Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal 2

Colin talks about getting to grips with his character's use of prose rather than verse and he also reveals a background in stand up comedy and how this is now informing his decisions on Lavatch's humour.

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Time: 10 minutes 6 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

HB:

Have you done any text work?

CH:

Yes, we’ve been working with Giles [Block, Master of Text]. The way it works, we’ll have a session with Giles individually and we can go through anything that, you know, if we don’t know the meaning of something and we can’t quite nail it. And Giles will talk it through with us, not always come up with the answers, but we will explore it together. If you’re wandering about whether it could be twisted to mean this or twisted to have that effect, again, it’s someone to talk those things through. Not in a calmer way than in rehearsal, because rehearsal is quite calm, you’ve got more time to discover what about the words.

HB:

Were there any specific parts of the text for you that were difficult or needed explaining?

CH:

What Giles is brilliant at is you’re working through stuff and he’ll just spot where there is an antithesis that can be lifted a bit and because all my stuff is prose and making points and kind of the steps of an argument. Giles will just come and catch you and everyone’s got their own little script as well with just their bits in and if you keep getting some word wrong, he’ll just put a ring around so you can learn it properly, or if there’s a word that he thinks or a phrase that he’s thinking isn’t quite solid on yet, he’ll just see if you want to chat about it. He came up with, there’s a bit where the case for friendship and marriage, there’s kind of four steps to it and I understand what it means, but I wasn’t quite lifting the most useful phrases or words in it. And so we just went on our way through with Giles and he doesn’t tell you what to do, he doesn’t say, “It is this”, but he just makes offers, I like to call them, so he’s very supportive. Before, when I’ve worked with Giles, it’s been on verse work and then it’s very much how the verse can be a friend and how he can help you. I don’t want to call them rules, I want to call them tools, but you know it’s useful to go to the end of a line and it’s useful to concentrate on the nouns and the verbs rather than the adjectives and pronouns. But then you have to go, “But why”, and not just why in terms of making sense, but how do you justify, why is that last word of a line important to that person? How do you pick it out without just seeing it like I’m observing a line ending? So those verse things I got used to working with Giles on, but the prose is just slightly different, not slightly very different, because you haven’t got line endings when you’re there but there are full stops. So it’s very different and you’re looking at what you’re concealing rather than what you’re revealing, I guess, with prose. Again a very useful thing that Giles and Mark Rylance talked about was, you know, you speak to reveal you speak to conceal, something that stuck with me ever since. It’s really useful when there is a difficult bit of text, you go, “Why, this is very flowery, this is a very round about the houses way of saying things, it’s not very clear.” And then you go, “Ah, yes, like the politicians!”

HB:

So, can you talk a little about the jig? How are you finding that?

CH:

The jig is a joy. We have the amazing Sian [Williams, Choreographer] comes in, I don’t know how many jigs I’ve done with Sian now, loads, and I’ve worked with her outside the Globe as well. She’s an angel as far as I’m concerned.

HB:

How does this jig compare then?

CH:

It’s great. She is so good at getting actors to feel like they can do it. You know, I’ve worked with a lot of choreographers and you can kind of rub up a little bit. I mean I’m alright, I can move my feet around and I’m reasonably well coordinated, so I do alright, but I still kind of go, “You don’t really get it, do you, with actors”. Sian is just terrific, the way she works, she always gets you together. You do a physical warm up and then basically she’ll just teach you some of the steps individually and they’ll be the build, the building blocks, for the jig. So rather than go, “Here’s the dance, here’s the first bit, the second bit”, she’ll go, “Here’s a little step.” And we do that for a while, but here’s another little step and here’s something where you want. So before you know it, you’ve got six or eight moves and they are your moves. We’re all like to have our moves, don’t we? And then she’ll go, “Oh, by the way, put that move and do that three times and do that move four times and that move five times”, and, “Oh look, it fits with the music, as if by magic.” You know, she’s planned and planned and planned and yet still doesn’t get rigid. There’s still flexibility, you know she’ll plan and plan and plan and someone will go, ”Oh I’m finding it really hard to get from there to there.” And she’ll go, “Oh let’s do the other foot then”. And so she is with years and years of expertise and that ease comes...

HB:

...Because you’re such a varied group, like younger, older, more experienced, like obviously Janie Dee [Countess of Roussilon] can dance, is a dancer.

CH:

So I’ve heard.

HB:

Does it not show?

CH:

It shows, yeah, she’s good. But the jig isn’t really a dance, it’s not a west end musical number, it’s a celebration of the people, the characters, the actors and the space and it’s very much in the spirit of social dance in those days. Whether it was in court or countries depending on the environment, you know, it’s a chance to interact with each other and it’s not about the perfect line or the leg being at a certain angle, it’s about people having a ritualised way of meeting each other, spending time in each other’s space and enjoying that.

