Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal 2

Paul talks about voice, text and movement work for playing Maria. He says, "My whole approach to the part is not to try and impersonate a woman". Paul thinks the audience will believe him more as a woman because he played the character "truthfully" and "with strong and clear intentions".

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Time: 6 minutes 24 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

Tell us about voice then, have you done any voice work for Maria?

Paul Chahidi:

Well, we have, generally as a cast, we have voice with James Oxley, who comes in and helps us warm up, and he’ll do exercises to free up the voice, just for all of us. Tim’s [Carroll, director] very good, he’s directed Opera as well, he’s very good. He often starts the rehearsal doing stuff with our voices and singing catches, so that we can both learn the songs we have to learn and warm our voices up. But in terms of Maria and her voice, I don’t feel I want to modulate. I’m not going high with it, I may go a bit more higher and lower and singsong a bit more than I would normally. My whole approach to the part is not to try and impersonate a woman and get fixated on that, it is just to play that character truthfully. And, as much as possible, it will be my own voice and at times it may go relatively deep. I don’t want it to be an impersonation of a woman or a drag act or something. People will either believe I’m a woman or not, and it won’t be because I plucked every hairy out of my body, it will be because I played a character truthfully, with strong and clear intentions. They’ll know I’m a man but it’s that thing at the Globe of “we’re all going to make an imaginative leap”. We’re doing the Henry V thing of “let us on your imaginary forces work” and because we’re in a non-literal space we are doing that. So the voice is maybe slightly soft, but not much and occasionally more modulated, more, you know, singsong at points. I’m, kind of, not getting too hung up on it.

Hayley:

And what about movement then?

Paul:

We had already done some movement stuff with Sian [Williams, choreographer] and the Tudor Group for Richard III, bows and deportment. And because we had been wearing the full-on costumes for Richard III, we know what works with those costumes, especially if you have a sword and things like that. And if you’re a woman, the people who played women, know what that’s like; I luckily have done it before. But I’m in a corset and rehearsal skirt which gets done up quite tight in rehearsals, and I put my shoes on with heels, and that is like a movement class in itself because you cannot, unless you want to trip up or look completely idiotic, move smoothly, in small steps. And I like to move fast as Maria, she’s constantly in and out with plans, plots, oh, go, quick, come, you know, in and out. So I’ve been practising, re-practising, how to move gracefully but fast. So, you know, if you’re in a corset and a dress, you can’t just plonk yourself down in the middle of a chair, you have to sit on the edge and lower yourself gracefully and in an upright position. And the same for rising and the same for moving, you’re like a duck in that you’re very still on top and then working frantically below the skirt. You’ll never see that work hopefully with the legs, you’ll just see this gliding thing. And I know that’s something they talked about when we did it 10 years ago, you know, about me and Mark [Rylance] they were saying, “Oh, they look like they were on coasters and stuff, so smooth”. And I was like, “If only you knew the amount of work that was going on.” Basically, you are mincing, that’s what you are doing underneath, you’re mincing underneath that skirt. Yes, so, the costume, clothes, help with all that.

Hayley:

Yes and the earlier you start using them, the better.

Paul:

Yes, definitely.

Hayley:

What about any text work with Giles Block [master of text], perhaps?

Paul:

I’ve had one session with Giles and we’ve gone through the whole play, I don’t have a huge amount to say and it’s all prose, just to make sure you’ve understood what it means. And then at the next level to just, kind of, tease out the possibilities and talk about what we might emphasise and how we might drive towards the end of a line or something, whether it’s prose or verse, and he’s always got good suggestions. But we went through that, and that was very helpful, and he will have suggestions, always it’s just suggestions and he leaves it with you; but they’re always really useful.

Hayley:

Have there been any parts of the text that have been difficult to unlock, or that was something you sorted last time?

Paul:

Yeah, I think, I mean the very first thing you’ve got to do is just know what everything means for yourself. Actually, you have about 3 or 4 copies of the play, different editions, and you check all the notes and then you check it with people like Giles and Tim, who know a lot about it. And then once you’ve decided on that then you, kind of, know where to drive to. For instance, Shakespeare is notorious, especially in prose as well as verse, in having really long sentences, you know, 6 lines long before you get the full stop. So you’ve got to know the movements within that sentence and know when to emphasise and when to take a breath, otherwise it gets too chopped up and people might lose the meaning. So we’ve done quite a bit of work on that. But to be honest, once you get on your feet it starts to make sense and you physicalize it a bit by being there, physically present with the other actors.

Hayley:

And so yes, we mentioned a little bit about the jig, but how is this jig differing from the Richard III one?

Paul:

The Richard III one is far more formal, and it’s lovely and exuberant but it doesn’t have any comic elements in it; this will do. That’s all I’m saying at this point. It’s cheeky and it’s funny in places as well.

Hayley:

Is there generally more song and dance in this one? More music?

Paul:

Yes, definitely, and in this we have Claire’s [Van Kampen, composer] music and songs that are written for the play, and then some we’ve also just added in. But they are from the period, for instance, there’s the scene where they’re having a feast in the Buttery, revelling Feste and Toby and Andrew, they have a catch. Now they’ve set that to, I think, some original music but then there’s another one just afterwards that Malvolio interrupts and that’s not actually written in, but he needs something to come and interrupt and stop. So they’ve found a period catch, which is one person starts with the one line and the other person repeats the same line half way through the first person getting through their line, it overlaps and goes round and round and round.

Hayley:

That will be nice and, of course, Feste has many songs.

Paul:

He has loads, like all the fools, most of the fools get lots of songs.    

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