This is Dickon's second blog entry for the 2007 production of Othello in which he discusses playing Lodovico and getting used to the Globe space.
Transcript of Podcast
We are not sitting round the table any more – we are now on our feet with our scripts in our hands doing some very rough blocking. We haven’t touched on the main scenes that he is involved in yet, but we have worked on Act 1 Scene 3, the Senate scene (this is the scene he isn’t in, but Wilson [Milam, the Director] has put him in). At the moment my feelings are that he is a political man, and that he is very concerned about the threat to Cyprus, which has to be sorted out. This is a very useful through line for the rest of the piece, because he is instrumental in the politics of Cyprus. Going there to remove Othello and bring him back, and to put Cassio in his place. So there is a political quality to the man. But also there is a personal quality – which is the family. So there is a strong personal and political thing that is beginning to emerge with him, a divided loyalty if you like. Then there is the beard. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without shaving. Two and a half weeks – lots of itching. He has a beard for gravitas, and if we can make itching part of the performance it will be great!
Most of Shakespeare's characters have a degree of being on the make – they are not passive people – and Lodovico is a man on the make – he is politically ambitious. I think there is also a fracture point within him; this loyalty to his family, which I think comes out in the end. I hope I will find this with Wilson in the rehearsals. Lodovico lets the personal tip into the political, especially when he is talking about the treatment of Iago in Act Five – I think he tips over there into letting the personal lead, in the way he talks about the torture. So Lodovico is not just a safe pair of hands, he is not just a nice decent family man who wants to make sure his family are ok. Like most of us, he has got darker aspects. We haven’t done much work on Act Five yet, but we might get to it by the end of this week. As a character he isn’t really on his feet yet.
As well as Lodovico, in Act Two Scene Two I play a Cypriot gallant, so I people a scene there, which is quite a challenge. You can’t just sit there and look bored. You have got to be concentrating and listening to the scene.
Getting used to the Space
We’ve been learning how to tell the story in the Globe. So running alongside the rehearsal we’ve had a session on stage with Patsy Rodenburg, helping us act within that space; to act with our voices, because that is all we have out there, the voice.
Thinking about playing the space, what has been interesting with Patsy is the temptation to play to the groundlings is something you must avoid. I can understand that, especially in those early performance when you are feeling insecure, you may well leap for the nearest relationship – which may well be with a groundling. You will probably then lose about 95% of the house. So in a way Patsy has suggested that we always get our thoughts from above – which is a great way to think – getting inspiration from above. And of course when you look up in the Globe you have the sky – so it is a wonderful place to gain inspiration. And also then you keep the whole house open to you. This been a very useful thing to build in – as you build your character you are building in how to play the space too.
One thing that Patsy said, which I loved, was the thought that, as an actor, don’t physically play the whole space. Her term was, you will machine gun the thought. As an actor you think you are taking it from left to right all the way round the auditorium, but in fact you are diluting what you are doing; so actually you should be specific. You should make the thought a bullet and not scatter it. I thought this was great. That was something she brought from her work at the Olivier at the National – again a very big space. That is something that is not a particularly useful instinct – to tell it to the whole auditorium. Big auditoriums, like the Globe or the Olivier, require a heightened awareness.
We’ve had a session with Glynn MacDonald [the Globe's resident movement advisor] on how we use our bodies out there – because it is such an exposing space and also tricky in that, depending on how you angle your body, you can cut off a large piece of the Globe audience, which we don’t want to do.
I’ve also had a session with Giles [Block, who does Text work at the Globe], working through all my lines, looking at the verse and making concrete my relationship with the words. There is an actual choice behind each word and a relationship behind each word which is important. So that the smallest word – like and – a word we use without thinking, in ‘fish and chips’. In Elizabethan terms it has the weight of ‘in addition’ and it helps you to remember this. For example when you say ‘Law and Order’ in means ‘Law,’ and, in addition, ‘Order’. It is you with your character, taking your character's vocabulary and really making your relationship lucid and concrete with their choice of words and use of language.
We have the extra level of the Globe as a space as well as the normal challenges of a production of Othello.
I did a corporate film earlier in the year, and they wanted to re-shoot the opening scene because the production company didn’t like it. The director rung up and said could I film it over the next two weeks. I said I’d be very happy to, but I have this huge beard for Othello. So they said how do you fancy doing a voice over!
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.