Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal 1

In this second interview Colin describes how his character has developed so far in rehearsal and Lavatch's important relationships with the Countess, Parolles and also the Globe audience.

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Time: 8 minutes, 40 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

My first question is what relationships in the play are important to your character?

Colin Hurley:

Now Lavatch comes on with the Countess quite a lot. He lives in her big house because she says he can. Seems that he was the fool for the lord of the manor, the lord of the manor’s dead, but for the sake of the lord of the manor he’s allowed to stay on. Working with Janie [Dee], who’s playing the Countess [of Rousillon] at the moment. We’re exploring the healing side of his humour, that he can kind of keep her going a bit, provoke her, make sure she stays awake, doesn’t get catatonic, and that she might have a soft spot for him even though she says, “well he’s only here because my husband liked him” – that she might like him being around as well. Tiny little scene with Helena who was brought up in this house as well. It’s very strange that you’ve got these tiny little scenes and you go “hang on, this is someone I must have known for the whole of their life”. I get the feeling I would have watched this girl grow up and would have known her dad, probably been cured of the pox or something by her dad perhaps. So it’s kind of strange because there’s a danger that you can then try and overload a scene with how well we know each other and all that. And of course when people know each other very well it’s just very easy, so we will have to work towards that. If it matters in terms of the story that we know each other well, perhaps it doesn’t even matter. Important relationship with my lady the Countess. Seems to be a nice enough feel, you know I’ve known this girl Helena a long time, must have known the son Bertram for a long time. Don’t say anything to him, but I talk about him a couple of times, I bring news about the son. I tell my lady that he’s run away to war, I tell my lady that he’s back, with a big bit of velvet on his face. “Ooh, I wonder what’s under the velvet, I wonder if it’s a big manly scar, I wonder if its pox marks” [IV. v], that doesn’t seem to matter there. And then I come up against Parolles a couple of times and it seems like Lavatch and Parolles don’t seem to get on...

HB:

...Fighting over the comedy.

CH:

...Exactly! That’s how I feel at the moment. There’s a little interchange between them and at first we kind of looked at it like professional putting down the guy that hasn’t got the answers. I think a professional might really, really feel threatened by, and therefore despise, a very talented amateur. I keep cross referencing Twelfth Night as well, I can’t get away from Feste and the lady of the house Olivia. A couple of scenes and things that happen, things that happen to Lavatch there – Malvolio in Twelfth Night talks about Feste having done quite well getting back into favour, Malvolio says, “oh well I saw him get put down by the village idiot”, by a natural fool. I wonder if there might be an element of that with Parolles, I think I’ve got the better of him and then he says, “oh yes, very good, very well fed” [II. iv], so gets the last word.

HB:

That’s a nice relationship.

CH:

Yeah, there could be a bit of jealousy there. Look at Jimmy Garnon [Parolles], he’s got more hair than me, he’s got more lines than me, he’s younger than me, so it’s easy, method no problem there.

HB:

I like that. And do you foresee a relationship with the audience for your character?

CH:

