Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal 2

"I kind of miss all that mucking around in the pub", says Jamie, reflecting on his role of Prince Hal in Henry IV. He also discusses how they are finding humour in Henry V and the importance of audience interaction.

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Time: 11 minutes 19 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

Have you had any text work with Giles?

Jamie Parker:

Yes.

Hayley:

And what things have you noticed about the language of your character during that time?

Jamie:

Giles is brilliant and his observations are always very simple and penetrating. It’s all in there. There is nothing that you need to know that isn’t already in the play. Because there’s so much of it, Giles’ presence quietly points out the things that you haven’t quite got to yet or that you haven’t quite noticed.  There’s one (I mean I don’t know if it will still be there by the time we start performing it or if it’ll stay in there) but he pointed out a piece of onomatopoeia in one of the speeches to do with mock in the speech about the tennis balls; the sound ‘mock’ like the sound of hitting the ball. The company went “ooooooh! Never thought of that.” You can sort of play with things like that and, also rhythmically if you find yourself tripping over a particular passage every single time and you don’t know why, he’s just there quietly listening and telling you about the bits he’s not hearing.
The monkey that’s on my back personally, as an actor, is [the] physical toughness of the role because it is a marriage of priest and thug. He’s a theologian but he’s also a soldier; he’s a general but he’s also a priest. And the monkey that’s on my back is wanting to not fall short on pushing the male buttons, in terms of the brutality, and wanting to get people to have a steak in that and believe in that in terms of battle leadership. But it can’t come at the cost of the fineness of mind, and that’s quite difficult to pull off because it’s tempting to roar straight into the battle stuff and go hell for leather and not care about what happens to your vocal chords and just growl it all. When you start to trying to finesse it cerebrally or poetically or mentally or any other kind of delicate way, you feel like you’ve lost out on that side and that you’re just doing some sort of floppy-haired, middle-class, bourgeoisie, big white shirt Shakespeare acting. So, it’s sort of trying to find the two. There’s the idea of a soldier and then the reality of it. I’ve met officers and I’ve seen people on documentaries talking, and they don’t necessarily look all that much in terms of toughness or bigness or anything like that, but there’s a sort of steel in their mind, a tenacity and you know that that’s about endurance and being able to take an awful lot of stuff and keep clear-minded. So, if anything, I think it’s clarity. It’s probably the clarity of mind. The whole play seems to be a moment of clarity.

Hayley:

Have you had any sessions on movement and, if so, what is your character’s physicality like? 

Jamie:

Yeah, I have thought physically. I’ve put on a little bit of weight since [Prince] Hal. Put about a stone on so far and theoretically that’s supposed to be going on, which is part of the soldier-thing. The clothes are a big clue. If you’re not chest out, shoulders back in these costumes then it looks very deflated and saggy and ineffectual. [You need] that ramrod back, but trying to do that without being all chest-beaty and dull gorilla stuff. Chivalry is self-containing, it’s self-restraining. It sort of marries two states that don’t really have any business being together. So, they’re fearsome to the nth degree but they are also meek and sensitive to the nth degree. These aren’t my thoughts, they’re other people’s writing but that’s very clear. There’s a kind of modesty and humility and a stillness but at the same time it has to have a muscular power behind it.

Hayley:

It’s balance again…and clarity!

Jamie:

It’s all about balance and not getting preoccupied with one of your insecurities and falling short on one of them at the expense of fulfilling the other. It’s not the kind of part I’ve ever been cast in before, but this is starting to happen over the last couple of years. I remember thinking “I’d never have cast me in that part”. As much as I’ve wanted to be in that particular type of part, I never thought I’d actually get it and now that I’m here suddenly I feel like I don’t deserve it. You know, all that kind of thing. And, of course, on top of it all, on top of all of that, what makes [Henry V] adorable is the kind of carefreeness, the ease with which he manages to do it. Having achieved strength, having achieved stillness, having achieved all of these different things, you then have to wear it very easily. If you put on a suit of armour or if you put on a starched white tie and tails set or if you put on some very restrictive piece of clothing, you can’t look like a poodle in a dog show, whether that’s physically or philosophically or in any other way. There comes a point where you have to become so familiar with it that you just wear it and make it look easy, but clothes will definitely help. Just the weight, on the first entrance, under that bearskin. It’s enormous, really heavy, and the armour’s heavy which is good. It’s good to have that kind of thing, it just grounds you. There’s nothing more rubbish than somebody coming on with a big box and pretending it’s really heavy and you know “that’s empty. That’s an empty box!”   

