Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal 2

Ellie talks about the mounting pressure of performance, including dancing at the front for the Jig! She also reveals how the the play's labeling as 'a problem play' may be solved in their production by a closer reading of Helena's and Bertram's relationship.

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Time: 9 minutes 31 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

Have you done any text work?

Ellie Piercy:

With Giles [Block, Master of Text]?

HB:

Yes.

EP:

Yes I have. I love it. We have the amazing Giles Block and his amazing knowledge and sense of understanding the character as well. Spending time with him is so valuable and we sit and we go through the scene and we read it through and he points out either initial things, whether the rhythm could be performed in a better way, in keeping with the iambic pentameter or, you know, whether we’re putting enough stress on the end of a line to bring out the sense of the sentence. But also he’s not, you know, he’s not set in stone about things. It’s very interpretive as well, a very creative process.

HB:

Is there times, I guess, when you thought a line meant something and he corrected you on it?

EP:

Yeah, or you think, “I don’t know what this means”, and then he helps you understand it which is just brilliant. And I think, also, sometimes, when you do think you understand it, it can just sit on the sense and not go anywhere further, whereas when he opens it up, it can actually have so much more electricity about it. And I think when you’re playing the characters what happens is you can create stuff that makes you feel right, but you’re not playing on your own and you need stuff that actually changes the scene and has sort of dynamism and that’s what that does and it’s really brilliant.

HB:

That’s great! And how about any voice or movement sessions?

EP:

We’ve been doing our jig.

HB:

How’s the jig going?

EP:

It’s going really well. It’s quite vibrant and we sing at the same time, so we’re all trying to put that in. I mean, I love jigging so much and Sian [Williams, Choreographer] is incredible coming up with new ideas. And it doesn’t feel too Tudor, that we have to sort of only respond in a certain physical way to access it, it feels very fun and easy and it’s great. I’ll take that back as soon as I make mistakes. I’m the only one that stays, unfortunately, at the front for the whole thing. So you know that people not only at the back will be looking at you but everyone will be seeing every little foot that you did it wrong.

HB:

But then do you think the people at the back, they don’t learn it properly because they are following you. So if you make a mistake they’ll just copy what you do. So you look right whatever happens.

EP:

Oh. Oh that’s good thinking, okay. I love it though, it’s brilliant. In Indian films where the dances are about the love scenes and the stuff that they can’t say and the Tudor court is such a release to have those, even that they are quite suppressed sometimes. Their movement is such a release, I think, of what fire is inside them. There’s a whole bit that we haven’t done yet where Sam and I are just standing there going, “We don’t know what to do”, making up our little ridiculous things, so hopefully we’ll fill that in.

HB:

Because, I guess, you can’t spend too much time rehearsing it because obviously the play is quite important also, but it’s still the last thing people see.

EP:

Yeah, exactly, and it’s not easy.

HB:

Is there any particular scene or moment in the play that is significant to the interpretation of your character, do you think?

EP:

Weirdly, I think it’s a line we’re not saying which we’ve cut out.

HB:

Oh, okay. What was this?

EP:

At the beginning of the play, she says, “Who ever strove to show her merit that did miss her love?” [I. i] Which probably doesn’t sound very clear, but to me it means whoever proved themselves and their abilities in order to make someone notice them. I guess what’s happening is I am doing that so I don’t need to say it, but I think that’s kind of at the heart of it. She thinks she will win him.

HB:

Did you fight to have it in?

EP:

Yeah, we’ve put it back in for a bit, but it’s gone out again. But I think that’s what at her heart, I will always make sure that I can do the best to make him feel the most comfortable and often she gets that so wrong. But I think that’s her love because she condemns it as an ambition, she realises it’s totally inappropriate, so she thinks, “Ok, well maybe I can do something that’s of value enough, so that he loves me that way.”

HB:

That’s nice though that you can still draw on that line even though it’s not in there and it, you know, effects how you play her for the rest of the play.

EP:

Yeah. And then she’s got another line which she says to Parolles, which is still in, where she says, “It’s just so unfair that when you wish well to other people you are stuck, only wishing, you are not allowed to go and experience that wish with him.” And then her impetus is to say, “Actually, then I’m going to go. I’m not just going to be a wisher, I’m going to be a doer.” I like that line as well.

HB:

That’s nice. I look forward to that line.

