Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Pre-Rehearsals

Laura Rogers (Lady Macbeth) talks to Adopt An Actor about the 2010 production of Macbeth. In this first interview, she discusses her experience of Shakespeare at school, how she became an actor, her initial impressions of the play and the first day of rehearsals.

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Time: 13 minutes, 30 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Paul Shuter:

Welcome to this Globe Education podcast. My name is Paul Shuter and I'm talking to Laura Rogers who's playing Lady Macbeth in this summer's production of Macbeth at Shakespeare's Globe.

So, what sort of Shakespeare experience did you have at school?

Laura Rogers:

Well, I did Macbeth for GCSE English (that’s going back a long time now)! So, touched on it then, but obviously not in as much detail as we’re doing now. And then I went to a sixth form college and I did performing arts as an A Level, and the production that we did in the first year of that, so when I was 16, was The Tempest. We all had to audition for the parts and of course all the girls wanted to play Miranda, so that’s what we were all focused on really. But when the parts were given out I was asked to do Prospero, but as a woman, which at first I was horrified by, being that I just thought of Prospero as an old man, but obviously as we started to rehearse it I realised what a gem of a role that was.

So, I really took on that challenge and thoroughly enjoyed it and it was from then that I think the real taste of Shakespeare began and I realised just what a genius he was, and as a result of doing that, when I auditioned for drama schools, and they wanted a Shakespearean piece I did Prospero which everyone was quite amazed at, but it seemed to work!

PS:

Yes, well, you can’t complain if you get cast as Prospero, can you?

LR:

No, no!

PS:

And in the last few weeks have you been able to hear your old English teacher’s voice in the back of your mind talking about Macbeth?

LR:

Obviously I think any young girl when they’re given a Shakespeare play to study would always look at it from the female’s point of view so I remember really concentrating on the Lady Macbeth speeches. The image that I had in my head that stuck with me was the “I have given suck”, because that’s such a terrifying image of her being able to nurture, look after a tiny baby and then in the same breath destroy it. So I think that really for me was the essence, the root of the character. And I also remember different themes we talked about, the lack of sleep and how that can destroy somebody over time. So those were the two images that I’d really remembered and came back to me.

PS:

Did you become an actor straight away from school?

LR:

Yes, I went to drama college when I was 18 and so ever since then I’ve been working.

PS:

Was that on the back of doing a lot of youth theatre? And, clearly school plays, as you’ve just been talking about Prospero…

LR:

I was born in Swansea (I was born in Carmarthen but lived in Swansea from the age of 4), and there’s so many opportunities there if you’re interested in the arts; there’s lots of choirs that you can be involved in , and lots of youth theatre. And so I started becoming interested in theatre when I was around 12-13, and really from the singing point of view, I enjoyed singing and we’d do a school musical every year and then a couple of us were asked if we wanted to audition for the West Glamorgan youth theatre when we were about 14 and we got into that and that’s every Christmas; we’d do two weeks and that would be staying in a venue and rehearsing a play and then putting it on at the end. It was very intense and we put on great productions in the local theatre. As, you know, you got older your parts got bigger and it was like being part of a family. And I was also part of a Gilbert and Sullivan society and then the NYT of Wales. And so all of this sort of led to my enthusiasm and it was drama teacher in my sixth form college that really nurtured me and said “Why don’t you try for RADA?”, and he came over and tutored me in and helped me chose pieces and it all went from there.

PS:

So that’s where you went?

LR:

I went to RADA, yeah.

PS:

Okay. Now, did you have time to think about the role before rehearsal started, or is that something you don’t want to do? Do you want to try to keep a clean…?

LR:

No, I did, because I found out I got the part about six weeks before we started and obviously for the audition I wanted to be as prepared as possible. So the three speeches that I had really looked at, I learnt as much as I could. So I felt that I was reasonably familiar with the words, but then I read the play a couple more times but I thought “I don’t want to form too many concrete ideas“, because that’s the things that you discover in the rehearsal process and I want to be able to be open to lots of different new ways of speaking and also ways of communicating with the other actors. I don’t want to have formed my decision of how it should be and then block anything else that happens, so I sort of made myself familiar and then put the book down until we started.

Elliot [Cowan] who’s playing Macbeth and Christian [Bradley] who’s playing Banquo and I all started working rehearsals a week before the rest of the company so that we could really paraphrase most of our scenes so that we were very familiar with it.

PS:

Ah! I thought you were all astonishingly good at the read-through!

LR:

We cheated, we had a week earlier!

PS:

I just went out of there completely wowed by, you know, how far the three of you seemed to have got. Right. You’ve worked at the Globe quite a lot before. What’s different about doing Shakespeare at the Globe?

LR:

Well, to be honest, in my professional career I’ve not done Shakespeare anywhere else! But, as much as I’d love to work at the RSC and the National Theatre, I really think any actor – every actor – out there who loves Shakespeare should work here, because it’s how Shakespeare imagined the works to be put on, in the open.

Macbeth is a very dark play, it takes place during the night quite a lot, and yet we never really have darkness at the Globe until we get into the later months and it’s late at night. But a lot of our productions will be done in daylight and that’s what he intended; he didn’t intend for it to be done in a black box because he wants the words, the imagery and the audience to use their imaginations, the actors to take them to the dark place rather than that to be done for them.

