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RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

This is Meredith's second blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III; in it she discusses expressing emotions through movement, continuing rehearsals and costume in the production.

Transcript of Podcast

Emotions in Movement

We’ve been continuing to do a lot of group work with Kathryn [Hunter, Richard III] on movement, and specifically, how to express different emotions through movement. For example, yesterday, we looked at the concept of grief; how would grief walk, how would grief look and so on. I initially thought this work was leading towards a ‘grieving chorus’ moment which we would use at some point during the play but in fact it was simply preparation for this week, when we will be exploring those scenes involving grief and mourning. This work is part of a continuous process of encouraging us as a company to remember that what we say (our lines) and how we move are intricately linked and should never be divorced for a moment.

Continuing Rehearsals

At the moment, we’re starting to go over our scenes for the second time and really get to grips with the text of the play. At this early stage in rehearsals, it seems as though you have a lot of choices to make about your character and the way you will approach each scene, but it's interesting how the text helps you to make that choice. Lady Anne's first scene (i.2) is a fantastically theatrical scene; after all, she is wooed over a dead corpse by the man that killed her father and brother. During the first weeks of rehearsals, I was concentrating on what it would feel like to have your family killed and then to meet the murderer face to face. Before rehearsals started, I contacted several victim support organisations and talked to them about some of those people they’ve helped who, like Lady Anne, have come face to face with those who are responsible for causing them immense pain. Some of these people's reactions are quite different to what you might expect; some could do nothing but laugh, others were intensely angry, some overcome with grief; all different ways of dealing with intensely emotional situations. What I gained from this research is an intense understanding of how emotionally fragile Lady Anne must be in this scene. Although she puts on a brave face and curses Richard as viciously as she can, underneath this act is a woman in intense pain.

At the moment, we’re still exploring whether act 1 scene 2 is a public or a private scene. Although you could argue that wooing is often done in private, it has been pretty much decided that I will make my entrance through the yard, following the coffin of Henry VI. After making my entrance through the groundlings, it will be difficult to pretend that they’re not there! At the moment, I’m imagining them to be a crowd at Henry's funeral. I’ve also been wondering more about why Lady Anne agrees to marry Richard, and I’m beginning to think that it's because she has nothing left to hold on to. Everybody has those conversations which you walk away from thinking, ‘I wish I’d said…’. Well, Lady Anne does say exactly what she wants to, and when she's said it, her anger is spent. Without her anger, she doesn’t have anything left to keep her wits together, and I think this could be one reason why she agrees to marry Richard.

Costume

I had my first costume fitting this week, which was amazing. It was fantastic to spend time with Luca [Costligliolo, Master of Clothing] and his team, who are so dedicated to finding out exactly how Elizabethan clothing was and can be made. Luca designed my dress especially for me, based on portraits and illustrations of Elizabethan fashions of the time. The dress is an off the shoulder design, but nowadays dressmakers use elastic to secure such a dress in place. Obviously, there was no elastic in Elizabethan times, so they’re currently trying to work out how such a dress would have been made 400 years ago. At the moment they’re using calico, (an inexpensive modern fabric), to experiment with making such a dress without elastic, and when they find a way that works, they’ll then make the dress for real. The fabric they’re going to use is beautiful; I will be wearing a black gown with a fairly long train behind it. This has already caused some concern; my first entrance is through the yard, but we’ll have to work out an alternative exit for if it rains; the fabric is made entirely by hand, and if it rains, it’ll be ruined!

I’ve also started wearing a corset in rehearsals to help me get used to it. Everyone seems to assume that corsets are inevitably too tight, or certainly very uncomfortable, whereas that is not the case at all. Each corset is being made specifically for one actor, so my corset is in fact very comfortable, for me! Wearing a corset in rehearsals has helped me to discover the physicality of the character, as I am suddenly aware that there are certain movements that I will not be able to do in costume. For example; the corset, combined with tight sleeves, means that I will not be able to raise my arms very high in the air. These restrictions have forced me to reconsider how I will be able to show Lady Anne's grief in i.2; people in intense pain often double up at the waist, but because of the corset, I will not be able to do this. Being physically restricted in this way simply means that my lines, what Lady Anne actually says, become the most powerful tool she has for expressing her grief.

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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