This is David's seventh blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, where he talks more about his character as well as performing the play to an audience, the jig in this production, and reviews of the production.
Transcript of Podcast
First performances of Titus Andronicus
It has been a really hard three weeks. The technical rehearsal was a tough week and the first week of shows was also hard. They have been very long weeks! Normally we work 40 hour weeks, but for two weeks in a season the management can use you for 48 hours. For us, those two weeks were consecutive. I know there are people all round the world who work double that, but two 48 hour weeks has been quite tiring. We continued rehearsing through the first eight or nine performances, going over bits in the afternoon before the evening show, and figuring out technical things which hadn’t worked in the previous night's performance.
While it has been hard, it has also been wonderful. Doing the shows has been really wonderful. We didn’t know what kind of beast we had when we opened. It is such a complex production. It was tricky for us as a company to know whether we had a really good show or not. The first night audience response was really incredible. By the end of that first Saturday night we knew they enjoyed it, but then we were wondering whether the next day's audience would enjoy it. It is only now after ten performances that I’m starting to believe that we have got a really popular show, which is great. When we do have a really big audience the response is quite amazing – the cheering and the applause.
Nobody really has a happy journey in Titus, so to get to the end and do a jig (which is a very surreal experience, dancing through the audience in a line) and then to get back on stage and to have lots of people cheer and clap and shout is incredible. Apart from the odd laugh, during the performance the audience have been fainting and gasping in horror or shock or disgust. To have them all come together to cheer at the end it is quite a relief. Personally it is a relief because, as Lucius, I have spent the last three hours going through all this family trauma, and larger scale trauma.
I have been surprised that people very specifically react to the action on stage when fainting. They faint as a reaction to something that happens on stage. An example was two nights ago during a scene where Titus, Lavinia, Marcus and Lucius are right downstage centre, when Lavinia has just been mutilated and come back on [III,i, 59-150]. She is sat downstage centre with her stumps, and we are all sat round her – we are about two feet from the front row of the audience. I was focusing on Lavinia, but in my peripheral vision I could just see a person with dark hair and a green top fall and then I heard a clunk, which I thought was their head hitting the stage. There was a reaction in the people immediately around her. We had to just carry on, and then, as I continued to focus on Lavinia, I saw this green topped figure being walked out so I knew they were fine and being looked after. Later, I went round to the sick bay to see her. She was fine, surprised and embarrassed. There was another woman in the sick bay who had been sick – she had gone quite an extraordinary colour.
It shows how much some people must invest in what is happening. Yesterday there were some kids, six or seven years old, who were standing right at the front. They were wide eyed through the whole performance. Just the look on their faces suggested they had entered into the realm of the fantasy that the Globe is. Older people, who have lived longer and experienced things themselves even if not the same as what is happening on stage, can relate. Your ability to empathise probably grows as you become an adult.
Acting in the Yard
[The production uses two moveable towers which are pushed round the yard at various points in the action.]
I have one major speech on one of the towers, which is about as in-the-round as you can get theatre-wise [V,iii,95-117]. For that particular speech it is quite useful to feel that you are surrounded by the citizens of Rome who need, and I feel deserve, to hear the truth. So in that respect it works. Equally if that had been staged in the gallery as would have been traditional, that also would have worked because you are addressing the people of Rome.
The need for Lucius’ confidence is more apparent. The way the events of the play really affect him has become clearer. He comes back from his banishment quite uncompromising. When he comes back he is a doubt-free figure. At the beginning of the play he is a military boy – he doesn’t know a lot else, though he has compassion and love for his family. It is that which gets torn apart. I think as a result of that he sees how he is not infallible; how he can be hurt. At the start he is the eldest son of the leader of the greatest family in Rome, and he is heralded as being the greatest fighter on the battlefield. That stands for a lot when you are the eldest son in a military family. When he comes back he knows that he has been in a lofty position, and that position has been completely disrupted. He is not going to let that happen again. We never get to it, but I think the army of Goths he brings into Rome will be a fearless and remorseless bunch. It is a good thing for Rome they don’t have to attack it. In our play there is a peaceful resolution on a grand scale, while on an intimate scale there are four murders in the last 90 seconds.
Even though Lucius gets made Emperor at the end, what has he got left in his life? He has got an uncle and a son – not taking anything away from them – but he has lost a father, a sister and three brothers in the course of the last nine months. We talked about his wife in rehearsals and decided she was probably dead before the play starts. He hasn’t got an awful lot left in his life. He is a young Emperor who has probably lost a lot of trust in humanity, perhaps all trust in humanity. So to come out of all that and for people to clap and cheer is really quite a relief. I think few would have very few people who were close to him as an Emperor, very few advisors and confidents. Anyone who got too close or who didn’t seem entirely trustworthy would soon be pushed out.
The jig is something that was traditional in Elizabethan times and there is evidence that there was a jig at the end of tragedies as well as comedies. It is something that Mark [Rylance, the Globe's previous Artistic Director] explored here in his time, very successfully. Siân Williams, who is the choreographer here, choreographed all the jigs last year and she has done this one for Titus. We have taken something from the jig and seen it as a bit of closure for us and for the audience, together. Most of the jig happens in the yard, and as part of it I have no idea of how it works in reality. I’m a person in a line being led in and out between four or five hundred people. Along the way, we get members of the audience to join the line.
For those in the yard I imagine it is a similar experience to the one I’m having – I imagine they are just standing there and every so often they are just being jostled or being asked to join in. We have devised something at the bottom of the ramp where we very politely and ask them to return to the yard, otherwise we could have filled the stage with the audience. Hopefully it finishes the performance on a buzz for the audience, and the audience reaction that we have had after the jig has been great so it can’t be a problem. I do wonder if it would be more inclusive if the jig was on the stage, so everyone can see it clearly, even though they can’t take part in a physical sense. The jigs always bring everybody in that space together in quite an extraordinary way. For us, it is a couple of minutes of release.
I try to avoid the reviews. I may read them when the show is over. That being said you can’t ignore Press Night. A lot of people regard it as a big deal, and in terms of future ticket sales it can be a big deal. Artistically and creatively, I don’t like that a show should be considered a success because of what half a dozen people think.
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.