Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 3

This is Meredith's third blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III in which she discusses nerves as the rehearsals near their end, and Act IV, Scene I in particular.

Transcript of Podcast

Nerves

We’re getting towards the end of the rehearsal process, and the fear is kicking in. This is simply because we’re going to be performing on the stage in two weeks time; everyone is thinking ‘where did all the time go?’ Suddenly, rehearsals have become very serious and everyone is coming into work earlier and earlier; we’re determined to iron out all of the creases in the production before we open. For me, I am continuing to make discoveries about my character and about the play every day. Sometimes I worry that these discoveries are happening too late in the rehearsal process, that I won’t be able to use them to develop my performance in time, but at the end of the day you just have to calm down and say to yourself, ‘it’ll be ok’. There's no point worrying; we just have to get on with it.

We’ve done a great deal of work recently on movement and textual accuracy, making sure that we know exactly what each line means and where we might choose to move on-stage at any particular moment. Now, it's time to go back to our character's objectives and what they want at any particular moment. We tend to work on these more instinctive elements of performance at the beginning of rehearsals, and they can sometimes get lost as you focus more and more on finer textual details. At some point, you just have to stop thinking about the words and just say them. A friend of mine was helping me to learn my lines the other day, and I was trying to convey every thought and meaning I’d ever had about a line each time I said it. In the end, she stopped me and said, ‘just say the words,’ and the next time they were much better.

Act IV, I

I’ve been thinking about Lady Anne's second scene, Act IV Scene I. Whilst rehearsing that scene, we had a long discussion about whether Lady Anne, having become involved with Richard, might know that the princes are about to be murdered. The obvious question about the beginning of that scene is ‘Why do all these characters show up in the same place at the same time’? Could it be because they’ve been warned what might happen to the princes? In the end, we decided that they didn’t know; Shakespeare doesn’t directly suggest that they do, and it's more exciting to play it that way. If you step on stage in character without pre-knowledge of the princes’ deaths, the sense of shock when the ladies realise what's going to happen to them is more palpable to an audience. It is also in this scene when Lady Anne discovers that Richard has been crowned king. Again, the question came up of whether she knew this before her entrance and again, we decided that it might be more interesting if she finds out during the scene. Ironically, the news that she is to be crowned queen brings Lady Anne and Elizabeth closer together. Lady Anne's initial reaction is one of pain; she wants to die:

O, would to God that the inclusive verge
Of golden metal that must round my brow
Were red-hot steel, to seer me to the brains!
(iv.1.58-60)

Whereas previously, her relationship with Queen Elizabeth has been strained, (Elizabeth's lines to Anne at the beginning of the scene are very short and precise), the announcement that she is about to become queen deepens their relationship, and Elizabeth begins to sympathise with her situation:

Go, go, poor soul! I envy not thy glory.
To feed my humour wish thyself no harm.
(iv.1.63-64)

Their relationship deepens as the scene goes on, as Elizabeth is aware of the dangers and unhappiness that comes with being queen. As I’ve mentioned, we’re starting to wear parts of our costumes in rehearsals. This is especially useful when it comes to dresses. I am now starting to wear a ‘practice’ skirt and farthingale (a frame of cane hoops that supports the skirt) in rehearsals, which is useful as wearing a farthingale seriously affects how you walk. I asked some of the guys in the White Company about how best to move in corsets and farthingales, and they were very helpful. It was a bizarre experience; even though I’m the one that's used to wearing dresses and skirts in normal life, I was being taught how to walk in Elizabethan dresses by a man. The key is to keep the toes of one foot in line with the heel of the other; a ‘pigeon step’. What's amazing is that you can still move around the stage at high speed, if you need to!

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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