This is David's ninth blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, where he talks about injuries on stage and crowd control.
Transcript of Podcast
Probably the most demanding event this week was one of our company got injured. The injury happened the night before press night. Everything was fine until the moment when Mutius was killed by Titus. In our staging only Mutius and Titus are on stage at the time - so it is just Doug [Titus] and Jake [Harders, who plays Mutius]. The fight had been directed so that they come together and clash, and Titus uses Mutius's own dagger to kill Mutius. It is a very sharp, very short, very brief killing. The idea is that Jake falls to the floor and dies. He has a blood bag, but he doesn't really make much sound. I'm off stage right, waiting for my cue to go in and discover Mutius's dead body.
Sometimes I peep through the curtain to time my entrance properly. I was watching thorough the curtains. There was something a bit unusual about the scuffle, but not too odd. I did see that were in a different place than they normally are. Normally, Jake lies just right of centre, where the right hand ramp we use in this production comes level with the stage. This time he was towards left of centre stage, and he let out this scream. Obviously, things can be slightly different each night, so I just thought he had added a scream, which was fine. I ran on up the stage right ramp, normally he is there, this time he was all the way over, and he had landed with his head pointing downwards on the stage left ramp. I thought that was odd, but you don't really have time to think about it, you just have to get on with it.
I went over to him, and normally by the time I get to him, he is playing fully dead and he has blood coming out of his mouth from the blood capsule. This time, when I got to him his eyes were open and he was still moving and holding his right hand in the centre of his chest and very slightly convulsing - perhaps that is an emotive word - but shaking. I thought he was doing some 'in the throes of death' acting. I did wonder if everything was quite right, but I didn't think it was serious, so I carried on with my line, 'My Lord you are unjust.' Then Jake said, ‘No, David we have got to stop’.
I put my hand up to the audience and said 'Sorry, we are going to have to stop.' At that point Doug came over, and Thom [Padden, Martius] and Eliot [Giuralarocca, Quintus] who are due to come on anyway, came on. We gathered round Jake. I can't remember exactly what he said, but he told us his shoulder had come out of its socket. We asked the stewards to get a paramedic. Tariq Rifaat, the Stage Manager, who is normally in the Tiring House, came on stage. We got Jake on to his feet - he was just apologising profusely. He was in a considerable amount of pain but he was able to walk off with some help. The audience applauded when he got up.
So we were left with Doug and Tom and Eliot and myself on stage. It was almost comical. We were all there in full view of the audience, and they could see that we weren't exactly sure what to do next. Then Doug said to the audience, 'Well I guess we'll carry on. Just imagine there is a dead body there.' It got a laugh, though that wasn't why he said it. So we did. We mimed the burial of him.
Jake was a good few hours at the hospital before he had his arm put back into his socket. The ambulance was slow to arrive and then there had been a bad road traffic accident, so he had to wait a while at the hospital too. He was shaken by the whole thing. For us on stage, it was quite remarkable. It broke down all barriers between audience and actors for most of the rest of the show. Something real had happened. It is what you always strive for, although hopefully not through someone getting injured! There was a prickly kind of energy. It is a shame that can be rarely achieved.
Jake does come on again as one of Titus's servants, and he has one line. They just went on one short and Thom said his line. Jake missed the next few shows and the Assistant Director, Rick, moved into Ben's slot as Alarbus, Ben moved in to play Mutius. We don't have understudies at the Globe. In previous years Mark [Rylance, the Globe's previous Artistic Director] would come on and cover. I don't know what we would do now if somebody with a big part couldn't go on, but we would find a way.
The Titus highlight was last night's show. The crowd were incredible. They were mental. They were cheering and booing right from Titus's first entrance on the palanquin [1i 73] - we were cheered as soon as we came in, going round the outskirts of the yard. They really responded. Doug took that on board. When he got on stage, and the drums stopped, and he came forward and said, ‘Hail, Rome,’ he very definitely gave it an extra beat. Nothing happened for a moment, then there was a 'Hi' and a 'Hail', and that set them all off again, and they all cheered. Right until the end when I get crowned Emperor, and Marcus says, ‘Lucius, all hail, Rome's Royal Emperor!’ and all the crowd started cheering as well. When Aaron came on to be sentenced, and I sentenced him, they were booing him. I felt like saying at least let him get his final words out. So they were a really raucous lot, but that was great. That was wonderful.
It feels weird not to have done Titus for almost a week, then to come in and do it once. I think at the moment it is quite beneficial, we were fresh, and we were listening to each other a lot. When it comes to the last five or six weeks of the season, when we are just doing one or two a week, it will be quite odd. I experienced that a bit last year when I was in Troilus and Cressida, which just played every Wednesday. When we get to that point in the season with Titus we will have done over forty shows and it will be interesting to see what that is like. I think we will be able to sustain it, and I think we will be very glad about the first four weeks. Even though at the time we were moaning about the heavy schedule, I think we will have benefited from having a very intense period of performance before we go into heavy repertory with other plays. Those three or four weeks will really benefit us for the rest of the season.
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.