Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 5

This is David's fifth blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, where he talks about his characters development this week, key themes in the play such as revenge, and Titus in Elizabethan playhouses.

Transcript of Podcast

How has Lucius developed this week?

Over the last few days we have been running whole sections of the play. It is very useful when you first put everything together and stop doing the scenes in isolation. I feel that I have put Lucius’ journey into practice, rather than just having it in my mind – that experience has been invaluable.

It has helped to see the whole story. There is one scene which we haven’t rehearsed for a while that's at the end of Act Two. I haven’t got any lines in it. Titus and Lucius enter and are confronted by Saturninus saying Lucius's brothers, Martius and Quintus, have killed Bassianus [II,ii, 259-306]. Doing that scene again now, especially the way Titus deals with the situation, really informs what happens in Act Three.

Revenge

One of the most useful insights for understanding Lucius is the importance of family loyalty. It is out of family loyalty that revenge springs. The sacrificial killing of Alarbus happens because they feel they cannot bury their dead brothers until they have sacrificed one of the Goths. Even though it is quite a big play, it is a very intimate play in terms of family relationships. Lucius's actions during his banishment – raising an army from the Goths – is just reacting to what has happened to his family. It is quite simple in this way, all these terrible things have happened to his family and his revenge is in response to that.

Do you think Lucius is aware of the importance of sacrificing Alarbus – that this action sets the revenge plots in motion?

Purely from a literary point of view, I don’t think it could be said that Lucius starts it. It is a very dutiful society. Lucius says ‘Give us the proudest prisoner of the Goths’, but that could just be seen as a reminder. One way you could play that is that Titus is just about to bury his sons and he has forgotten that he has to sacrifice someone first. It is a duty that is going to be performed. You could say it falls to the oldest son but equally any of the other three sons, or all four, could have said it. I don’t think it is a choice that Lucius makes.

When Lucius says no to his father it is during the rescue of Lavinia. Lucius only does it after Titus has allowed Lavinia to be given to Saturninus and after Saturninus has made the extraordinary decision to release the prisoners. From that moment on the status quo has been disrupted. Up until that point it has all gone according to plan then a couple of events happen which turn things on their head, which is why the customs start to get undermined.

Fathers and Sons

Research has been important for me during the rehearsal process, especially reading about the importance of the father son relationship in Ancient Rome. Sons, well into adulthood, looked up to and respected their fathers. It is good to have real life precedents in the literature to know that this was the case. Watching films like the Godfather has been interesting. There are bits of Michael, Al Pacino's character, in Lucius. There are only a couple of moments where there is a real parallel, but it is interesting. There are even moments when James Caan's character, Sonny, has bits of Lucius. Obviously I can’t base Lucius on either of them, but it's interesting to think about.

Watershed Moments

The run of the first half last night was one. I wasn’t really looking forward to the run, or expecting anything from it, because I still felt there was a lot more work for me to do on the first half, in my work on the role. So I went into it quite downbeat, but it went well, the thoughts all came clearly. So that was a lesson in trusting that the work has gone in – that the work you have done during the rehearsal period has seeped in and when it comes to getting up and doing it you need to relax and not think about the process behind it – you need to trust that it is ingrained in you.

Another important insight was the realisation early on that I didn’t have to layer things on top of it, but ask some simple questions:

Where have I been?
What have I just been doing?
What is my relationship with the other people on stage?

I didn’t need to impose a character on Lucius; the character is in the text.

The original production of Titus

In the original Elizabethan production of Titus Andronicus the actor playing Lucius would have been in a different play every afternoon, and would have been in another new play a few days later. The actors then were just given the text for their particular part, they weren’t given the whole play. For me, that would feel scary but for them that was the way it worked. All they could have done was trust the text, and all the clues should be there. It can’t have been that fifteen people just learnt their parts and turned up and did it, because surely in a play like Titus even an Elizabethan actor would surely have needed to practise some of it. There are some special effects that you would have to have an idea how you were going to do. If I was an Elizabethan actor and this was a new play, and I was given my part in the tavern, it would be exciting. When I first read it, I thought Lucius was an important figure, though in terms of line count it isn’t that big a part. It is only when you get to running the whole play that you can see exactly what part Lucius plays in the play. It would be enormously exciting if you did just have your lines, and then go on and do it. That must be a real thrill to find the real function of your part.

 

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.

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