Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 3

In his third blog post, Chu discusses how rehearsals have progressed: how tableau has helped clarify the story, how he is handling the verse, and how he moves as Malcolm.

Transcript of Podcast

Tableau

We have had rehearsals on-stage and were basically telling the story of Macbeth through a series of tableau. In this exercise you are working with others, so you are not merely discovering things by yourself or only within the scenes in which you speak. I’m actually quite shy usually. Throughout my education, it was always sport and ‘banter’ that brought me out of myself. The ability of the people in this company to laugh at themselves is fantastic. That's the type of environment you need in order to do good work.

In the tableau exercise we were asked to create twelve pictures that tell the story of Macbeth. For instance, you might start off with a tableau for the witches and then move on to a tableau of the battle and the Bloody Sergeant; then a tableau of Malcolm's investment as the Prince of Cumberland with Macbeth's reaction; then the death of Duncan; the attempted murder of Fleance and the murder of Banquo; etc. The pictures tell the whole story of the play. The way that we did it was that each cast member was in charge of creating one of the pictures. He/she was a dictator for the moment and was not to be questioned by the rest of the cast. After a picture was created another dictator was appointed.

It forced us all to identify the vital events within the play. There were arguments about that because when you’re working with pictures, you have to go through the action of the play. Some scenes don’t have any action or hardly any movement. For instance, Lady Macbeth's letter scene is very important to the play because it's a recap of everything that has happened and it also reveals her resolution to push Macbeth to kill the King. Unfortunately, it is difficult to present this scene in picture form. The fact that Lady Macbeth pushing Macbeth to murder Duncan is an integral part of the play, but is her influence just found in that scene? What I was pushing for was a way to highlight their relationship as a couple through each tableau. Jasper (Britton, Macbeth) and Eve (Best, Lady Macbeth) weren’t there so we had chairs standing in for them. In the beginning they are together, but by the end there is a split. I think that split occurs at the end of the banquet scene. Then from that moment, you don’t actually see them together at all until she's dead. In the banqueting scene they’re having a conversation, but they’re not really speaking to each other. To show this distance, you could have two chairs facing each other, then two chairs facing different directions, and then two chairs completely apart. This staging presents the story of their relationship.

Rehearsals

At the Globe you have voice lessons, movement lessons, and verse lessons each week. I haven’t had this much training since drama school! It's interesting because I’m a confident person and the longer this show goes on and the longer we’re all together, the louder I’m going to get. However, I feel a bit inadequate in the verse class. It's just because I’m an instinctive actor, and that means that I don’t necessarily think through what I’m doing.

I’m not a good sight-reader anyway, and I just couldn’t read the verse. Giles [Block, Master of Verse] gives you tools and it's up to you whether you use them or not, but as an actor you must explore new things. I’ve been trying to explore the part of Malcolm, but I’m always going to follow my instincts.

Today we continued with the verse. We did an exercise where you pace, and your pacing mirrors the verse. So, right foot down on the stressed beat. And for some reason I just couldn’t do it. I just had a block, and I’m terrible when that happens. Everything went out of my head. I’m trying use this exercise as a tool, but I find it very constraining. Then Tim [Carroll, Master of the Play] explained it a different way and I was able to do it a lot better. I’m changing the way that I work to an extent. Although I’m very good at taking direction, as soon as it becomes too technical or constrained, there's a slight loss of confidence and then I’m thrown. That's only true in the exercises.

We did the overlapping exercise – overlapping each other's lines – to try for some intensity in the England scene (IV. III). I find exercises like that very useful. You just do them and see what comes out. We were told to do the same scene as though we were in a public place. There's somebody listening, so you speak slightly slower, in hushed tones because you don’t want anybody to overhear. These actions are created instinctually and they give a totally different feeling to the scene. I find this type of exercise liberating. That's the difference – between doing an exercise which constrains you and one which makes you feel liberated; between a technical approach and one which is instinctive.

Though the verse classes have been daunting, I have managed to pick up some things like how to work with line endings. There are just certain aspects of the guidelines that I find suffocating. We were talking about lines in the text (IV. III – lines 28-31) and Tim was explaining which important words to stress. He went through it and said, ‘stress that word, pitch that one,’ etc., and then he said the line in a certain way. His argument was that once you’ve worked out those basic stresses, you can do the line in a myriad of different ways. I disagree. If I am supposed to stress particular words, instead of focusing upon other words that I think are important, I am limiting myself. I try to make the lines sound natural and believable, and stressing some words and not others is part of that. If Tim's notes on the stresses sound natural, then I will say the line his way. If it doesn’t sound right, then I won’t say the line that way.

Moving as Malcolm

At the beginning of the play I think Malcolm moves, or leads, from the lower part of his body. Later on in the play, I think his centre of gravity moves further up. When we’re trying to be regal, we immediately sit up. Malcolm has lightness in his movement, but there's also a strong, direct, sustained quality. By the final part of the play Malcolm knows what he wants.

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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