EP:

Oh dear. Oh dear.

HB:

So, have your initial impressions of your character changed or been confirmed since the start of the process?

EP:

Both. I think it seems that there are initial instinctive reactions that have to kind of be pushed out of the way for a few weeks of the rehearsal process as you start to. Not only realise that you’re not the only one in this story, and that there are other things going on, and that you basically need to kind of live out the situations, experience them rather than sort of work out how it makes you feel as their character which is often how, I think, you look at your lines and your reaction is really how it makes you feel. You think, “Oh that makes me feel really sad”, or, “that makes me feel really excited”, or, “that part, I’m looking at how to tease him.” For me, that’s often a secondary place although that is the place that you should be working from. So for me, I kind of have to find out what’s going on in the inside. And then I have to stop working from that because that’s not what you should be working from, dramatically. Find what’s going on outside and let yourself be moved and affected, and affect other people because that’s what drama. It’s called inners and outers, you know, and not play your inner but play your outer so that you’re actually affecting. And then, what’s funny is that then the inner initial instincts come back, but I guess they are seen in a different way. You don’t just see someone on stage having a great time, indulging in what they feel. But I think she’s definitely changed in that she’s becoming braver and she’s putting herself much more on the line emotionally, off her centre a lot more than she was at the beginning. The risks are much higher now and she’s being kind of whisked into things much more, whereas before it was easy to be of bit more ploddy and to kind of claim things. You know to try to go, “Okay, this is what is happening to me in this scene.”

HB:

And you think, is she affected maybe by how Bertram’s played? Because you might have had an idea of Bertram reading it but now...

EP:

Yeah, he’s really nice. If he was really obviously sulking and obviously rude then I would be working from a completely different place, but because he throws me every time by being nicer it throws me even more to love him more. it’s very difficult to explain. The initial thing is I see him in a certain light and then as we grow he changes so I have to change. So my understanding of going off to convince him of my worth changes because he’s having a different reaction by being in Paris and with the king. So then my initial idea, my initial motive, completely falls apart. At the time it seemed like a really good idea, because we knew each other, to go off and go to Paris and try to heal the king. And then when he’s with the king and clearly, unbelievably embarrassed of what I’ve done, it totally undermines him and his manliness, I realise what a stupid thing it is. So then I’m like, “Okay, now I have to try to do something else to win him.” Does that make sense? And then it changes and then I think well the next thing I’ll do is I’ll do everything that he says because that will please him and then I do that so much and then that annoys him because I’m just being his obedient servant and he’s like, “Please, will you just go away? Don’t be too nice to me.” And then I’m like, “Okay, I’ll just leave. In fact, I’ll just disappear. I will just die.” Then I go on a pilgrimage prepared to die. Every shift of him letting what I do in more. He’s just a young man who wants to do things young men need to do, go out, experience the world a bit, have his own sense of who he’s going to be.

HB:

It’s not just poor Helena and evil Bertram, there’s so much more to it basically.

EP:

No way! In fact it’s a bit evil Helena. Yeah take advantage. It’s never ever one sided and a lot of lines coming up, words coming up that Shakespeare has written, that really make that clear or that we can really find the sense of that in it. For example, Bertram says at one point “I’ll send her home today...tomorrow! ” Because he doesn’t want her to go, you know, it’s just some things that are as simple as that. Or then I’ll say, “Okay, I’ll do anything you say. I’m going. But hold on a minute, we should at least kiss, we are married, it’s just a fact isn’t it?”

HB:

That sounds like a really nice dynamic.

EP:

It’s brilliant. The actor as well is able to bring, Sam Crane [Bertram], such warmth to him. That when there are moments that seem a little bit selfish or whatever - He doesn’t mean it and that’s clear, you know, he’s just stuck and he has just to release it somehow.

HB:

If you play it that way like you are then I think it does solve the problem play, or I like to think it might.

EP:

Now I’m wondering if the problem is whether it’s funny or not. But I’m not playing any of my lines for laughs. What we’re also doing is we’re not undermining the seriousness of what this is for both these people. You know and how that does when you’re in love, it becomes really serious and your whole perspective on everything totally changes.

HB:

So yeah, you’ll just see I guess how the audience react.

EP:

That’s not going to happen is it? Gosh do we have to do the show? I haven’t even thought about that part.

HB:

You do, you do, and it’s soon.                          

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