Hayley:

And suitcases! I hate that.

Jamie:

Yeah it’s rubbish. So it’s that same thing, it’s reassuring. On Henry IV we had these different types of chainmail, and I had this very light, flappy chainmail hood that kept on tearing and kept on getting in my eyes. Eventually I swapped it. Meanwhile the Scottish play guys were complaining that their chainmail was too heavy so I ended up swapping with one of them – “Can I have one of the heavy ones” - because then it just stayed there, it sat on your neck, and it gives you that sort of panther feeling.  

Hayley:

So with costume you can do so much before getting it, and then it’s another level once you do have it or are prepared for it.

Jamie:

Yeah the trick is not to be surprised by it. Pockets is a big one. I’m terrible; if I’ve got pockets on stage then I spend the whole play with my hands in my pockets. But you can’t do that in doublet and hose because you haven’t got any. So you have to figure out what to do. Sounds ridiculous, but it’s just putting your mind on other things I suppose. I had them as [Prince] Hal, Duncan was just “take your hands out your pockets!” but it’s just glorious. I was going to say I miss all the fun of the pub, and when we had the days of just performing Henry IV part 2, I kept on wanting to go “he’s more fun than this. He doesn’t spend his whole time being sad over his dad dying and being boring”. And I suppose there’s a kind of sense in Henry V you go “I miss all that mucking around in the pub”. But it is actually in there, it comes out in flashes. And I quite like that we’ve found possibly unorthodox and surprising moments for little flashes of that to come out. Because if you don’t then there’s no connection with the audience; it just becomes very cold and remote and jingoistic, and you need, especially in this kind of set up, to be able to talk to people. And if your four acts down the line before you start actually doing it, they’re like ‘Oh your talking to me now are you?’

Hayley:

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

Jamie:

As ever it’s been a great balance finding process with Dom[inic Dromgoole], I trust Dom probably more than any other director I’ve worked with. I’ve known him for longer as well as he gave me my first job. And since that first job it’s always been a process of coming in with hard and fast puppy-ish ideas of what the character should be like, and Dom negotiating with it very tactfully and articulately and occasionally, when necessary, overbearingly. He’ll just say ‘no, no don’t do it like that’. And it’s been difficult in this one because I’m a fan, and that doesn’t help in some ways. So it’s been about just getting underneath in the sense that he is such a public figure. And he’s so damn good at it, that finding out what’s going on underneath and allowing that to percolate through occasionally, and allowing that to bubble through and give us flashes of that is pretty much what it’s been about. It’s been confirmed in my head that he’s as good at it as he is, and he’s as exceptional as he is. I’ve been surprised about how lonely, and how alone he is. I always knew he was isolated, but I hadn’t quite realised how very alone. Which is another reason why I can’t be cynical about Act V. Understandably, any woman with even the vaguest sense of her own rights is going to have serious questions to ask about Act V. But as we’re finding out about that particular scene [is] that there’s a wonderful honesty about it, which she meets just as strongly. He doesn’t shut up in that scene; it’s a wonderful portrayal of his insecurity. What’s wonderful in that scene is that nobody tells any lies, nobody lies in that scene. Or at least I haven’t spotted one yet. There’s no pretence of “I love you and here’s lots of chocolates and flowers and poetry”. It’s actually saying the opposite of that and saying ‘I can’t do all that’. And she says to him “you’re asking me to love the enemy of France, do you realise what you’re actually asking me to do, do you think that’s actually possible.” And then there’s this decision to make; this is what it is, we are in this situation now, we have to live with it so we can either be bitter and cynical and upset about the whole thing, or we can be clear eyed and make of our lives whatever we can. Make our garden grow and all that kind of stuff. And not pretend it’s all happy and joyous, but there’s no reason to be disastrous and miserable about it either. And that’s a surprise, you wrangle with things like that and you just think ‘are we doing a deeply cynical play about a brute king who comes in and says ‘you are mine we are getting married’’, because then why should you care about the preceding four acts. So there are lots of surprises.     

Hayley:

And I’m sure more to come once you start performing.

Jamie:

I’m sure yeah. I’m wondering what moments, if any, there are going to be where the audiences go “Ooo, hang on a minute Henry. Not sure I’m going to go with you on that one.” It’s like what Eddie Izzard said, “Once more unto the breach on Crispin’s day! ‘ ‘Oh well be lucky then. I’m gonna stay and have a sandwich.”

 

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