Shakespeare's Globe

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"Playing a woman you forget that you look a bit wierd and interesting!" Now in performance, Paul reflects on the positive responses he has recieved from the Globe audience. He also looks ahead to the West End; moving from an outdoor to an indoor theatre.

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Time: 13 minutes 13 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

So, you are now into performance for Twelfth Night.

Paul Chahidi:

Yes, fourth preview tonight.

HB:

Fourth preview, because, of course, they’re all previews technically.

PC:

I suppose officially they’re all previews until we stop rehearsing, which I think happens on Thursday. But they kind of are, in that we will go on changing them and then we’ll have to readjust again for when we go into the West End. But, you know, it’s just lovely doing that play in the Globe; it’s been amazing.

HB:

And technically you’re not having press night, although I hear they still came in.

PC:

The Telegraph came in apparently but I don’t know what was going on there. I mean, I’ve never been in a show where the producer has said to the press, “Please don’t come for three weeks”. Normally, you know, they would come in and start reviewing it after a week or so. So yes, it’s nice not to have that pressure, although I tend not to read reviews now and if I do its way after the show has finished, because I kind of think they make you more self-conscious; if they’re good they separate you from the rest of the cast, they pick people out and they swell your head a bit, and then if you start believing that then when you get a really bad review you fell really hurt and upset; you just don’t want to be thinking about them when you rehearse or when you perform. I think the whole act of making a play is about getting together with the director and the other actors and deciding what you think is right, and humbly offering it up to the audience and hoping they like it. But at the end of the day, doing it because you think its right rather than it will please people. So yes, I leave the reviews for other people. But it’s been lovely not to have that pressure the first night.

HB:

When do you go into the West End? Do you have a gap?

PC:

Yes, we finish at the Globe on the 14th October, then we have two weeks off, and we start teching and getting Twelfth Night up and running, on the 29th I think we start teching it. So, some time at the beginning of November I think we start Twelfth Night, and then we get Richard in, and then we do both together for a bit, and then we have a press night at some point.

HB:

It could turn into a very different show in a way, that‘s perhaps why there’s no press night at the Globe because it’s a very different space…

PC:

It will change again, yes, absolutely. And Richard started right at the beginning of the season here so its right that it should be reviewed, whereas Twelfth Night’s only got two weeks, two and a half weeks here, but its long run, and the majority of the performances in the West End will be for Twelfth Night. We’ve got, I think, five Twelfth Night’s a week and just three Richard’s; that’s throughout the run. So it’s heavily weighted towards Twelfth Night. And, as you say, it will change again, we’re moving to an indoor theatre. It’s going to be very exciting in its own way because it will try, to some extent, to replicate the feeling of an indoor Jacobean or Elizabethan theatre. So I think we’re going to have some candlelight, the audience will be lit to some extent, and there is some talk of having a slight thrust. It won’t have pillars and it won’t have as much of a thrust stage as on the Globe, and we may have audience – I don’t know for sure – we may have audience banked on the sides slightly, which in a West End theatre is quite unusual. It will be different, but it won’t be the Globe and it won’t have groundlings which makes the Globe so unique and so brilliant to perform, particularly comedy; it just creates that wildness that you don’t get in another theatre.

HB:

How was the opening night, the first night of performance?  

PC:

Well, do you know what, it took me back to my very first show at the Globe. It’s exactly the same in the sense that I don’t think anyone was prepared for the response, it was amazing. I mean, the laughter was deafening and it was like being – I said this after The Comedy of Errors in 1999 – it was more like being at a rock concert, you know, something like that, than a play because the roar of laughter. And then, at the end, the jig, the roar at the end of the jig was amazing. It’s that thing, I’m playing a woman and you forget that you look a bit weird and interesting, and you’re gliding across the floor and you can hear people going, “hoo hoo”; sort of squeals of delight. And I was going, “Well, I’m just gliding, you know”, trying to move smoothly, and it was just really lovely. It’s just one of the most warm audiences you could possibly imagine.

HB:

So are they reacting in the ways you expected?

PC:

There are bits where you think, “this should be funny” and it is. There are bits where you think, “this should be funny” and they don’t really laugh, and there are bits where you think, “this is really serious” and they completely laugh their heads off. You come off stage going, “What did I do?” And then you worry about trying to replicate it the next night and you just have to not worry about it. There are certain things that, you know, through rehearsals the second time round, and with the input of Tim [Carroll] and people like Giles [Block], there were new things, and new moments, and new laughs as it were, if you want to talk about it in terms of the comedy that came about which I definitely didn’t have before. And it was really nice to have that, because I had come in deliberately thinkin, “right, I’m not going to do this a second time round and worry about achieving the moments I had ten years ago”; I could hardly remember any but there were a few. I’m thinking that I’m just not going to put that pressure on myself so I kind of went in with an open mind. It’s so well written that play that, you know, as long as you play it truthfully and well, the writing takes care of it for you in a way; the situation is so sublimely funny, and painful, and moving at different times, and I think the audience really responded to that.

HB:

Yes, and so are you enjoying seeing the play come together now? Because, of course, during rehearsal you don’t have the music, you don’t really have costume and things like that. So how is it putting it all together?

