Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Performance Notes 2

This is Marcello's sixth and final blog entry for the 2005 production of Pericles in which he primarily discusses dance in the production and the changing cast members as the production has progressed.

Transcript of Podcast

Dance

We’re much freer in our movements now so the dance on stage is sometimes very wonderful – I call the show a dance because it is for me a dance. We have to be very aware of each other's movements otherwise there are collisions… awareness is even more important because we’ve got aerial choreography too. Yesterday the choreography went slightly askew. Suddenly I was swinging on a rope with Tilly coming towards me and I missed her by an inch! So the dance could be dangerous if we don’t get it right. Nothing has happened yet (touch wood).

Changing Cast

We’ve now had a few performances with John McEnery as Old Pericles. After Corin became ill, Mark stood in before John took on the part. Mark was totally different from Corin and John's totally different again. It was very interesting for us as actors to play with three different interpretations because our performances have changed in relation to the propositions of each actor. We go from a very honest, earnest John to Mark who is quite bold and comic but also very heartfelt. Corin has a totally different control over the verse, saying the lines almost without breaking them, whilst Mark has a skill whereby he makes the verse sound natural by almost breaking it up, stuttering to a point. Sometimes with Mark I feel Old Pericles is like a brother to Helicanus. With John, I become more like a friend who has great responsibility, whereas with Corin I felt more like a junior statesman with a different level responsibility.

Corin, John and Mark all went through different rehearsal processes – Mark had one day of rehearsal and then read the text on stage (the Globe doesn’t have understudies). John went through five days of rehearsals and little by little learnt the part. Corin had six weeks of rehearsals. Staging-wise, the different information each actor physically conveys is very interesting because for me the text is one thing, then there is a whole physical language too. Gower makes a proposition and Pericles reacts with his body as well as the words. If he physically turns away or resists what Gower has said instead of going along with it, then that tells a different story. So we have to be very aware of those changes when we perform – movements might happen with a different timing or intensity or direction. Sometimes the story might not be as clear because of that, so you have to pay special attention to how they do it and adapt your own movements.

Each actor enters as Old Pericles with a totally different rhythm in the last scene, when Helicanus introduces him. When Mark enters, I feel like he's mad so I almost try to whisper ‘Behold him. This was a goodly person…’ I don’t want to make his disaster too public and I get very upset. Yesterday there was a beautiful moment when Jude [Lysimachus] asked Mark ‘And I have another suit…’ Mark had just seen Diana and he was still caught up in that vision so he didn’t seem to understand Lysimachus – as Helicanus, I wonder what has happened to him.

John enters at a quicker pace, as though he's been hardened by everything that he's suffered. He's angry and closed off. As Helicanus, I feel I can be more robust because there is a different kind of vulnerability there. It's like the difference between a child that's been shocked and a person full of tension and conflict. John's Pericles is decisive after the dream-vision of Diana: ‘We have to go to Ephesus. I thought we were going to go to Tharsus but we’re not and I’ll tell you why later.’ He catches on to Lysimachus’ request straightaway: ‘It will be wonderful – you with my daughter, that's good!’ He's very practical with great energy. It's very interesting to learn from the performances how much scope Shakespeare gives for different interpretations. I like that very much.

I also like noticing how people emphasise different words or images in the text, and how that's coupled to physical language. When Marina tells Pericles ‘I am Marina,’ Mark runs around and says:

O, I am mock’d,
And thou by some incensed god sent hither
To make the world laugh at me.
[V.I]

He decided the reason why he says this line is because her answer made him do a stupid run (he runs away from her around the pillars) that causes the audience to laugh. I thought what a brilliant freedom, to say the text and physicalise that reaction. Why should the world laugh at me? Because I’ve done something slightly foolish. If it's something foolish, how can I react to Marina's name?

Another very simple difference in the scene where Pericles introduces Marina to Helicanus is that John orders ‘O Helicanus, down on thy knees’ and Mark asks ‘O Helicanus, kneel down.’ Although the line is the same, I react in a totally different way. With John, Helicanus doesn’t kneel down straightaway because I almost say ‘Why should I? Who is she?’ When I’m asked, I pause for a different reason ‘Why is he so troubled, why is he asking me?’ And that introduction affects my relationship with Marina. If I’m ordered to kneel, perhaps I don’t trust her quite so readily. We tend to assume we can become intimate very quickly but it's not easy. When you know someone very well, you know how they’re going to react to something. That doesn’t come quickly, that comes from spending time with a person.

Another thing I found over the last couple of weeks is that I tend to shout too much as Simonides! There is always the problem of sending up an emotion, whether you pretend to be upset or really go for being very furious and let the audience wonder whether you mean it… I’m trying to find a tone that is truthful but not quite so angry. It's hard because I’m not like that naturally – when I shout, I shout!

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.

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