really good talking to Giles [Block, text advisor] because he’s very reassuring. He said, you know, “the most important thing is for it to sound natural to an audience” and that’s always a challenge, you know, respecting the verse, using it but also trying to make it intelligible to an audience. So, we had one session with him. A lot of work in the rehearsal room with Tim [director] but often in the form of games, you know. So for instance, he’d give us a tennis ball and maybe there are five people in a scene and when you say your line-let’s say you have a speech of five lines-you would throw the ball up at the end of your line and then catch it on the second syllable of your next line, hold it and then chuck it up again at the end of the next line and catch it on the second syllable of the beginning of the next line. So, “Woe, woe for England, not a wit for me” (Chuck the ball), “For I” (catch the ball), “too fond might have prevented this” (chuck the ball), “Stanley” (catch the ball), “did dream the boar did raise my hound” (chuck the ball), and so on. And it starts getting you into almost a sort of physical thing when you’re feeling the rhythm of the verse and I was terrible at this-I mean we were all pretty bad at it- to begin with but now we’re all really quite good at it. Then, at the end of your line, if someone else is speaking you chuck it to them and they catch it on the thing and it’s all about having this undercurrent of this iambic beat going through and getting everyone being in the same world. So, we’d do that and then games where we would intone a line, so we’d take out any kind of - I’d go: [said in a monotone voice] “To be, or not to be, that is the question”. I think it’s to do with making it neutral so that you can then see what the possibilities are before you make any strong choices and also it opens up the voice as well and we’ve been doing quite a few exercises with voice to.

Hayley:

Yes, that was my next question.

Paul:

Yes, I tell you what we’ve had is Tim [director] is very good-he’s directed opera and he’s got a lot of knowledge about voice and stuff. You know, if you come in in the morning, your voice is pretty un-warmed up and can be a bit croaky and, even if it feels warmed up, you’re not using the full range and you really want that for performance; you want to be able to, without thinking, you want your instrument to be really on top form so you can go very high with very little effort and go very low if you have to, without thinking about it. That variation and having that vocal weaponry in your armoury is really important for an actor. So, we’ll do things within a rehearsal on a scene that will open up your vocal chords and, you know, what they can resonators: the areas in your head, and your chest and your belly that allow the sound to resonate. But, on top of that, we had some sessions with someone called James Oxley, who came in and talked to those of us who were going to play women at various points of this season and that’s including Twelfth Night. So, I am playing men in Richard III but I’m going to play women in Twelfth Night but Johnny [Flynn] and Mark Rylance and Jimmy Garnon were there as well-and Sam Barnett-and we had two sessions with James about the differences between men and women in their speaking voices and what it was that made someone convincing as a woman. And we were sort of saying that it’s a conundrum, isn’t it, because you’ve got someone like Zoe Wanamaker, for instance, who’s got a rich, husky voice but you wouldn’t for a minute think she was a man, it still sounds like a woman. Then he got this machine out which would analyse-with graphs and displays as we spoke and colour it all in- our voices and he would say a sort of typical woman’s voice, whether they’ve got a deep husky voice or a higher voice, will fall within this range and there was a colour that came up-blue-and he said “you want to get as much blue as possible”. And, so, we experimented with that, doing it in a high-pitched and a low-pitched voice and it was often about certain resonators within your body that you’re activating and I basically won it because I was the best and that was the most important thing! And Mark Rylance was furious because he couldn’t work out why! James just said I’ve got a natural aptitude for a woman’s voice! It was very good and anyway he’s an opera singer, James Oxley, this guy who came in and it’s very good, even if you’re not playing a woman, to just start thinking about your voice.

Hayley:

You’ve done so many different exercises, it’s amazing! It must be so much fun!

Paul:

Yeah. It’s great. It’s really good. I mean, I would be lying if we weren’t all starting to think “Oh my God. There’s only two weeks to go and we haven’t really got up on our feet and done…” we have done a bit of that but, I mean, once maybe with each scene and a lot of them not at all. We haven’t got up on our feet and done it as though we’re going to do it on the Globe stage but so know that it’ll be fine because I’ve worked with Tim before and, you know, this is a really good group of actors and in some ways it’s very healthy, I think, not to start setting anything because I think the nature of the Globe stage is, when it comes to doing it on the day, I think what Tim will want is people to be fluid with their choices, so that when we do end up coming to do it, there is a possibility, in both plays, of people changing their positions every night. Not so much that it would mess up a scene for your fellow actor but so just so that if everyone’s used to being ready to go anywhere, then you’ll all automatically adjust to each other.

Hayley:

Yeah. So, I was going to ask have you done much work on movement, then, or is that something that will come later?

Paul:

Well, I tell you what we have had. We’ve had dance with Sian [Williams, choreographer], with the jig at the end. So, we’ve had about four sessions of that. We had a session with the Tudor Group who came, who live, for large chunks of their free time, in Elizabethan clothes and enact things and explore what it would be like to wear those clothes and movements based on their research.  And they’ve come in and they’ve done a lot of research. We had them about ten years ago when we did Twelfth Night and they came and did a very useful session for a couple of hours on the customs and manners of people in the Elizabethan period, when our play was written, and just talking about movement, and bows and status and how you would respond to…this play, all the plays, but particularly Richard is all about court, kings and princes, dukes, earls, sirs, lords, a couple of commoners, some murderers. It’s these levels of hierarchy and they’re all scrambling for the top and very ambitious people. It was rather like in Japan today; a bow is laden with meaning. It was like that then and because we’re original practises, we’re looking at how you would move, how you would bow to a lord or a king and the difference to a queen and how you would show your difference in status if you were higher or lower status, through those movements. For instance, we’ve all got swords, the lords and the dukes, so how do you move with this great big sword on? Really, in rehearsals it’s all very well wearing jeans and stuff but we’re going to have a doublet, hose a very…almost like a male corset, tight-fitting and a sword and we’ve got to be able to move as though this is not costume, this is what we always wear. And they [Tudor Group] were very good for that.

 

 

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