Shakespeare's Globe

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In his penultimate blog post Liam discusses the first performances, how the audiences have responded to the play, and his thoughts about the performances to come.

Transcript of Podcast

First performances

We did the first show on Sunday night and the second show on Tuesday. It was really an experience on Sunday night. It was absolutely terrifying. I’ve got a funny feeling that it's always going to be terrifying. I think it will reduce but maybe it's the nature of the show. With some shows you just always have an ‘on your toes’ feeling and it never gets completely comfortable. This is a very complex production and you have to keep an awful lot of things juggled in your mind, over and above trying to remember your lines and playing the scenes well.

The audience

At the start of the show on Sunday night, when I walked onto the stage for the first time in front of an audience, it was incredible. I’ll never forget the image and the noise. It was strange because the first thing we do is walk towards them, walk downstage, pick something up, and then walk away from them upstage. We confronted them and then retreated away from them.

There must be a sizeable portion of every audience that is visiting the Globe for the first time. I think there was a sense of anticipation and excitement from them as well. I didn’t use the audience as much as I’m sure I’ll end up using them. I spoke directly to them a little bit, tentatively, but I decided to choose my moments sparingly. I think that it will take a few shows before I can start thinking of them as friends and participants rather than intimidators. I can feel that that will come and hopefully quite quickly, because both the audiences so far have seemed to want to have a good time. There is a sense in which they’ve come here in order to have a different experience.

I’ve worked in an outdoor theatre once before. I did The Tempest in a park, where the audience is all around you, but the light faded during the evening, so by the end the audience was in darkness. That was a long time ago and there was something about being in a big Victorian park. There was a lot of green around and the colours are very dark; whereas in the Globe, it's so bright and vivid. We must look quite strange to them, because we’re dressed in black for the most part. Our costume is so at odds with the colour of the theatre and the daylight. They’re looking at us against a colourfully painted background, so I can understand why there was a kind-of gasp when we first walked on stage on Sunday night.

The reaction at the end was extraordinary. The applause was thunderous and there were whoops and shrieks. We left the stage after the bows and we were all almost back in the dressing rooms, saying ‘well done’ to each other, when stage management had to ask us to come back due to the audience's applause. I didn’t know what to make of it. Then it was a very different reaction on Tuesday night. I suppose we do enough performances that there may be another audience who just really goes for it. I think it will probably divide people pretty much fifty-fifty.

Rehearsals

We’re still rehearsing during the days. We’re not doing full days. We’re usually called at about eleven o’clock for things like photo calls and working on little bits. We’ve still got pretty full days, but after next Sunday rehearsals will almost stop completely.

I didn’t have as much of a chance to play and experiment with what I was doing during the technical rehearsals as I thought I might, because we have so much to do apart from the scenes. Everyone is on stage for almost all of the time and we’re all involved in movement sequences. There wasn’t the normal sense of relaxation that you normally get during tech as a time to rethink what you’re doing. In some ways it was quite tense because the idea of getting group moves wrong was quite scary. If you blow your party whistle at the wrong time there's no escape!

Nothing's dramatically changed. I’ve actually enjoyed both performances. I didn’t think I would enjoy Sunday night because I didn’t think I could be that nervous and still enjoy it, but once it starts you’re carried along.

One of the major differences is that we now have the band, so we have live music. It's all come together really quickly. There are things that I miss from the CD we used in rehearsal because I got used to them. I’m sure I’ll quickly get used to and like the new music.

The days ahead...

Over the next few days, I’m just going to try to relax and get used to the space. Six or seven weeks is a long time to be doing something in a rehearsal room, so now it's a case of trying to feel at home on the Globe stage. As at home on the stage as we felt after seven weeks in a familiar rehearsal room and in our own clothes. It will take a while to readjust that balance, because only for a few short days have we been trussed up in funny clothes and thrust on to this scary new space. It probably looks very slick and accomplished, but in your own head and your own heart you need to make that new place feel like home. We’re on stage so constantly that there's no time to analyse what you’ve just done and think about how you’re going to approach what you’re going to do next. You can’t let your mind wander even when you’re just sitting at the back of the stage because you’ll miss a noise or a move that you have to do.

Tim [Carroll, Master of Play] has told us each night to concentrate on a couple of specific things as a company. Last night he said we needed to be louder and faster. Tonight he wants us to concentrate on coping with the noises of the aeroplanes overhead. He also wants us to avoid being physically violent! Last night there was a lot of pushing and shoving. I personally thought it was a bit odd, strange and not particularly effective. It does affect me because I shove another actor at one point. We haven’t ever set it, but I think it is quite good and effective if we can keep it always feeling very real and unexpected. I don’t have the freedom to do that tonight. I had a friend who saw it on Sunday and that night he said it was the only moment of physical violence in the whole piece. He said it was so unexpected that he loved it. It comes in a scene when you don’t expect it. There are all these scenes about violence and murders and death and you don’t get any physical violence, so I would miss it in that scene. As an experiment, it will be fun to see what happens tonight.

I think you should always keep experimenting. It's very difficult when you work with people who want everything to be exactly the same every time. By the same token, I think occasionally you find something that just really works, and if you have the skill to keep creating the illusion that it is sudden and unexpected, then why not keep doing it? If you try and do something without being in the moment, it looks wrong.

The reason why I think that particular shove will always work is because everything seems to fit. It's the moment about three quarters of the way through the England scene when Macduff cracks and has had enough of Malcolm revelling in his lists of vices. I say ‘Fit to govern? No, not to live.’ We’ve found a position on stage where we are just before that moment, and there's just a little ballet around it, which feels right.

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 change frequently as the rehearsal process progresses.

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