Shakespeare's Globe

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Arthur discusses his favourite moments in the play, including the scene with the Seven Deadly Sins. He also talks about his character Mephistopheles and how he likes the decision to play him more human; more representative of an estate agent than a devil.

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Time: 10 minutes 59 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

Okay, so you’re now into performance?

Arthur Darvill:

Yeah.

HB:

So how did you find the opening night, as in the first preview?

AD:

The first preview – I mean it’s such a technical show and the tech just took so long, you know. It’s been really exciting but it was quite terrifying before the show just because we all had so much to do and so much to remember and so much that could go wrong. We did a dress [rehearsal] that was absolutely awful and everything did go wrong!

HB:

As in all the technical stuff? Dragons, fire…

AD:

...Dragons all came a part, fire didn’t happen, yeah it was just a mess - people didn’t come on stage, we were just left hanging around for ages. And it’s kind of weird doing the tech because you forget about the performance side of it, it’s more to do with where you are and how you’re getting to a certain place and there’s no time really spent on actually working out what you’re doing acting-wise. So, having an audience there for the first time I thought was going to be horrible, actually, it told us so much about the play and it was just really liberating to actually have people there. And things went wrong but we didn’t really care because you just have to kind of get on with it and tell the story. You realise then that those people haven’t heard the story before and they’re hearing it for the first time, most of them.

HB:

And it often takes quite a lot for people to notice when stuff goes wrong. You’d be surprised how they just kind of go along with it.

AD:

Absolutely. So it was just really - it ended up going from being a really terrifying thought to quite an exciting realisation of the play. It was brilliant. Yeah, it was really cool.

HB:

So, you briefly mentioned your tech week, I guess that was so important for your performance.

AD:

Yeah, completely.

HB:

Did you put a lot of hours into that?

AD:

Yeah, we really did. We were in for four or five days. And it’s kind of funny because when I was telling friends who are actors that I’ve got a five day tech, they were like ‘but there are no lights, there’s no sound, there’s no nothing’. And it’s like – it’s like the Flintstones do a play because you’re just there with man power and people changing costumes all the time so it’s kind of - you need all that time, especially with this show because there is so much going on and everyone’s just racing around backstage, trying to get different costumes on. Because there are like a hundred and twenty costumes, or something ridiculous, and I’ve got two. And, yeah some people have got like ten parts, it’s just…

HB:

...Yeah, so you don’t do badly.

AD:

No, no absolutely, I just need to stand on the stage.

HB:

Hard work with two costumes, isn’t it?!

AD:

You just know everyone’s being frantic backstage. It was kind of really funny because there was a couple of bits for early shows, and we’ve changed it now because people have got faster with their costume changes and stuff, but there was a bit at the beginning of the second half where people run round and get dressed as monks and Matthew was like ‘can you just slow down that speech, really slow it down? So they can actually get round.’ So I was just saying this speech really, really slowly hoping that people would get to come on stage. But now I’ve been speeding it up and people are getting there.

HB:

Yeah, surprising isn’t it?

AD:

I know, it’s amazing. It’s amazing how things become easy after – not easy but just natural after a while.

HB:

Yeah, it’s like you’ve still got to put the same amount of clothes on and take the same amount off but I guess there’s a routine to it; you figure out which is the best way to take things off put things on.

AD:

Yeah completely.

HB:

Yeah, it’s good. And that’s going to happen I guess. I think it’s cool that it happens throughout performance in a way, so that’s quite exciting and always a challenge.

AD:

Yes, we’re going to be knackered by the end of the run, I think, because it’s such a big kind of energetic show. It’s so much fun to do and there hasn’t been a show so far where we’ve gone “oh, I don’t want to do it today!” It’s like everyone’s just been really excited about making it the best it can be.

HB:

So can you confirm the circuit training has paid off?

AD:

The circuit training has paid off.

HB:

You are feeling fit.

AD:

It actually has. We’re all feeling fairly fit and healthy.

HB:

That’s good to know.

AD:

Because also by the end of the tech week we were all losing our - we were all getting ill and I think if we hadn’t have had that it would’ve been a lot worse.

HB:

Exactly. And how about press night then?

AD:

I find press night such a weird thing. I’m of the opinion the press should just come in whenever, like they should have a day kind of - but I know it obviously doesn’t work like that. It’s such a strange type of nerves and one that you just hate yourself for because by that point we got the show sorted, it was up and running. It’s got a lot better since press night, I think, and we’ve already settled into it but again it was like – obviously the show is in two halves, but the feelings were in two halves as well. So before the first half it was just like the first night again and we were all kind of running through everything in our minds and everything. The first half kind of went okay but on that kind of nervous energy and we got into the interval and got to the end of the interval and suddenly everyone was like “this is great. We can just do this!” And it felt completely relaxed going out for the second half, which was good. I just think they are funny things and also it was more the fact that I had lots of friends in, actually, and agents and people that I know that makes you nervous rather than what the press are going to say.

HB:

Yeah, no, I agree. Yeah, you care more about impressing your friends and family really.

AD:

Yeah, absolutely and wanting them to see you at your best.

HB:

And so you’ve talked a little about how the play might have changed but has anything been taken away or added since rehearsal or throughout performances?