So I think there are huge opportunities that the space gives you and also huge hurdles that the space gives you to get over, but the atmosphere that this building and the stage give you is unlike anything else. The fact that your audience participate because they’re so close, a lot of the action happens amongst them, we can see their faces as well as them seeing us. They always say that the audience is “the other character” within the play, and you really get that feeling when you work here.

PS:

Yes, I mean you’ve not just done comedy here you’ve done tragedy here as well …

LR:

My main roles have been in comedy. Comedy is a gift here because you really can work with the audience and work them and get them on your side and have a laugh with them. I’ve done Richard III here and Timon of Athens, which are not comedies, and but I’ve had smaller roles. So for me this is going to be a new experience to see how you work with your audience within a tragedy. I think what’s wonderful about working at the Globe is the laughter when you hit it, the note, right and everyone’s in on the joke and there’s that momentous laugh that goes round that’s contagious, that starts off in one place and then goes round the whole audience.

Whereas in a tragedy you’re not going to get that, so I think what you want to achieve is a silence, and make sure that the audience are all on the same page as you, and are getting the story and setting the atmosphere right. So I think that’s what I want to aim for this time. I want to also aim to see how quiet you can be and how you don’t have to shout and how you don’t have to push; you can speak quietly and still get everybody’s attention.

PS:

For you, you must already have a fairly good idea about vocally about how it’s going to work?

LR:

Yeah, I mean, I’ve had quite a lot of experience on the stage, but still it’s going to be a challenge because I think every play’s different. So we’ll see, I mean we had a voice session on the stage this morning, but obviously there was no audience in and the acoustics are completely different.

PS:

Just a few people wandering around on a tour, absolutely thrilled. What’s the first day of rehearsals like?

LR:

Well, the first day with the whole company?

PS:

Well, both first days I suppose.

LR:

The first day with just the handful of us… well, I mean I knew both Elliot and Christian previously because they were both at RADA the same time as me. Christian was in the year above me and Elliot was in the year below me, but I’d never worked with either of them. So we were familiar with each other.

PS:

And you’ve worked with Lucy Bailey [director] before?

LR:

I have worked with Lucy before. And Elliot and I had previously met up when we both realised we were playing these parts (with Lucy and without Lucy) to discuss our ideas about the relationship between the two and what had happened to them previously and start to form the basis of that relationship early on. And the first day we read through the play but we didn’t read our own parts; each scene, we played a different part just so that we could hear, hear it from everybody’s perspective, hear lots of voices in the room. And then, if I can remember rightly, I think we began to paraphrase it bit by bit so that we could completely understand the story, what we were saying and what was being said to us.

PS:

And that’s a discipline that you’ve followed right through the play, you’ve paraphrased the whole thing?

LR:

Yeah. We started as well (I can’t remember if this is the first day), but we started exploring physically how it felt the relationships between Banquo, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Because obviously within the play they’re very familiar with each other, they all know each other very well, and to discover the physicality that Banquo and Lady Macbeth have, and Lady Macbeth and Macbeth have, I think it’s very important to get that very real sense of knowing somebody really well, trusting somebody so that when he gets killed later on it’s kind of it’s an amazing betrayal to see how people that have been three very close friends can then just do away with that person.

PS:

Because you don’t really get involved in that plot do you?

LR:

I don’t get involved in that plot, and also as we were reading today through the scene with just before Banquo’s murder, Lady Macbeth asks if Banquo’s gone from court. I think she is beginning to worry about her husband’s motives. I think, as far as she was concerned, her only plan was to get rid of Duncan in order for Macbeth to be king and for her to be queen. I think that that was it, and then we can all live happily ever after. Whereas in Macbeth’s mind, he starts to get paranoid and starts to think he’s going to have to kill this person and this person and this person and for her it’s all spiralling out of control.

Also we did a very interesting exercise in the first week when we were all together. Everyone stood in a circle, I was in the middle, and I had to go around each character physically, just greet them or not, depending on how familiar I was with that character within the play. It would get faster and faster going round so at the end it was just a sea of faces and it was funny to see that basically she has no-one she can trust really by the end. Literally, Macbeth has gone away from her emotionally and it turns out that the gentlewoman and Banquo were really her only pillars. And so when Banquo’s gone, she starts to worry about her own safety as well within the place. So no, I don’t think she … she doesn’t want Banquo out of the way at all.

But in the first day of the rehearsal with everybody we had a meet and greet, were introduced to Dominic Dromgoole [Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe], told a little bit about how the building works, and then we all got together and did a proper read-through, everyone doing their own parts. And then we had a movement session with Javier [de Frutos, choreographer] and a warm-up and started to explore some of the physical sides of war – a possible image at the beginning of the play, where you see maimed soldiers on the stage after the battle has been fought. Because Lucy wanted very dark and bleak, she wants there to be a sense of unrest throughout the play; she doesn’t want there to be any real hope for the future, even at the end, which she thinks is a sombre note. And that was really the first day.

PS:

Thanks ever so much for that – that was brilliant.

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