Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 1

This is Tim's first blog entry for the 2002 production of Twelfth Night, in which he talks about the first week of rehearsals, characters and dancing in the production.

Transcript of Podcast

Starting Rehearsals

I’ve really enjoyed the first week of rehearsals, as it's as much about getting to know everybody as about beginning to work on the play. First of all, we had some movement classes both on and off the stage to help us get used to working as a group. The first time I went on the stage brought back a lot of memories, as it was, in a way, the second time I’d been there. I was rehearsing Hamlet with a company called Cheek by Jowl in the early 90s and we were invited to come and try some scenes on a "stage" in the middle of the space. The theatre was only half built then, but it was still an interesting experience; then, as now, the space is so different to conventional theatres and as an actor, I feel very free when working there. I think it's because of the architecture of the building, especially the raised stage. Standing on stage elsewhere and facing a steep bank of seats is a very disenchanting experience for an actor. The audience are only there to watch the play, but at the same time, they dominate the actors on stage. What's interesting about working at the Globe is that the raised platform gives you such a sense of power. At the same time, the stage is the focus of the Globe's unique actor-audience relationship, and this both energises and terrifies me!

Characters

At the moment, we have done very little text work on specific scenes. Instead, we have been getting to know our characters using whatever specific information is contained in the play. Before we started rehearsals, we had to prepare three lists containing lines from the play. The first was of those lines where our character describes themselves, the second where they describe other people, and the third where others describe them. Taking each character in turn, we discussed these lists as a group, and then moved on to the physicality of the character. In this exercise, the actor playing each character remains sitting while the rest of the company get up and try out the role, exploring how they think that character might move, or how they might speak. This was really useful, as it can often suggest new ideas for how to play certain parts of your character that you can then take away and develop. It's really a crash course in understanding the play, because we all get the chance to work on all the characters.

So far, what I’ve noticed about Malvolio is that it's a large part that has been written in an amazingly economical way. None of the scenes feel distinct in any way, rather that they have been conceived as part of a whole, and that if you took out any one scene you would miss a crucial development. I’m looking forward to developing my ideas on Malvolio's journey through the play.

Dancing

At the moment, my biggest challenge is the dancing… At the end of the play, we will do a jig, as this is what many believed happened at the end of a play 400 years ago. Some of Shakespeare's plays have distinct references to this, for instance, in Much Ado About Nothing, "Strike up, pipers!" is the last line of the play. I think that in our production of Twelfth Night, Feste's final song will lead straight into the jig. Malvolio's part in the jig will have to be very small, as it must be based on my many limitations as a dancer. He may not do very much, but he will do it with a flourish!

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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