HB:

Is there any particular scene or moment in the play that you think is significant to the interpretation of your character?

CH:

The big revelation for me was just because he’s called “the clown” in the script doesn’t mean you have to try to be funny. I found that the more I’ve just tried to make sense of what I’m saying and work out why I’m saying it, what I’m trying to get from the other person by saying it, the more comfortable I feel in the scenes and then, you know, if nobody laughs at all during it, so be it, won’t bother me because I’ll feel secure. It’s like with stand up, I dabbled in stand up comedy for a while. I watched loads and loads and watched people live or die by the laugh, they crack a little joke and if no one laughs they’re dead, someone’s shot them. And I was convinced, coming from an acting background and a play background, that if you got a strong enough narrative then that would carry you through the whole stand up set. You know, you don’t live or die by the laugh because the story is interesting and you go, “Oh, what’s happening there”, and then the best comics do that anyway.

HB:

The best comics are those that have got a continuous story and you don’t get them until the end but they’ve held people for that long.

CH:

Or there might be lots of incidental laughs, but that’s not the pay off, that doesn’t mean, “Ah, you can relax now”. It’s kind of, “Thank you for laughing at that, but I’ve got more important things”. And I think Shakespeare benefits from my kind of approach, well it’s a play isn’t it, it’s not a stand up routine. And Janie’s been great with that, you know, she’s sort of gnawing away. What’s the relationship? What are we doing to each other here? And John [Dove, Director] again is fantastic on the detail, he has made brilliant suggestions that wouldn’t necessarily have occurred to me for ages. When a character comes in trying to get his daughter married off to Janie’s, the Countesses’, son, I’m in the scene, cracking Shakespearean jokes, and why. And suddenly I go, “Oh, I’m protecting him”, but we’ve kind of come up with this kind of guard dog thing that I’m kind of snapping around people’s ankle, sort of, “Leave her alone”. Same happens with Parolles and he’s worrying Helena a little bit and I’m protective of her. Using the humour and the puns etc as weapons to kind of try and fend someone off or distract them seems very useful.

HB:

I think it is a trait of the fool, loyalty is a big one I think. So I think that fits in really well.

CH:

Yes, that’s funny that’s a little word that has cropped up a few times now, ‘loyalty’, and of course, you know, you immediately think of King Lear, don’t you? About this guy just going around with a nutter, a nut case who’s not king anymore, he’s still there.

HB:

Yes, it’s the same idea, definitely. So have your initial impressions of your character changed or been confirmed since the start of the process?

CH:

I didn’t have any fixed idea of him. Like I said last when we spoke, I Googled some stuff and got some stuff from you, thank you very much.

HB:

You perhaps had a general fool idea.

CH:

Yes, what is a fool? What is a fool? And then reading the play going, “Oh, it’s not any of those things then”, initial disappointment. Now, I suppose, I’m kind of just seeing where he fits into each scene as a story. I think I’ve said before, he’s not pivotal, you could do a version of All’s Well That Ends Well with the fool not in any of it, easily. So I’ve just tried to make sure that doesn’t happen.

HB:

John doesn’t change his mind and go, “Actually we just don’t need you!”

CH:

[Laughs] Well I’d take my wage anyway! I’ve just learnt more about speaking for a reason and so the situations that he finds himself in just seem quite normal now. You know, he meets his boss to say, “I think I’m going to to leave possibly”, has a little argument about why he might leave. Possibly whether he’s testing her to make her say, “Oh stay”, or whether he really thinks, “Now that my old boss is dead I should get out, have some kids as the pension scheme”, you know, it debateable. I suppose I’m beginning to understand more, or feel more, that they’re out in the country, they’re away from the court and the city. And there are two points where I mention the court and the first one was very clear, you know, he just needs to know one phrase and you can get your way through court, no problem, and that’s kind of fairly light, but it is cynical. And then just the other day I noticed that there was another scene where I’m being a guard dog and I’m talking about the devil and I say, “Oh, let his nobility remain in his court.” [IV. v] And I never picked up on the fact that, “Hang on, the court, the devil’s court” and he’s, “A prince of the world” [IV. v], he says. So making that connection that this person I am trying to fend away from my countess, boss, lady, whatever, represents something I’ve already been quite anti. You just get specific, you sort of get little moments when you go, “Oh that goes with that and that goes with that”, and then you don’t have to worry about the arc of my character. I never try doing that really, that kind of arrives or is made up by the audience.

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