Shakespeare's Globe

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"If there's one play written in the English Language which makes the audience the star of the show, it's this!" Jamie talks about performing on tour and at the Globe, and the importance of the audience in the success of the play.

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Time: 8 minutes 36 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

So you’re now into performance - well into performance at the Globe - but first of all I want to look back to Liverpool, what was the run like there?

Jamie Parker:

Liverpool was great! I mean, in some ways, Liverpool feels like two minutes ago because the audience was just so welcoming and warm and, kind of, gloriously collaborative. You know, if there’s one play written in the English language that makes the audience the star of the show, it’s this. It kind of defines the advent of that new whole idea that we don’t exist without you guys; we’re just overgrown children wearing silly clothes for a living. If we all throw in here we have an off-chance of witnessing something transcend the sum of its parts and Liverpool was up for that, they wanted that. There was a complete lack of pretention in terms of having an opinion on what the play should be or wading into the debate over the morality of the character and all that kind of thing, they just want a story and they want to participate in it. Not that they weren’t equal to debating the play, of course they were, but it was wonderfully uncomplicated. Plus the theatre itself is beautiful! And, actually, over the whole tour I’d say it was probably the easiest theatre, in my experience anyway; it somehow felt like the easiest theatre to reach out to people and actually talk directly to them.

Hayley:

Was the play directed for the Globe or were other places kept in mind?

Jamie:

Well, it was essentially directed for the Globe, just in one direction as opposed to three, meaning that you have the pros arch and you have the audience out there on the other side of it rather than having the thrust with the yard and the groundlings and the galleries on all sides. So, the idea was to make direct contact and to do everything that you would do at the Globe, just do it indoors. It was lit to, you know, simulate - the lighting state was constant for the whole play, so when Brendan [O’Hea, Captain Fluellen] and Matt [Flynn, Captain Gower] came on with their flaming torches, they weren’t coming on in the dark with flame torches, they were coming on fully lit. 

Hayley:

Well, how about performing as a part of the Globe to Globe festival? Yours was the English contribution at the end.

Jamie:

Yeah.

Hayley:

I came to one of the Globe to Globe performances of yours and it was amazing because I’d seen so many of the other plays and it was like, “Wow! This is a little weird, I can understand it. This is great!” 

Jamie:

So, there’s almost that feeling of vertigo; a sudden total freedom in all directions. It was crackly. They’d been reminded - however many of those plays they’d taken part in - that they had taken part, that they were a part of that collaboration and to finally have it articulated to them is a thrill. Especially standing in the wooden O and having somebody say, “This wooden O”.  There was a sense of occasion, there was a sense of festival, there was anticipation and participation and want in the air, which is what theatre should have, I think. There should always be, consciously or unconsciously, whether it’s sitting in a room with PhD students discussing Strindberg before going to see a play or whether you’re standing in a street outside the Palladium watching jugglers and clowns before going in to see Barnum, there should always be some way of reminding the audience that they’re not just recipients.

Hayley:

I think you’ve summed up exactly what that festival was about.

Jamie:

Absolutely. And the gloriousness - and it is glory, it really is - because it’s so naked at the Globe and exposed and fragile and subject to the elements, subject to air traffic, subject to things being lost in translation, subject to all sorts of things that are totally in conducive to making a night at the theatre actually happen, that when it does happen it is glorious and suddenly incredibly strong, actually. When it happens, there is nothing that can break it. I’ve been on that stage when it suddenly crystallises, and occasionally something intrudes, you get a phone or you get a pigeon or you get… I remember on the last performance of Henry IV part 2, we were doing the deathbed scene and Ollie Cotton [Henry IV] was on fire, he was just on a roll and he came out, he was letting me have it and I didn’t have to do anything, I was just standing there and he was saying, “For the fifth Harry from curb'd licence plucks, The muzzle of restraint, and the wild dog shall flesh his tooth on every innocent” and it was vicious and he just threw it at me like a brick and you could feel the whole theatre just sort of wither at every single breath and somebody spontaneously, down here next to me on the left in the yard, he [Cotton] got to the end of the sentence, just spontaneously began to clap and I sort of know where the impulse came from because it was a rare thing of sort of feeling Shakespeare happen. And they went [claps] and then immediately stopped themselves and everybody around them looked daggers at them: “Don’t do anything! Don’t do anything, because you’ll break it!” But it was strong enough to survive it and the concentration of fifteen hundred people just sort of acknowledged that it happened and rejected it immediately and kept with what they had. It was incredibly robust.

Hayley:

You kind of alluded to the fact that the audience can affect the performance but what other ways? How else does the play change?

Jamie:

It fluctuates wildly from night to night. You turn up and you say the same lines that you said yesterday, and often you’ll say them, and a lot of the time you’ll say them standing on the exact same spot, and saying them in more or less exactly the same way you said them yesterday, but the effect that happens in the room is just wildly different every single time.

Hayley:

How about we think about favourite moments in the play?

Jamie:

Favourite moments in the play?

Hayley:

Yes!

Jamie:

I’m loath to pick out favourite moments in the play while we’re still performing it because I don’t want to… well that sounds superstitious.

Hayley:

How about perhaps moments that worked well?

Jamie:

There are moments. There have been little accidents or there have been… well, the helicopters can be a blessing because as long as they’re reasonably in passing, it’s an opportunity to - suddenly you just re-orientate lines. Whatever line you happen to have at that moment, suddenly it can become about a helicopter. I mean it could make absolutely no sense whatsoever. We got to the end of the first half and a helicopter came over just as James Lailey [Earl of Westmoreland] - I’d packed off Montjoy saying, “Fair enough, we’re all going to die. We’re probably going to lose this one but we’re carrying on anyway, so go and tell your king.” And James was sort of left with that sort of feeling in the air and said, “I hope they will not come upon us now” and Henry says “We’re in God’s hands now, not there’s”. And at that point a helicopter was going over and I just looked up into the sky and said, “We’re in God’s hands now not there’s”. It’s not a particularly witty thing to do but by acknowledging that that was going on it keeps people on side. It happened today actually, in the matinee in the first scene. At the end of the tennis ball speech, a helicopter suddenly arrived, just as I was about to say, “Go hence and get you some peace”. There was this lack of peace going on in the room and it’s a very fine line as you have to do it without turning it into panto but it’s also a point where it becomes counterproductive to ignore what’s going on. If it becomes that intrusive, especially at the beginning of the play, which is actually quite a good moment for it to happen in some ways, and it happened today and it got everybody immediately on side. It can be a blessing, it can be a real blessing. What are the other things that have happened…? For the whole tour I was wondering what was going to happen when we got to the Globe with “Once more unto the breach dear friends”, with “God, for Harry, for England, for St George”. And the first performance we did we got a lot of people in the audience shouting out, “God, for Harry, England and St George” and it was great and we all ran off and everybody cheered. For the second performance, and I got to the lines, “The game’s afoot, follow your spirit and upon this charge cry...” and I was breathing in to shout, “God for Harry” and one guy in the yard went, “God for Harry, England and St George” and kind of petered out half way through, at which point I just sort of looked at him and went, “Yeah!” And went running off like a nine year old! And it was kind of really rubbish but kind of really brilliant at the same time. It hasn’t happened since, but if it does I would handle it in a slightly different way. That was funny. It just really made me laugh.

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