AD:

I don’t know. I think it’s got a lot slicker. I think this kind of naturally happens. We’re playing with it a lot more in a really positive way, not in a way that we are kind of undermining the show but I think people are kind of getting more confident with their performances and feeling easier on the stage because, I don’t know, it’s a kind of a weird space because it can be the best place to perform in the world if you’re confident but as soon as you feel that you’re not confident it can be the most horrible space in the world because everyone’s just there. But at the moment, we’re all feeling kind of really good about the show and we’re still listening to each other and talking to each other. So, things are changing, especially – I mean, I can’t really speak for anybody else but between me and Paul, we’re changing things every show and just trying to find different ways into each other and I find that just really exciting because you’re not just churning things out the same way every day.

HB:

Yeah, that’s really nice, definitely. And how are you finding the audience then? Are they reacting in the way you expected?

AD:

Yeah, no, more so than I expected. I don’t know. Again, with the design of the building and the history of it and everything, I think it encourages – the fact that everyone’s standing, it does encourage people to vocally express how they’re feeling. I don’t know, we had a moment today where Michael, who plays Covetousness, was opening the box of gold and he kind of squeals. And there was a girl standing right next to him who just started squealing with him. And you just never get that in most theatres. There was a girl just squealing in his face. It’s just brilliant. We also had a show the other day in the blazing sunshine where five people passed out in the audience. So that’s kind of something to deal with. If you’re coming to the show drink some water.

HB:

There should be warnings on tickets or something.

AD:

Yeah, there should be warnings on the tickets.

HB:

Saying the show may cause you to faint…

AD:

…may cause you to faint, yeah. I’d like to say it was my performance. Terror, people are terrified into passing out.

HB:

Terror. Terror of Hell. It’s still really relevant.

AD:

Hey, it’s a big deal.

HB:

It is. It definitely is. And I think with this show they’re just – it’s so enjoyable for everyone. I know people who maybe aren’t so much into theatre as well can enjoy it because it’s a different kind of aspect. And those who aren’t into early modern drama, despite it being a lesser known play because it’s not Shakespeare, it’s really accessible because of the story, I think.

AD:

Yeah, I think what Matthew has done with it, what everyone in the cast has done with it, it’s a bit more of a punk rock show than your average play here, I think, because I think the story lends itself to being quite extreme.

HB:

And especially now, you can’t take it too seriously because we don’t have the same feelings as they had back then.

AD:

Yeah, but what I like about – and I’ve only realised this with an audience, is that I really like the choice that we’ve made of not having Mephistopheles kind of being this kind of evil, devil-like thing. It’s more of a - he’s almost like an estate agent where he’s giving - because it is his job and Faustus has got to trust him. And then he get’s really bawdy and so always seems quite trivial, and to Faustus, I think it kind of is and he lends himself to being that. So, right at the end when Lucifer does come for him and he’s about to be dragged to hell, it’s even more horrific because he hasn’t quite realised how serious all this really is and that it’s real and I think that makes it – the fact that we can go to the extremes of the kind of comedy and the kind of raucousness and brashness of the rest of the play.

HB:

Yeah, that’s really – I suppose it’s like your character reminds Faustus of the small print because that’s your job, you have to remind him of that but at the end of the day it’s his decision. Yeah, I definitely saw that.

AD:

Cool.

HB:

And so, do you have any favourite moments in the play? It can be either for your character or a scene that you’re not in.

AD:

I love watching the seven deadly sins, I think that’s brilliant. My favourite moment, and it came – I realised it in the, I think it was the dress rehearsal, when it was really late - and it’s amazing at the Globe when it starts getting dark and the lights come on and it’s just a brilliant atmosphere. And it started raining ever so slightly and Paul was just doing his last speech in Act 5 and I just had all these moments of going, you know, this is such a privilege and this is - I got what I call a ‘gravel drive feeling’ which is when you’re in a car and driving over a gravel drive, you just feel – I don’t know there’s the kind of power in this space but I just found it really, without sounding like an idiot, I found it quite emotional, and I was just like ‘wow, I get to listen to this speech throughout the whole summer and it’s really moving and it’s beautifully done and it’s brilliant.’ So when it gets to that point every night I’m just like ‘oh this is great!’

HB:

I thought you were going to say riding the dragon.

AD:

And I like riding the dragon.

HB:

We were impressed by it and all your little bits. And I like your entrance, it’s quite fun as well, definitely.

AD:

Yeah, it’s fun. There are so many moments in this. There are so many moments that are just brilliant. There’s not a dull moment.

HB:

And your little flicking of fire or whatever it is. I love that, they’re just so kind of subtle, you just don’t know when it’s going to come, but it’s just like ‘ahhh, that’s nice’.

AD:

It’s just, you know, I can do that, I can make fire come out of my hands.

HB:

It’s just to remind everyone ‘Yes, I am cool.’

AD:

Yes, absolutely. Yeah, I love it.

HB:

And so, yes, that’s my final question.

AD:

Wow, the last one, how sad.

HB:

And can I say, we’ve got through all the interviews without me mentioning Dr Who which I think is really impressive...until now.

AD:

That’s brilliant. Well done.

HB:

How good am I?! So, yes thank you so much. That’s great.

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