Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Production Notes

In his final blog post, Jasper discusses re-rehearsals and interacting with the audience, and looks ahead to taking the production to Vicenza, Italy.

Transcript of Podcast

Re-rehearsals

Many changes and improvements have taken place in the production. As the re-rehearsal period grew closer we began thinking about possible changes. We were very lucky to have the opportunity and time to rework things with the director [Tim Carroll] and the full company. I felt very strongly about certain things I wanted to change, and these have been changed. I think that the first half-hour of the play is now much easier to understand. The changes in the play are reflected in the behaviour of the audience, who are now more focused and quieter. This, to me, is the main testament that the changes have been successful.

Playing Macbeth

I think that the introduction of the characters and story are now clearer for the audience. I change the way I play scenes everyday, because I can never fully recreate the extreme emotions that I go through as Macbeth. I still do not think that Macbeth is a single character. His character relies upon the interpretation of the actor playing him. Shakespeare provides the fantastic words and fantastic situations, and it is up to the actor to provide the soul of the character. I think that this a very hard part. There are no limits to what an actor can bring to a character. You can be very bold, which is how I played Caliban last year in The Tempest. However, this year I have done the opposite with Macbeth. I have focussed on his psychology, and maybe this is because Macbeth has a lot of soliloquies.

When I first read the play and became familiar with it, I thought that it was fantastic. However, reading a play from the page and having to actually perform it are very different things. It is not enough to simply say the words when you are performing, no matter how fabulous they are. I find that I have to search deep within myself to really embody these words and show that I understand and mean them. This idea can vary from character to character. The character of Richard III is easier then Macbeth because you can simply say the words and the character comes to life. Macbeth is not as explicit. I found him to be confusing and also rather daunting. It is difficult to be able to feel confidently that I am embodying his fear, courage, warlike nature, poetry, and roles of lover and murderer. Shakespeare provides the words, which are the most brilliant raw material, but he leaves a lot of room for the actor to add in his feelings and emotions. You cannot get away with being facile, shallow or charming with the character of Macbeth because there is so much more to him.

Costumes

Our costumes do not specifically define our characters, and this means that we have to do more work in making them real. On the other hand, it has also helped us to become more imaginative then we may have otherwise have been. The suits that we have been wearing, after performing so many shows, are becoming a bit tattered. The Wardrobe Department keeps telling me that they will get me a new one, however I do not want a new one. I think that the suit works better now that it is dusty and ‘grubby’. The cast looked too slick at the beginning of the run.

The theatre and the audience

When we started performing Macbeth, I was using many of the same techniques that I used last year and I found that they did not work. The more I tried to play to the audience, the more they seemed to ‘back off’. I was speaking to Giles Block [Master of Verse] and he said that I was speaking to the ‘guts’ of the audience rather than the ‘head’. He explained that the top tier of the theatre was the head, the middle and lower tiers are the chest and the Groundlings are the guts. Giles said that Macbeth's thoughts are much ‘higher’ at the beginning of the play then they are at the end, and so I should start speaking to the head of the theatre and work my way down (as Macbeth's thoughts do). I think that was brilliant. The Groundlings want you to talk to them, and they really feel it if you are not talking to them, but to the ‘gods’ above. I am now more introverted on stage, and this is something that is particular to Macbeth.

Eve [Best, Lady Macbeth] and I have been discussing the ‘letter’ scene. This is the first thing that Lady Macbeth talks of when she appears on stage. I suggested to Eve to also make this more introverted.

Italy

The run will be ending soon. I want everyone to feel that they have achieved something. Once the run ends, we will be going to Vicenza, Italy, where we will be performing four shows of Macbeth. We will not have the platform on stage as the theatre over there refused to drill holes in the ceiling to suspend it! This will create new challenges to overcome. I am thinking about learning some of the lines in Italian, so that I can say them in Italian and English.

The playing conditions of the theatre in Vicenza will be very different to the Globe. Mark Rylance [Artistic Director of the Globe] has told us that the acoustics in that theatre will allow us to speak softly, for if you shout there will be too much of an echo. The theatre has a roof, lighting and full seating. This is good in one sense, as the rain, aeroplanes or Groundlings talking will not distract us. However, this will also remove the unique playing opportunities that we have at the Globe. For example, last night a seagull was flying overhead and squawking loudly, just at the point when Eve saying "the Raven himself is coarse, That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan" (Act I Scene V). It was a fantastic moment, and the audience really enjoyed it. You do not have these opportunities in another theatre.

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 may change frequently as the rehearsal and performance process progresses.

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