PC:

Well it’s lovely. And you get the costume and it’s amazing; you get the music, it’s amazing; There’s going on the stage; and the final piece is the audience. And the audience can tell you so much; they’re the next stage of directing. You will learn so much from a Globe audience because you are so exposed. You know, you can be floating on air one minute and then just crash the next if you’re not careful. You have to make strong choices and be really focused with your thoughts and intentions and everything. The audience, you just know when they’re getting bored; you can sense it. And stuff that you won’t have been able to test in the rehearsal room, you know, those nice long pauses that you took in the rehearsal room that you thought were so fascinating, the audience are looking at their watch going, “This is dull. Get on with it”, you know. You kind of learn and that’s what the previews are for. And, likewise, the laughter is amazing but you have to be careful not to be seduced by particularly the groundlings because they’re such a potent, vital part of the audience, but you’ve got to remember that there are people farther away on all three levels and you’ve got to include them. You need to just lead the play and not be led by the audience response. It’s intoxicating the laughter you get at the Globe, it’s like nowhere else, it’s so immediate. So you have to steer that course and Twelfth Night’s a play that is wildly funny but also, I think, dark and cruel in places, and very moving if you get it right. It’s like a graphic equaliser, you want to turn this up and that down, and that’s what you do in rehearsals and in previews particularly. You find the different levels so that by the end it’s telling a story as best as possible.

HB:

So with that in mind, and the audiences reactions and things, has the play changed at all during these few performances since it was in rehearsal?

PC:

We’ve knocked eight minutes off from the first preview. It’s not all about time, I mean it’s not a short production Twelfth Night. Tim always says, “I don’t want you to get obsessed with the running times of shows as actors often do; they go, “ooh, how long is it tonight?” As long as it doesn’t feel like a long evening, it can be as long as you like in actual time. But I think you have to earn those pauses and you have to earn the right to make an audience, five hundred or seven hundred of whom are standing, stand for three hours, or three and a quarter hours, or three hours ten, whatever it is now. I think a lot of Tim’s notes in these first few previews have been: tighten up the pauses; think on the line. So don’t, for instance, if you have a line where, let’s say, you say to one character, “Oh that’s really funny”, don’t go, “ha ha, that’s really funny”. Do it with the line and don’t think in the gaps, think on the line and it’s amazing how much time you will knock off. And also, it just gages people and that’s more like real life. People think very quickly and I think, whilst it’s Shakespeare you also need to credit the audience with a lot of intelligence and go “They’ll keep up”. Be just a tiny step ahead of them rather than just explaining everything. So a lot of it was around that and then there’s a lot about really boring technical things, crucial things at the Globe like door opening on time. I mean, my character, I am running on and off in every scene because I am always scheming and doing something. And literally there has been one or two times when the door hasn’t opened and I’ve nearly smashed my head in the door as I ran off; so it has to be really smooth. And then music cues, we were looking at that, and costume alterations, costumes still being done, so we’ve got virtually all our costumes but there are little bits that still haven’t arrived.

HB:

You have a change of costume at one point?

PC:

I do.

HB:

Or some of the costume.

PC:

Yeah. I get out of the outer dress and the front piece - the silky bit at the front - and I’m just wearing my hooped petticoat and a corset, and then I have a kind of jacket on; that’s for the scene where they’re all up partying, the one where Malvolio comes in and breaks up the party and then turns on Maria, yeah.

HB:

I think what’s funny about your character is that your costume is like the most feminine almost. I think that’s what people find so amusing.

PC:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean we’re very different types of women in a sense, Mark and I the ones we play, and she is absolutely more buttoned up and a woman in grieving and I’m a bit more wild being an aristocratic lady in waiting, a bit naughtier and cheekier and a little bit sexier in terms of baring a bit of flesh. I don’t know if it’s sexy actually but in my mind’s eye I like to think she is; it’s probably quite good for character, you know.

HB:

And so my final question is: what is your favourite moment in the play?

PC:

There are so many, there really are. I mean there are some bits where I don’t say anything and I just love the reactions I get to do. When I’m pretending to be Olivia and Viola comes in for the first time and Cesario says, “most radiant exquisite beauty”, to me, and I’m really enjoying it as Maria and then realising I’m supposed to be Olivia, you know. Because I don’t sense that anyone ever says that kind of thing to Maria, she’s a bit plain looking really. I love the scene with the party and then Malvolio turning on me because that’s the kind of pivot point in the play, for plot, in that strand of the plot. I love the fact that I can play a turning point in the character, very upset and then that leading to the scheme, the plan for revenge. And also, you know, there’s a moment with Sir Toby at the end where we kiss, and it’s just got lots of lovely moments in it. There are so many nice moments in this play for me, I feel really lucky. And sometimes Maria as a character doesn’t come on in the final act at all but it says in the script “Olivia enters with attendants”, and we just made it Maria. Of course, this then means I get to react to what’s going on and I get this lovely moment at the end, where I am on stage and Fabian explains that he and Toby did it and Maria wrote the letter, and as a reward Toby’s married her. And I get to react, I do some terrible showing off comedy acting where I react to the news that I have been married and then have to shut myself up because I realise that I’ve overstepped the mark. So there are lots of lovely moments like that. So it’s sometimes on text and sometimes off.

HB:

Fantastic. Well enjoy the rest of the run here at the Globe and then your break, which is also nice, and then onto the West End.

PC:

Thank you. And I hope whoever has been adopting me fells inspired to come and see us, but come and see any Shakespeare play and not feel they wouldn’t follow it, or understand it, or enjoy it. I hope it’s giving an insight so come and see as much as you can because they are wonderful stories really.

 

    

 

 

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