Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 6

In her penultimate blog post Mariah discusses running the play, the technical rehearsal, and differences between the Elizabethan period and now.

Transcript of Podcast

Running the play

We ran the play twice in the week before we started our technical rehearsal. It's great when you do the first run because there's such an energy that comes with the flow of the play. I often find it hard to rehearse scenes later on in a play because I don’t feel I really know where my character is at in the context of a wider journey. After a couple of runs, you start to get a sense of that journey.

During the runs, some scenes just seem to play themselves because they’ve got to a certain place, and I think there's something really magical about the first time that you see the story unfold. We had some people in to watch the first run – Mark [Rylance, Artistic Director] and Claire [Van Kampen, Master of Theatre Music] – and it's funny how, even though we knew the people who were coming to watch, it still made us quite nervous to have people come in from outside. That made me think a lot about how I might be affected by an audience; I’m going to be very nervous for our first preview. I think the same thing happens in life; you’ve got to admit that you feel that nervous and not hide from it. Live in it and just say “Yes, I am nervous, but I’m going to share myself with all of these people, and, as frightening as it is, I don’t mind if they see that I’m frightened.” I don’t want to retreat from it and turn the audience into the enemy that's making me scared. I think fear and excitement go hand in hand; it wouldn’t be this frightening if it wasn’t so exciting to be here.

Globe space

I went to see Romeo & Juliet. I haven’t worked in that many different spaces, but I think the Globe does feel very different from any other theatre where I’ve been in the audience. I don’t know whether it's because everyone's outside or because there are people standing or because there's something magic about the place (you think about all the other people who performed in the original Globe). There's just something really magical and I think that the audience picks up on that. I watched Romeo and Juliet : as the sky grows dark and the story unfolds, the atmosphere is amazing.

Technical rehearsal

Technical rehearsals are a nice time to let things settle. You can be working things out in your head and you don’t feel like there's any pressure to perform amazingly; you can experiment with things as you go, but this week I did get really stressed. I thought I’d have to leave the script for a bit… I don’t think I’ve reached a technical perfection with the text, but I’m not in the frame of mind where I can make it clearer. I’m going to try to relax and hopefully it will fall into place!

The context of the story and the space and the audience and my relationship with them: that's what's really hard. At the beginning of a run, you feel that you have to have reached your peak and that you’ll stay at that level through the run, but of course it doesn’t work like that. That's strange: the audience at the first preview is just as important as the audience on the last night. It's annoying that some audiences will only see the production in the early stages. I find it difficult not to worry, and to trust that if I don’t worry I’ll be better off than if I do. If I enjoy myself then the audience will enjoy it more! A lot of the worry stems from the fact that I just can’t believe that I’m here, but I have to channel that in a positive way. I don’t have to be perfect in my telling of the story, but I do have to deliver it to the audience with as much generosity as I can. Making friends with the audience is going to be scary. If there's one thing I want to achieve with the first preview, then that's it: make friends with the audience. I want to be able to walk round the stage feeling open to them.

I was watching bits of the tech run and thinking that it's so nice to be telling this story. We don’t know what it's going to be like on the first preview because we’ve only run the play a couple of times, but that's not a problem: that's what a preview is for, after all. The audience is such a big part of what happens in a performance at the Globe that you really need them there to take work on the play forward. You need to be aware of this huge presence and not only how you connect to your fellow actors on the stage, but how you connect into the huge wave of electricity that comes from all the sides. I’m going to be really interested to see what happens. It might throw me for six or change what I’m doing – I’m really not sure how the relationship with the audience will affect me, but I’ll try to play around with it. I’m hoping to stay open to the preview – and to making changes. The trick is not to feel like the play is all set and that you can’t change anything if it's not working. If something doesn’t work, we can change it.

Differences: now and then

Everyone gets used to their Elizabethan clothing during the tech. You have to remember what order to put the clothing on in. If you get your dress on and realise you haven’t got your stockings and garters on then you can’t actually bend down to do it. Having the clothes makes me realise how different life must have been for the women and men because you had to have someone to dress you. It takes a long time. First of all I was really impatient, but that made me think a lot more about how it probably would have taken longer even to walk across the room – you can’t run easily. You take longer to sit down and get up again in these clothes, and you take longer to eat because you’re wearing a corset, so you have to eat slowly. I was thinking “What did they do all day?” but I’ve realised life went by at a slower and a more patient pace. That's the big difference between us and them: we want to get everything done quickly, so we rush round faster and faster, but it wasn’t always like that. The clothing makes you remember that you can’t always be doing active things. Sometimes you just have to wait. It's nice – we’ve forgotten how to do that. We don’t realise how stressed we get. I often get very stressed when I’m doing plays, and I think it's something you have to watch.

Worry

You can’t really do any constructive work on your own when you’re worrying about something. I realised that I was worrying and worrying because this is a scary and an amazing thing to be doing. I felt that I had run out of time: we’re coming up to the previews and I haven’t got to where I wanted to be. However, I’m not going to be able to do anything if I’m worrying about it. I’m just going to trust the work we’ve done, give myself a break and say that maybe the characterisation won’t be perfect, but the main thing to concentrate on is how much Hero loves Beatrice, Benedick, Claudio, and her father. I feel like you can go round and round in circles thinking about intentions and actions, or which word you should stress in a sentence. It's important to do all that technical work, but there comes a point where you’ve got to get out of your own head, off the page, and onto the stage. Sometimes it's helpful just to think in a more immediately physical way. You have to ignite your own imagination; I’ve found it more helpful to think of Hero as a ray of sunshine. I know that sounds really daft, but if you think of something you can focus on which is physical rather then mental, then hopefully everything else will be there underneath.

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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