Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Pre-Rehearsal

In this first interview, Arthur talks about his initial impressions of both the play and his character. He also discusses what he has been doing so far in rehearsals; including a trip to the 'Rose', the theatre Dr Faustus was first performed at.

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Time: 6 minutes 19 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Hayley Bartley:

These are the Adopt An Actor podcasts for 2011. I’m here with Arthur Darvill who’s playing Mephistopheles in this season’s production of Dr Faustus. So to begin with I want to ask what was your experience of Shakespeare (or should I say early modern drama) at school?

Arthur Darvill:

I had a really good youth theatre that I was at in Birmingham and they did quite a lot of Shakespeare. They actually did Dr Faustus, but I wasn’t in it. But I went to see it and just kind of loved it, and that was when I was about twelve. Yes so they did Dr Faustus there and I saw it and just really fell in love with it. Because it was a youth theatre there was about 150 kids in it, all dressed in red, creating some kind of volcano, whirlwind coming out of hell. So that was pretty cool, which is basically what we’re doing here – it’s not what we’re doing here. Yes so I knew the play, but we also did Romeo and Juliet and I played Mercutio, then when I got to drama school we did Timon of Athens and I played Apemantus and there was some kind of strange narrator part written for me as well which was cool. And obviously going to Rada gives you quite an insight into stuff and just made me really excited about doing classical theatre and this is the first chance I’ve had to do it outside of that.

HB:

You’ve kind of vaguely mentioned how you first got into acting, was it youth theatre?

AD:

Yes it was youth theatre and my parents are both – my mum’s a puppeteer and my dad’s a musician so I’ve always been around it and always went to the theatre a lot. I didn’t really know what else to do to be honest.

HB:

I think it’s pretty good...

AD:

...Yeah...

HB:

...It’s a pretty fun career. So now I want to move onto the play, what were your initial impressions of Dr Faustus coming into rehearsal?

AD:

I really love the play. I didn’t really understand all of it, obviously, because there are different versions and everything. But I think it’s such a brilliant, clear story, and quite a terrifying story and quite difficult – I kind of reading it didn’t understand how it could be staged, and I think you always want to do something that’s a challenge and I think Matthew’s [Dunster, Director] brilliant so I was just really excited. I was excited to hear that Matthew was just doing it at first and then to get the chance to come and read for it was great, you know, I just jumped at the chance to get onboard with it.

HB:

And what about your character [Mephistopheles], any initial impressions?

AD:

Yes, I mean I was quite surprised that I was coming in for this, and then started reading it, because I think a lot of the time it’s played a bit older. But yeah, the challenge is huge. I’m actually terrified in the best possible way, you know, I think it’s such a great part, a more complicated part than I initially realised because it’s not just, you know, he’s evil and going to laugh a lot in an evil way. I think there’s a kind of dilemma within him as to the fact that he’s fallen from heaven, and the fact that he experienced that, what that brings to him, the fact that he is being tortured in hell - even though he is still doing his job for Lucifer, he’s still being tortured. So there is quite a lot of things to think about. And then his relationship with Faustus is just fascinating. We haven’t really got into the meat of rehearsing it yet but I’m really looking forward to exploring that.

HB:

So did you think of a back story for your character?

AD:

Yes, I mean it’s constantly evolving, but I think in reading over the last couple of weeks and kind of doing stuff in rehearsals – I mean there’s stuff mentioned about him being in heaven prior to this and then falling to hell. I think that has to have an effect on him, the fact that he is being tortured by that 24/7, it’s pretty mega.

HB:

And did you do any research beforehand or during this time?

AD:

Yes. What’s so brilliant about being here is that there’s so many people working away on finding everything out for you. So you can ask a question and then there’s all these little people scurrying around getting books and things off the internet.

HB:

Little library minions.

AD:

Library minions. So I just ask lots of questions and get people to look in books which is quite fun. It’s brilliant, it’s been amazing actually. We’ve had such a load of information given to us that we kind of now feel we’ve got everything we need to actually rehearse it.

HB:

And did you do the trip to the Rose [Theatre site] yet?

AD:

Yes we did do the trip to the Rose, which was pretty cool, it’s where it was first put on. I was amazed by how small it was, and wet. It’s kind of a strange feeling being in there, you have to use your imagination quite a lot, but it was really good.

HB:

I know they put on plays and things there. I’ve not seen anything but I suppose it’s interesting.

AD:

It is yeah. You get kind of – we were all like “are you feeling anything strange?”

HB:

You must feel something!

AD:

Yes we must feel something being in here! But no, it was very interesting going there and seeing a bit of the history of the play.

HB:

Definitely. And so can you just talk me through what you’ve been doing so far? I mean first week, first day, you had the ‘Meet and Greet’...

AD:

...We had the ‘Meet and Greet’ which was – I’m terrible on first days. I just come across really badly. So I’m just quite nervous and stand in the corner going “hi”, but everyone’s really cool.

HB:

I thought the illustrations of all the costumes were amazing.

AD:

They did a good job of making us really excited straight away, by showing us all the costumes and puppets and things. It’s one of those plays where there’s so many different elements, it’s not just the words and people talking, although that is a huge part of it. We’ve got puppets and magic and fire and music and fighting and loads of other stuff to think about. So we kind of spent most of last week just looking at the words, just looking at the text and trying to work out – make sure we all know what it means.

HB:

What text are you using then?

AD:

Matthew’s done a kind of amalgamation of the A and the B text, because there’s two versions of it, the B text was done later. But I think he’s done a really good cut of it, taken out all the bits that he doesn’t think necessarily help the story make sense. I think it’s a really good edit of it. I mean we fought for some lines to be put back in, and they have been. We’ve been going through his copy of the text that he’s done but then also with the other two versions to compare to and make sure we’re not missing anything out.

HB:

That’s really good you’re not sticking – there’s room for things to be added or taken away.

AD:

Yes completely. And as well as that he’s been putting us through our paces physically because there’s lots of puppetry and stuff. We’ve been doing circuit training every morning...

HB:

...I’ve seen this on the call sheet. Circuit training?

AD:

Yeah, so we’re all exhausted! But it’s quite good to get everyone together actually and to bond – it’s quite good to bond a company by doing that. And also we feel like we’re getting a bit fitter because it is going to be quite a demanding piece I think.

HB:

It sounds like it. Definitely. Right and that’s great, that’s everything for now.

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