Shakespeare's Globe

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Colin talks about performing Lavatch at the Globe; how he's playing the comedy and how the audience are reacting to his bitter fool.

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

So we’re now into performance, how was the opening night?

Colin Hurley:

The first preview, the first time we did it in front of an audience was lovely. The people who come to the very first one are always very friendly and supportive, and it’s a big party really. So you have to do that one and you kind of feel all loved up and then over the next few performances you learn more about the play, you learn some things. What you get is the most actor friendly, bestest, nicest version you could possibly dream of. And then that’s put away for the rest of the run.

HB:

It’s interesting because I was there on that first night and I could see John Dove [director] behind me, scribbling away.

CH:

A lot of the time John’s been trying to make sure that it isn’t just gag gag gag or laugh laugh laugh. So a lot of his notes were, “try stringing those two lines together so we don’t get a laugh there. Keep it grounded, keep it earthed.” It’s a lovely place to enjoy and laugh in, it’s a great asset but you do need to anchor it sometimes.

HB:

Yeah and I guess you don’t know that until you start performing.

CH:

You really don’t know what the audience are suddenly going to pick up on. There were loads of lines that surprised me, not even lines that I said, that other people said, and I went, “Oh my goodness!” And then sometimes a line that you say they’ll suddenly pick up on and you go, “Oh, I see, I understand now what the shape of that little bit is, or could be.” Lots of Learning.

HB:

I know Ellie [Piercy, Helena] was saying, “Sometimes they laugh at me, I’m not supposed to be funny so I don’t understand why they are doing it.” It’s like you said, it’s just the atmosphere of the place.

CH:

Yes. And it’s fluid, we’re in the play, we’re out of the play, it’s serious and we can all just explode and release at various points.

HB:

So how about press night?

CH:

Press nights are always a little bit sticky. Because on the one hand, no matter how hard you try, there’s a little voice in you saying, “Just do you’re greatest hits. Do that bit the way it worked once in rehearsal, do that next bit the way it was in second preview, because that was the best version.” And try and stitch together Frankenstein’s Monster of a performance. So you’re kind of batting that away the whole time and also you get the audience, who are not writing notes, they are a bit nervous and tense themselves and so suddenly they laugh in places where even in the first performance people didn’t laugh. What? What’s that about? That’s the only time ever that line will make people laugh or people will laugh at that point. And so that kind of throws your timing off a bit, quite a few of us were running over an unexpected laugh. If you laugh too often, regularly, then the big laugh doesn’t happen. John Gielgud used to say, with Oscar Wilde: “The artist’s job is to stop them laughing for three of the four jokes so they can have a good laugh on the fourth.” Or something like that.

HB:

I think that’s almost British humour because we like to string it out and then it’s a better laugh at the end.

CH:

Yeah, yeah. I saw a production of a Joe Orton play, What the Butler Saw, in the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester when I was seventeen years old, so that’s about five hundred years ago! And it was brilliant, it was brilliant, and we laughed, the whole audience were in hysterics all the way up to the interval. I’ve never seen so many people be so funny for so much of the time. And Orton’s funny anyway, we were just flying. Then we had the interval and we came back and they played the second half of the play in virtual silence. I’m exaggerating, but it was really subdued because we were all exhausted. You know, so the poor actors were getting more and more frantic, “What’s happened, what’s happened? We’ve lost them.” So pacing is important and in that space it’s very easy to set folk off.

HB:

Is there anything else that’s been changed with the play then, since rehearsals?

CH:

We’ve all been exploring being a bit more aware that it’s theatre in the round. John, bless him for all his brilliance, and I‘ve worked with him about eight times now, I think he’s amazing and wonderful, does tend to get us all to come down to the front because he’s deaf. He says, “I know it’s because I’m deaf, but come closer, come closer.” Breaking out of that, whilst still honouring the direction he’s given us, means that we kind of get a bit messy. Suddenly just facing out front or facing out side, when the actor you’re playing with is behind you, suddenly isn’t the answer. So we are exploring the space in that way. It’s something that, if I ruled the World, we’d have been doing once or twice a week, if not every day, for the whole rehearsal period. The building is so busy now, so packed, there isn’t access to the stage.

HB:

I know that I’ve been doing interviews with the cast of Much Ado and they’ve had one go on the stage and they’re just like, “We’re desperate to get back on there!” But it’s like you said, it’s such a hectic schedule.

CH:

And when it’s not another acting company its education events and everything. I think we are going to need another Globe.

HB:

I think so. Next door?

CH:

Yeah.

HB:

Exactly the same but next door.

CH:

Or the Rose, the Rose would do to kind of revive that bit of rivalry.

