This is Dickon's seventh and final blog entry for the 2007 production of Othello, in which he discusses previews and press night and their impact upon the production.
Transcript of Podcast
The main thing was growing in confidence about how you play the space. One of things I’ve had to come to terms with is the light. A matinee is a whole show in daylight. An evening show starts in daylight and goes into night time, which gives a very different atmosphere for the end of the play, and suits the sombre mood of the end of the play, and I think it works much better. So I have been trying to find a way of getting that night-time atmosphere into the matinees, and I think I am just about there now.
We had a very short notes session; Wilson just told us to keep driving it and keep moving it forward. Because we have had a lot of previews we had ironed out the problems beforehand. Press nights are horrible. There is a lot of tension and people start ‘acting’ again. The reviews are interesting – mixed and varied.
I was pretty relaxed on Press Night actually. Having done so many previews we have a good idea that the audiences like the show. Also it is not like a West End show where if the reviews are bad you can be off – it happened to a friend of mine recently. But we have pretty much sold out, which is odd for the critics, because they in effect have no power. They can turn up and say what they want, but they won’t affect the audiences very much, the audiences will still be there, they will still come to see this production.
I did quite an extensive warm up on my own; warming up the voice and physically warming up. I have various tongue twisters that I do, and sonnets, and speeches from Henry V. I go into the space, and walk around the Yard. One of the things that Glynn [Macdonald, the Globe’s master of Movement] said, which has been so helpful, and which I will use for the rest of my career. It is something Olivier said – the audience are in your lounge. So I walk around my lounge, so I know what it is like at the back of the upper gallery and other places, so that I have a physical relationship with the space.
I read the reviews – I’m curious and I can’t bear actors coming up to me and saying, ‘Are you all right?’ It is just one person’s opinion, but obviously, if your name is there in print, and they don’t like what you have done, of course it hurts. At the same time, that is the job, and it is brutal and hard, but you take it. As I said before we are sold out, so this afternoon was glorious. It is a rainy Sunday afternoon and you are in a sold out theatre. People are standing there in the rain just to listen to you. Playing Lodovico, with that last speech of the play, you know whether they are still with you or not. I’ve noticed that when the groundlings concentration goes they start almost hopping, them move their weight from right to left. I noticed it the other day, when it was very hot. Eamonn [Othello] was talking and they were hopping, and I thought I had to see if I could stop that, so I came in really sharply, with a great deal of precision, and they stopped moving, they refocused. That has been something that is very interesting, that you can up the story telling. You see this hopping, and people waiving with their fans, but once you get their concentration back, they are still. It is incredible. So although you are immersed in your role there is also that actor’s awareness of the audience, which is why I prefer to do live theatre rather than telly, because you have that extra relationship as an actor to be aware of – how your storytelling is going.
Post press night
This is where shows go through a transition; it is where the actors really take the ownership. We have lost the awful, artificial focus that press night produces, and we are in the glorious position of just doing the play - of telling our story. It is down to our professionalism and sustaining the work technically; to keep the play exciting and fresh and not letting it get tired, because we have another three months to go. We have to find a way of keeping that precision, and keeping the storytelling tight, tense and taunt and making sure it doesn’t become lazy. Watching In Extremis yesterday [a modern play by Howard Brenton] showed the Globe is a great space, but it never allows you to sit back, because the story needs to drive onward. Patsy [Rodenburg] said these plays are about blood and oxygen, and the Globe is about blood and oxygen. If, at any moment, you become introspective, you lose it. It needs a burst of energy. You can play introspective moments, but those moments of quietness and stillness still need energy. Last night I watched The Entertainer at the Old Vic, with lights telling you where the story was. Here, as an actor, you have to technically pull that spotlight on to you for those introspective moments. That is what you have to do, and it is hard work. Everybody is shattered, because it requires such an amount of work, to hold that attention all the time.
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.