Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 4

This is Kananu's fourth blog entry for the 2004 production of Romeo and Juliet, where she talks about group work, the 'balcony scene' and musicians on stage, amongst other things.

Transcript of Podcast

This is Kananu's fourth blog entry for the 2004 production of Romeo and Juliet, where she talks about group work, the 'balcony scene' and musicians on stage, amongst other things.

More group work

We are still doing lots of exercises in groups. We’re concentrating on the second half of the play now, so we’re using exercises similar to the others over the past weeks. We’ve got to go through the same process to find out about the characters’ motivations, intentions and relationships in the later stages of the play. We’re also continuing to try and make the lines sound as natural and truthful as possible. Today we did an exercise where we had to interrupt each other as soon as we wanted to speak – you have to find ways to stop people speaking by interrupting them. Ideally that involves using the words in the lines, but as people got interrupted more and more, there was a fair bit of ‘SHUT UP!’ going on too! Anyone in the group can interrupt at any point in anybody else's speech: I found this especially useful in the monologues, when the people who were watching you were also jumping in with interruptions. It gave you a real impetus to say the lines instead of thinking ‘This is my big speech, I’ve got time’ – speaking in a slow, measured way is not very human really.

The interruptions lent a bit of urgency to quite a few of my speeches: I found it helpful for the monologue before I drink the poison in the tomb [V.3.161-7] – I think I’ve been taking a long time about it. You feel time is a real pressure all the way through Romeo and Juliet but especially in that scene; the Friar has run away because the Watch is about to arrive. A greater urgency seems more fitting. Even with the ‘Gallop apace’ speech, I was taking a long time to plant images and so on, but with people interrupting you with questions, you just drive forward more – that's what Juliet wants in this speech too: in ‘Gallop apace , you fiery-footed steeds’ she urges time to go by faster so that she can be with Romeo. To speak the lines at a faster pace is better suited to her state of mind at that point. More generally, the exercise also made me realise which lines I didn’t know very well: as soon as someone interrupts you, your planned, careful way through the lines is ruined!

Lines

A lot of different things help for remembering lines. Yesterday I was finding it hard; I thought so much about observing the lines of verse that I didn’t make any sense! Tim said it was really painful to watch because I looked like I was trying so hard! Looking at the line endings is also helpful. I’ve been focusing a lot on this in my sessions with Giles [Block, Master of the Word]. Giles has suggested that most of the stronger stresses come at the end of lines; it makes a lot of sense – Shakespeare seems to have written the lines so that they run until then, and then something important happens. When a character rhymes, for instance, that's not an accident or something Shakespeare added in to sound pretty. The word has been put in a prominent place at the end of the line for a reason. The bit that stood out during our session was in Act two, scene five: But old folks, many feign as they were dead – Unwieldy, slow, heavy and pale as lead. [II.5.16-7] I did it once and Giles just burst out laughing. It surprised me because I didn’t realise that those lines were funny. He was saying that both the rhyme and the stress together give you a sense of Juliet's patience and her wit at the same time. I didn’t even know I was doing that! Juliet rhymes a lot; I’m going to look out for them in future and think about why she might be doing it. I haven’t had chance to put it into practice yet. I also like the idea that rhymes comment or make a joke about this huge situation.

Changing Ideas

As we’ve been working on the second half of the play, I’ve changed some of my ideas about the first two acts. Although we work on specific scenes and acts, everything has to fit together when we start to run the play as a whole. In the party scene [I.5] for instance, I went from one extreme. At first I thought Juliet and Romeo fell in love came straight away, then I thought actually, if a stranger in a mask grabbed my hand, my reaction would be ‘Get away from me, you weirdo!’ Now I’ve returned to thinking that their love is instantaneous: they find a very strong connection very quickly. It's like when you’re at a party and you think ‘Oh, who is that?’ You like them without being able to explain why.

Balcony Scenes

My ideas about the second balcony scene [III.5] are changing too. Romeo is leaving Juliet after their first night together and at first I thought they would be very lovey-dovey, having just been reunited after the fight and the order of banishment. Then Tim got me thinking about the doubts that can creep in when you’re very close to someone in an intense relationship. You are always going back and forth between doubting whether they really mean it, wondering who loves the other the most, and worrying what the other person thinks of you. Even though Romeo and Juliet are totally in love, there are still power shifts going on. Whereas originally I simply thought ‘Oh I love you and morning has come,’ now I think the situation could be more confrontational and intense. They have so many questions. Are we going to see each other again? Do you love me enough to come back and see me? Was it just physical? Do you really want to stay? If Romeo stays and the Capulets find him, they will kill him. It's dangerous to ask him to stay and mean it. It's almost like a test. I’m not sure how we’ll play it yet, but I can’t imagine it will be a plain ‘I love you/ I love you too/ I love you too/ Goodbye’ which was how I originally saw it.

I remember doing the first balcony scene [II.2] at my audition and Mark [Rylance, Artistic Director, Shakespeare's Globe] said something that I’ve been thinking about more recently. You think might think Romeo and Juliet are just two people talking quite poetically about how much they like each other, but there are so many obstacles. She can’t see him clearly because it's dark and he's so far below. They would have to struggle to reach each other. He could be killed any minute. Also, she has been talking to herself about very intimate feelings and for Romeo to break into that would be shock. There is more difficulty there than I thought at first. We’re rehearsing in IJ3 [‘Inigo Jones 3’, a workshop space at the Globe], and for the balcony scenes I’m just standing on a plastic chair whilst Tom [Burke, Romeo] stands on the floor; you have to keep reminding yourself that they couldn’t just reach out and touch each other. I’m looking forward to trying it out on the real balcony onstage and getting a better idea of the different levels. As well as the difficulty and struggle, it also seems right for Act two, scene two, to be fun and exciting because Romeo and Juliet are young and in love. These are just the beginnings of things I have imagined, but in the week coming up we’re going to go through the scenes in more detail. So that is when these things should be… not fixed, but laid down rather than quickly tried and put to one side.