I think everyone has to be aware that it’s a space that public speaking – a lot of these scenes are more public than you’d imagine, they’ve got to be. There’s one point where I thought Lavatch had an aside, when he was talking about his betrothed and how he’s gone off her. But then when we got the bodies in the space, I hand a letter over to my lady the Countess, and I’d imagined in my head that she’s reading the letter and I would have a chat with my 1,700 closest friends about, “I’ve gone off Isabel”, “ooh, you should see the girls at court”, “the brains of my cupid’s knocked out” [III. ii]. But in the space it seemed like, because I had been asking this lady’s permission to go off with Isabel before, and now I’ve come and said, “I’m not that keen on Isabel anymore”, with a letter between us it seemed like I could actually say the lines to her. I’m still kind of processing it, so there might not be any asides, there might not be any kind of stepping outside the play to have a little chat, though I kind of miss that a little bit, the idea of it. Fools often seem a bit outside anyway don’t they? They’ve got this kind of one foot in one foot out role. Michael [Taylor] the designer gave me a very promising article that he found, in the Guardian or something, there was a clown festival recently. Now this is very much the red nose guys but the jist of it is he said is that so many of them who hadn’t discovered clowning would have been outcasts, would have been on the road, tramps, travellers, alcoholics, would have slipped through the net. And I find that very appealing. Again, going back to Feste, you know he’s awol for quite a while, comes back tail between his legs. And the Countess does say about Lavatch, “has no paces, but runs where he will” [IV. v]. Got no discipline, he doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do, just opens his mouth and out it comes. There’s something quite appealing there about him, being a bit wounded, a bit damaged. Lefeu, however we decide to pronounce him, the glorious Michael Bertenshaw. He says something about him as well, he says, “a shrewd knave and an unhappy” [Iv. v]. There are some notes that say, according to the scholars, “unhappy” doesn’t mean unhappy it means bitter. We hear the word “unhappy”, if your boss, who was great to you – the King of France talks about how great Bertram’s dad was, what a great bloke, and if he was talking to anyone below his status he made them feel like kings. So I was in the service of a real top man. He’s gone, there must be pain for me as well, maybe Lavatch is damaged in some way.

HB:

That kind of leads onto my next question, you are sort of thinking of a back story?

CH:

Yeah, yeah, just so that you don’t stand out there and feel totally stupid and lost and find yourself out there waving and saying, “hello mum”. I hate getting tied down by it, you know, it’s all “well that’s fine for today”. As long as it’s not useful I’ll ditch it and if I get to the point where I get to the fiftieth show and I haven’t thought about it at all then that’s fine as well, as long as I’m alert and present to play whatever’s there. It’s all about attitude, it can become a trap. I think you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to do it, but you mustn’t feel that now you’ve answered the question, because the questions are always more interesting than the answers are. Questions are open, answers put the lid on things and you never want to put the lid on a performance ever. We talk in rehearsals, we talk. Second week of rehearsals, we were talking today. Last week was the first week and we had a good long chat, on day three. Who are we to think we can solve Shakespeare on day three of rehearsal, what are we going to do for the rest of the time? What are we going to do when we are performing it? And the audience are telling us what the story is, more in this space than anywhere else. You think, you know, “well we’ve worked on it, we’re experts on the play now, six weeks, whooo, yes.” You get out there and you find you know nothing, because the audience arrive and they tell you a whole load of stuff about the play, the writing, about you, about the character you thought you were playing.

HB:

It does seem to change doesn’t it? Well we will find out how much it will change once you actually perform.

CH:

Yes, it should, we should be open to that. Fourth wall isn’t very useful in that space, there is no fourth wall, if there is it’s behind the audience, it’s how I like to think of it.

HB:

So finally, how has your character developed over these first few weeks of rehearsal , so from day one ‘Meet and Greet’ to now?

CH:

He hasn’t developed very much, but he’s now talking to some real people. I know it sounds ridiculously simplistic, but it changes everything. When you’re at home you think, “Oh, I’ll do it like this, this’ll be good.” It’s like singing in the bathroom, it’s so great in the bathroom, then you go out there, “Oh, everyone’s looking at me! Argh! You said that line the way I didn’t expect you to say it.” And then you’ve got a choice, you can ignore or you can argue. “Excuse me, could you say your line like that so I can say my line like this?” Which used to happen, but much better to get to know each other. I haven’t worked with Janie [Dee] before, the Countess, but she’s fantastic. So we are in the process of getting to know each other...

HB:

...And this is her first time here so it’s all new to her. It’s good to work alongside someone like you who’s done it before.

CH:

I don’t know if that’s any help at all to be honest. The more I do it the less I know. And also the rules keep changing just because the world keeps changing. There are solutions to that space that were right five years ago that now don’t apply or have now run their course. A bit like mining, you go, “Oh, this is great”, but it doesn’t go on forever, the scene runs dry. You get cocky or you think you’ve answered it, solved the space, and you always shrink when you think you’ve cracked it.

HB:

Lots more to do and so that’s the last of my questions and we shall hear more about weeks 3 and 4 next.

CH:

Goodo!

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