Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

In this, Eve's second blog post she discusses speaking verse, rehearsal exercises and the difficulties involved in acting mad.

Transcript of Podcast

Verse and Rhythm

Tim [Carroll, Master of Play] has been doing lots of exercises with us about the rhythm of the verse. One of them was to try and really get the rhythm of the iambic pentameter, ‘de dum de dum de dum de dum de dum’. We had to throw a ball up in the air on the last stress of the line and then catch it on the first stress of the next line:


Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be - chuck the ball
What thou - catch the ball - art promised. (I.V. 12-13)

I found it very hard, but once I got used to it, it was very helpful. Tim's point was that if you throw the ball, you’re carrying on the thought, so you’re not stopping dead at the end of the line, and the action of the ball makes you feel that forward movement a bit. Then we had to stomp out the rhythm:


Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature:
It is too full o’the milk of human-kindness
To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great,
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it. (I.v.12-18)

I got ‘It is too full’ wrong - I stressed it ‘It is too full’ - because the tendency is to run ‘It’ and ‘is’ together, but if you make yourself stress it properly, it stops you from throwing words away.

Rehearsals this week

I felt very frustrated last week because I had forgotten how patient you have to be when rehearsing a play. I want everything to work immediately, which of course it doesn’t. Glynn [Macdonald, Master of Movement] has been trying to help me find both the masculine and feminine sides of Lady Macbeth. I need to try and make my masculine side more assertive. I find it very difficult to be assertive.

Tim conducted a very interesting exercise. We had to perform the sleepwalking scene in a variety of strange manners. We did an opera version, a ballet version, a jazz version and a version with Tamara [Harvey, Assistant to the Master of Play] reading the lines and us just doing the actions. Lastly we did a version with Terry McGinity [Duncan and the Doctor] and Hilary Tonnes [Lady Macduff and the Gentlewoman] playing the Doctor as Duncan and the Gentlewoman as Lady Macduff to see how that affected the scene. This was mainly just a warm up exercise but it was very interesting.

I am very nervous about this scene because I am wary of falling into the trap of ‘mad’ acting. Coincidentally, I met a woman on Sunday who was crazy. She began talking to me about having a breakdown and being beaten up. She asked me if I would come and visit her in hospital. What struck me was how normal she sounded. She was talking to me with the same tone as she would have if we had been discussing the weather. I wondered whether that was something I could use truthfully in the sleepwalking scene.

I am finding it difficult to work with the doubling of parts that we are using in the sleepwalking scene. The actors playing Duncan and Lady Macduff are also the actors playing the Doctor and the Gentlewoman. It's potentially interesting because a lot of what is going on in Lady Macbeth's conscience is related to the murders of Duncan and Lady Macduff. At the moment I think Tim wants me address the fact that they are the same people in order to show how much the murders are on my mind. I think it's an extraordinary scene and for me the challenge is to get to grips with what is going on inside this woman's head that has reduced her to the state of walking in her sleep and talking the way she does.

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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