Musicians Onstage

We were onstage with the musicians yesterday for the first time, which was great! In other theatres – if there is live music – musicians are often tucked away out of sight somewhere; to have them right there with you is fantastic. It also makes you realise how much you use your imagination to fill in the gaps during rehearsal. I’ve been trying to imagine musicians and an audience. To actually have real musicians there freed up some scenes, because there are points when we have to clap for musicians [I.5 for example], and it really fills out the world of the play when you clap for a reason rather than as a response to the pretend picture in your head. Just having more people in scene makes it easier to relax. It's wonderful meeting the musicians – they’re such specialists and the music is amazing. Tim said that hopefully our play and its story will be as good as their music: meeting the musicians was a good reminder of the special-ness that we’re a part of here.

Working on the end

We’ve done quite a lot of work on the final scenes. The ending is quite strange to play from Juliet's point of view. She tries to be with Romeo throughout the whole of the play but by the time she wakes up in the monument [V.3], there is no possibility of getting what she wants: Romeo is right there and he's dead. Even though the Prologue says that the lovers are ‘star-crossed’ and you know they’re doomed, there is always the possibility that things will work out until the very end. Friar Lawrence comes in just after Romeo has killed himself and he says ‘How oft tonight/ Have my old feet stumbled at graves!’ [V.3.121-2] If only he hadn’t tripped... there are lots of moments when you can go ‘if only…’ In a way, it's a tragedy of bad timing and I feel that especially strongly at the end. I mentioned about trying a faster pace with Juliet's final speech. There isn’t time for her to weep and wail at the end because she finds out Romeo is dead and then she realises that everyone is coming. Living without him is unimaginable; she entire journey throughout the play has been about being with him, and if death is the only way that she can be with him then there is no other option. Juliet doesn’t have a dilemma to weep and wail about like she did earlier [III.2]: she's made her choice, and I think that resolution makes her calmer than in some of the earlier scenes.

I read in the notes of one Romeo and Juliet edition that Juliet's dying speech might be short because the actor playing her wasn’t very good at holding tension! I thought that was very funny, the idea that Shakespeare had written Juliet's speech this way because he didn’t trust the guy not to mess up! I’m asleep or dead for a lot of the final scene. It's quite easy to lie there and do nothing! One of the things we did to help us prepare for the tomb scene was to go down into the basement and turn off all the lights. Tim [Carroll, Master of Play] and Tom [Cornford, Assistant to Master of Play] hid me in a room and the other characters involved in the beginning of that scene [V.3] had to come and find me using only a candle. The monument would be very dark inside and you can’t dim the lights in the theatre, you have to use other ways to show – how you move, for instance. Afterwards Tim remarked on how carefully and slowly everyone had moved, feeling their way. That will probably feed into how they move onstage during the last scene. On of the images which sticks in my mind from the last scene is in the Prince's final lines: ‘…heaven finds a means to kill your joys with love’ [V.3.292]. Romeo and Juliet are dead because of love yet that can’t be true because love doesn’t kill. I haven't unpicked that properly yet. The tension between those opposites does continue right until the very end. The families are blaming each other and asking ‘Whose fault is this?’ – I don’t know whether you can be sure of their reconciliation. There seems to be such a mixture of things going on there.

Jagged Edges

I feel like the biggest challenges at the moment are to do with the jaggedness of the character. I want to move away from simply being nice because that's just not real. Juliet is strong and passionate. There are moments when she has doubts even though she is with the person that she loves. Bette [Bourne, the Nurse] said a few days ago that we always want the audience to like our character a lot. If we’re actually quite nervous about our characters being disliked, we play their goodness: it becomes especially important to be aware of a character's faults or unattractive moments. It's ok for characters to seem unattractive because sometimes people do make the wrong choices. I’ve been trying to find a few jagged edges in Juliet. I think she's independent and she wants to be her own person, but she also desperately needs people. The difficulty is that you identify contradictions like this but suspect that you’re playing the middle ground. I suppose you can only look at the character's journey within the scenes and the play as a whole, and try to understand the shifts that create complexity. For instance, we just did the scene with the Nurse [III.5] – Juliet asks the Nurse for help after Capulet tells her she must marry Paris:

‘O Nurse, how shall this be prevented?’ [III.5.205]

Things change when the Nurse tells Juliet to marry Paris: Juliet feels hatred and separation rather than close confidence. We can understand why she feels those things, but hate is still not really something you associate with ‘nice’ Juliet. I could do with a few more ideas about opposites!

Best bits of the Week

The jigging is good; getting the jigging right is good! I’m also starting to get an overview of the whole play now we’ve run the second half a few times, so that's very helpful. You get to see where the play is going even if the details in the middle aren’t clear yet. I’m getting increasingly familiar with my family set-up too! The relationships between Juliet, her mother and father, and the Nurse are developing as we rehearse together more and more. When we did Act three, scene five, the other day, Bill's [Stewart, Lord Capulet] outburst was amazing… it really did scare me. The tirade seems to come out of nowhere. Both Lady Capulet and the Nurse try to intervene and fail to stop him. That makes his rage seem all the more excessive and uncontrollable – he just explodes!

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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