This is Pippa's first blog post. This week she discusses how she became an actor, how the first week of rehearsals has progressed, and her first impressions of Jessica.
Transcript of Podcast
Becoming An Actor
I went to drama school in Manchester at the Metropolitan School of Theatre for three years. A casting director from Granada TV came and saw my final production and I was cast in a Kid’s TV series called 24 Seven that was on five years ago now. It was about these kids at boarding school – I played a 16 year old even though I was 21! I continued to play very young characters. At Drama School you are mainly trained in theatre. I’d done a little TV so this job was really like a forth year of training. I did it for six months so did 26 episodes and it was amazing. Then I moved to London and got an agent in and for the next three years did mainly television jobs like The Bill, Holby City and Family Affairs. It was theatre that got me into acting to start with so I felt a bit of a lack of something just doing TV. TV rehearsals are very different from theatre because they are much shorter.
A casting director then recommended me to a theatre director who was casting a fringe show. I got that and it released me over the next couple of years to go into theatre. I’ve always had places I really wanted to go like the RSC, the Globe, the Royal Court and the Young Vic, but they’re very hard to break into. Just over the start of the course of the year I started to make connections with these people. The casting director who got me into this fringe show just happened to be going into the RSC. She then bought me in for a reading there of this new play by Roy Williams called Days of Significance and I ended up getting cast in it when they produced a full scale production. So from last November through to this past February I’ve been with them.
Auditioning for the Part
I then finished that job which was so brilliant and then I got an audition at the Globe. I was very. The part of Jessica felt possible – not too big – but its quite substantial – its definitely within my casting range. I had two auditions in all. At the first one I met with Dominic [Dromgoole, Artistic Director], Rebecca [Gatwood, Director of Merchant] and Mark [Rosenblatt, Director of Holding Fire!]. The second audition was three weeks later on the stage which was quite nerve racking. I have performed on the Globe stage before in a series of staged-readings for Paines Plough Theatre Company. Being on stage with an audience was much easier than being there on your own with your two directors watching you! It was really intense. I actually thought that I’d really messed up the audition – but obviously not. So I’m now here and am absolutely over the moon.
Acting in Shakespeare
Professionally, I’ve been in one Shakespeare play before this. I played Hermia and Snug the Joiner in A Midsummer Night’s Dream playing for Creation - an out-door theatre company in Oxford. I spent a summer out in the open air doing that so I’m a bit prepared for this summer – although the acoustics at the Globe are a lot better than where I was.
The First Week of Rehearsals
The ethos at the Globe is to continue to train you as an actor. To have a team concentrating on text, movement and voice is such a wonderful privilege. In the first week we had a session with Giles Block on text. We looked very closely at the verse and the prose. I had lots of sessions like this at drama school but it’s a whole different thing when you have a specialist in. The movement sessions with Glynn McDonald not only help to connect with your character but you’re also learning how to use your body and how that can enhance you to connect deeper with your emotions.
The first day we had a read-through. We have also been looking at the jig. I have also had sessions around a table on all the scenes my character in. The way we’ve been working is to read through the scene and then after paraphrasing it. We then try to work out what the relationships between the characters are like. We have been thrown-in the deep-end a little, but I really like this way of working. A lot of directors spend two weeks around the table with the whole company which can lead to lots of people’s ideas – which is great – but it can take a long amount of time.
The next time we do the scene we have to have our lines learnt, so that we’re free of the book and can then start playing. When you get on your feet you can go deeper – I don’t think it will be about performance yet but when you have a script in your hand, your muscle memory will have forgotten ‘where was I? What was I looking at?’ So once the book has gone I can start inhabiting the text and start exploring the space.
First Impressions of Jessica
I think she’s ‘the lover’ for a little bit of the play and her story is a little bit like Romeo and Juliet, but what Shakespeare’s done with Jessica and Lorenzo, especially the way that we’re exploring it, is to give them a little chink in the armour of their love. I think it’s a little bit naughtier than Romeo and Juliet and perhaps might not last. She also risks a lot which gives her a bit of feistiness. We’ve also been exploring the Jewish religion, that it’s not just a religion, it’s a race. Saying to your father, as Jessica does, ‘I am dead in your eyes and you are dead in my eyes’ is such a big thing and a big risk. There is such strength in this character which is to do with the arrogance of youth. She steals two thousand ducats - the equivalent of twenty thousand pounds which is a lot of money. So I think there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye from when you originally read it.
Performing at the Globe
With Paines Plough we did a lot of rehearsals in the rehearsal studios and then spent half an hour before on the stage before the performance. What happened, and I think all the other actors will agree, is that when we were on the stage doing the readings there is something about that space which gives you an allowance to be free. There is so much space and you’ve got to be quite big. It was easier than I thought it would be when we did the readings. For this production I feel excited because, as Dominic Dromgoole said to us, there is no other place like the Globe and so many actors have said that too. So I think I feel excited more than anything else!
Our production is going to be set in the renaissance. Liz Cooke [Designer] wants to differentiate between the Christians and the Jewish. My costume is going to be a bit more folky and the colours we are going for are quite autumnal and rustic. As she leaves the Jewish community and becomes a Christian, she wants to be accepted into her new world so then there will be a loosening of clothing and a change in the way she looks to show this.
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.