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RSS Rehearsal Notes 3

This is Marcello's third blog entry for the 2005 production of Pericles in which he talks about Boult and the brothel scenes, improvisation and the arrival of Lysimachus.

Transcript of Podcast

Boult and the brothel scenes

We’re moving faster through the play now. Recently we’ve been working on Mytilene [IV.ii] and that's the land where my third character, Boult, lives. He lives in a brothel with his master and mistress, the Pandar and the Bawd; I’m the go-between, the one that arranges the liaisons for our clients.

In our production, Antioch's daughter is very young and Marina is meant to be about sixteen years old – I think that makes their abuse all the more shocking. The transformation that Marina works viz-a-viz the men who try to abuse her will be all the more strongly felt because it comes from someone who's so vulnerable and innocent. Her powers to halt the attempt are almost magical. It's like the power of a child. An example that came up in rehearsals today was when a child says to his father ‘Where do people go when they die?’ The father gives the child an image and the child finds a beautiful solution in that image. Young children have their own particular wisdom and there's something of that in Marina: she has the wisdom or capacity to put a mirror in front of my face when I try to follow the Bawd's orders:

Boult, take her away, use her at thy pleasure. Crack the glass of her virginity and make the rest malleable.
[IV.vi]

The Bawd and the Pandar are annoyed because Marina has just converted Lysimachus – the Governor of Mytilene and one of their most valued customers – from his debauched ways. She's bad for business. Boult sets out to abuse her, and she holds a mirror in front of my face. That makes me pause and then she offers me the money Lysimachus gave her; I think that's what really changes Boult's mind. These people have a very narrow consciousness; as far as they’re concerned, the sex industry is fine, it's their daily bread. All they care about is a profit and that's what Boult sniffs in Marina's plan to become a tutor.

Mytilene market improvisation

We did some improvisation around the bit where Boult announces Marina's arrival to the brothel's clients… the Bawd tells Boult:

Take you the marks of her, the colour of her hair, complexion, height, her age, with warrant of her virginity, and cry, ‘He that will give most shall have her first.’ Such a maidenhead were no cheap thing, if men were as they have been. Get this done as I command you.

And Boult says:

Performance shall follow.
[IV.ii]

Later the Bawd asks Boult ‘hast thou cried her through the market?’ so we improvised Boult's announcement in the marketplace in a village on the Greek island called Mytilene (where the pirates brought Marina, where the brothel is). I went into the village – all the other actors became old men playing backgammon and drinking coffee or listening to music. There were beggars too. All that gave us a sense of the life of this little community. I started to tell them about Marina: ‘Listen! There is a virgin!’ and they all pricked up their ears: ‘What?!’ Everyone was curious – it was a horrible, lecherous reaction, as though all these people in the market were the ‘swearers’ that Boult talks about as the brothel's clientele [IV.iv.12]. In my text ‘swearers’ are glossed as ‘lewdly inclined’ and these men were definitely ready to flock to the brothel. That improvisation helped me when I came to describe the different reactions in Act four, scene two – ‘There was a Spaniard's mouth wat’red’ and so on.

When we tried the scene [IV.ii] again, I imagined that our brothel has a balcony that opens out onto the groundlings, so I refer to our clients as though they’re out there too. I advertise Marina to them like I’m selling her… that's my job. I also discovered that Boult strikes a deal with the pirates i.e. he tries doing a double deal, taking money from the Bawd and the Pandar, and making a deal with the Pirates: he gets money from everyone. That's Boult's aim in life, to make money.

Lysimachus arrives

Boult must also tap into quite a rich clientele of knights and lords. Even the governor of the town, Lysimachus, comes to us. Today in rehearsals we welcomed him into our brothel. Improvising around Act four, scene six, we imagined what the whole place would be like. Our brothel is very, very tacky and horrible: we have a toilet next to the little altar of the house, we have coffee that's boiled on a dirty gas stove, and we have a bed that doesn’t yet have sheets. Everything is jumbled together – the reception and the counter where we take the money and the toilet are all in the same little room, and that's where we invite our clients. Our brothel is very local, very cheap, and very nasty.

We welcomed the governor to this place. He comes to us in disguise so we don’t say he's governor – we just call him ‘Your honour’ and ‘My Lord.’ The Bawd explains to Marina about his position, but she does that aside. As part of the welcome, we offered him drinks, Champagne, cigarettes, a dressing gown… we perfumed him, we imagined that we almost bathed him; generally we lavished all our resources on him because he's good for business.

Thoughts on Boult

I’m finding the Brothel scene [IV.ii] quite difficult. I thought it would be easy to play, in a way, but his brutality is difficult. I’m not sure about his age: he might be quite young, in his mid-twenties, or 35 or 40, and he's local to the island. Kathryn [Hunter, master of Play] imagines the Pandar and the Bawd as two foreigners who come to the island and get involved in the local sex trade. As a local, Boult gets involved with these two characters and becomes their runner, the guardian of their brothel door – their Bolt.

I imagine him wearing a baseball hat back to front and a tight t-shirt. He tries to wear leather and has dark spectacles and maybe Bermuda shorts: it's all a bit mismatched. He tries to be cool but he isn’t really: he makes the deals but not very well. He's always on the move too; he's a lightning bolt, dashing from place to place, and at the same time he's the door bolt, the doorkeeper. His name relates to his functions as a guardian and as a runner. I thought he would be easy to play as a flighty spirit, but there's very abusive behaviour in those scenes too, and that has to be explored as well. Laura [Rees, Marina] is very slightly built… it's difficult to be rough with Marina – how can you be rough, but avoid breaking the precious crystal of the character's identity? Marina's worth an enormous amount of money for the Bawd and Pandar. She's our fortune, and we’ll become rich with her. So I have to balance out the roughness with an awareness of her value. We went back to do the two storms scenes at the Globe on Friday. The second storm has a big sail that's translucent so the audience can see the aerialists through it. We all move as a boat on stage whilst they do amazing things with ropes, swinging from the middle gallery as though they’re sailors trying to hold the boat together in the storm. I think it's fantastic how the second storm takes over the entire space. At the moment in rehearsals, we’re putting our feet in many shoes at once. We step forwards and back and sideways through scenes in the play, and then there are jigs to work on, and the storm sequences and the Knights’ tournament too (which also involves the aerialists). So we’re switching from one pair of shoes to the next, and the process isn’t as linear. There are lots to think about!

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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