Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Performance Notes 1

In his sixth blog post, Chu discusses the first performaces of Macbeth, how rehearsals fit into his performance schedule, and the pros and cons of reading reviews.

Transcript of Podcast

First performances

The first preview, my first experience of being on the Globe stage in front of an audience, was probably the best theatre experience I’ve ever had. I really enjoyed the first show. I was very nervous, in fact as nervous as I have ever been in a theatre, but I really enjoyed it. There was a point in the England scene where I felt like Liam and I were flying. It had been a bit stop-start, and it was totally an adrenaline thing, but then the adrenaline subsided and I actually knew where I was and what I was doing. I really started to take in what I saw before me, which was a sea of faces just staring at you, and they were really listening. It was amazing.

The applause at the end was mind-blowing. Applause can be quite deceiving, because we’ve done better shows since and not had that reaction, but it was still a fantastic night. And I was on a high for more than a day afterwards.

Since then we’ve had a few wake-up calls. On Tuesday night, which was our second preview, I was nervous but I didn’t have that adrenaline boost. It really is frightening, and you do ask yourself why you do it on nights like Tuesday and Sunday. On Tuesday it was really hard work, like wading through treacle. It had been a very hot day. There are various excuses. People talk about ‘the second-nighter’, where you’ve got all the faults of the first night but you don’t have the adrenaline to push it through.

Rehearsals and notes

We’ve kept rehearsing in the days. We’ve been rehearsing the technical stuff and we’ve had notes, which have been really helpful. We’ve had notes from everybody really, from Tim, Sian, Tamara, Giles, Jeanette, Glynn, which has been a bit mind-boggling. I felt that one of the problems on Tuesday was that I personally got so many notes from so many different people. I did try and play them, but you need time to process them. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to rehearse the scene before the show. Some notes you agree with and some you don’t, but you have to play them anyway because these people are too good to give rubbish notes.

The thing about the England scene is that it's so fluid and it changes quite a lot from night to night. Nothing is set. Even if I do go in with a plan, if I go in with Giles’ note to play the end of the lines or not to miss out words, which I normally do, that goal doesn’t always succeed. I got notes earlier on from Tim about watching Macduff, and that's beginning to bear fruit. What's nice is that there has been a progression. It's not a smooth progression. I haven’t been getting better every performance, but I know that I’m better now than I was a week ago and I will continue to get better. Sometimes you’ll lose bits but it's important that you don’t beat yourself up about it.

Today I feel very tired, because I’ve been running around too much. On Sunday night, which was the last preview, I made strides. I had a good performance. I played notes that I’d been given and it didn’t feel like I was playing a note, they just came.

Reviews

I’d like to say I ignore the reviews but I don’t. I never read all of them, but I usually get seduced into reading some. I don’t think I’m going to read them this time. You want people to think that you’re good and you want people to think that you’re in a good production. If you read the reviews you have to remind yourself that this is just one person's opinion. There are very good reviewers and sometimes they really do hit the nail on the head, and if you’re not getting notes from your director sometimes it's good to read the reviews. I do feel that it unbalances. We’re all vain creatures and we really do want to do well and to be seen performing well. I think that you do know whether you’ve done good work. It's more important that your fellow actors trust you. Reviews can be really divisive. It's never really happened to me. I’ve only ever got one negative review and it made me laugh and then made me very self-conscious. Some people get great reviews and it's lovely, but they’re always the easier ones to believe even when they’re not really true. Whether you get a good review or a bad review it can change your performance. It deflates some people and it inflates others. I don’t think you should read them because either way they are destabilising.

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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