HB:

I’ll put it to management. So how about your performance, do you think anything specific about the way you’re playing it has changed?

CH:

Still working with Janie on making sure we are connected. The best thing about rehearsal is about getting to know each other, getting to trust each other, so that you then play, so that you don’t think, “Oh, if I change anything the other person will be cross or confused or lost or whatever.” So we’re building that up. We usually go through the lines, I find them quite hard to remember, so does Janie at times, and then we just do any bits. I feel like we’re still relaxing in each other’s company more and more, well me certainly, I think Janie’s a natural in that space.

HB:

My friend saw it really recently and she said you had a really great chemistry. So I think you are achieving it, just little things, especially for those two characters, the whole sovereign-fool dynamic is really nice.

CH:

Yeah and if we’re not there for each other, why are we there at all? The fool especially. As I’ve said before, “Why’s he there?” So that’s a sort of lifeline for me, that relationship.

HB:

You were saying about comedy, for yourself is it working? The joke, do you think you’ve got the right balance there?

CH:

Dunno. I don’t know. What I’m trying to do is resist the temptation to try and make it funny. You know, apologising for Shakespeare’s jokes, if I do a funny gesture it’ll be funny, which unfortunately can work in that space.

HB:

And especially if the audience are with you, you could be tempted to do a bit more, I suppose.

CH:

Yeah, so I’m trying, trying to land the lines on whoever I’m talking to. You know, sometimes I think, “If I tweaked it this way would that be funny? Or if I did that would it be better?” Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m still kind of floundering around a bit, I haven’t got a crystallised, expert, funny version of it, without going, “There’ll be a laugh there, there’ll be a laugh there.” It’s a bit messier than that.

HB:

I just like his bitterness actually. I thought that definitely came across in comparison to maybe – like you were saying, there’s that whole friction with you and Parolles, but I thought it had a really nice dynamic because you are so different, a different kind of humour. I thought it worked really well.

CH:

Oh good, because it’s funny that, like we said, on paper they are quite similar the lines, you know, stuff about sex and it’s witty and this and that. But yeah, because we are quite different creatures – I think Jimmy’s probably wind and fire and I’m mud!

HB:

You are yeah!

CH:

Earth and water or whatever. The couple of times I am on stage with Jimmy it’s always a joy, you know, I’m very happy up there with him. The bitterness, I’m pleased I didn’t have to strive for it. It just comes out, because if you say the lines, if you talk to whoever’s there, you say those words to them and that’s what comes out, I suppose. So that’s Shakespeare, very good.

HB:

Yeah. I just thought it all went really well together, your little costume, your little drum. And the one time you did do the ‘bum bum’ was perfect, I see why you didn’t do it all the time, it was just right.

CH:

Yes it would have been a rather irritating fool then, or clown.

HB:

It was like a moment of life for him and then oh no, he is still bitter! And so are generally the audience reacting how you expected them to? You’ve done it before so you know they’re a good audience as a rule.

CH:

Yeah, I know they’re a good audience. I never know when exactly people are going to laugh. Certain patterns start to emerge now, but there are some matinees where you gradually, after the first couple of scenes, you become aware that only a third of the audience speak English as a first language, or if at all.

HB:

But how about the jig as well? It’s really good, a really good one. Again, the Much Ado cast came to watch on press night and they were like, “Oh no, they’re jig’s amazing!”

CH:

Well as the jigs are all done by Sian, hopefully she’s in a win-win situation.

HB:

I think so.

CH:

She’s very clever. And with Bill writing the music that he wrote, I think it all goes together very nicely. The kind of slow solemn thing into the ‘pheww’.

HB:

And the odd little glockenspiel I like as well.

CH:

Oh yeah, ring music we call it, ‘bing!’.

HB:

Because you had said about it I was like, “Oh there’s the glockenspiel music”. It’s so funny – So how was it today doing two shows? Do you find it a lot harder work doing two shows or do you just take each one as it comes?

CH:

 

It’s just a day at work. I mean it gets difficult if you’ve got to get up really early to look after the kids, then it gets hard. I got a good deal today, which is that I did the morning shift, and then Rachel took them all to school, which meant I could go back to bed for an hour.

HB:

Get the sleep whilst you can.

CH:

Yeah. It’s just that thing of going, “Yes I can have another hour now”, rather than if you start at six and it’s just continuous.

HB:

It is a long day.

CH:

And this isn’t a good place to sleep in, the Globe. Well it’s just busy, busy, busy. Everywhere you go there’s someone in there.

HB:

Yes there’s however many cast in the green room. I advise the chair in the library.

CH:

I guess if there’s someone there asleep, they wouldn’t notice if you just sat on top of them and slept would they? You could have an actor sandwich.

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