Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 1

Sonia has played the role of Nerissa before for the Original Shakespeare Company at Globe Neus.

Transcript of Podcast

Sonia has played the role of Nerissa before for the Original Shakespeare Company at Globe Neus. This company work from cue scripts where the actors are only given their part (just as they would have done in Shakespeare's time).

Nerissa is almost never on stage without Portia, her existence is reliant on Portia whose actions affect everything Nerissa does.

As an actor Sonia works very closely with the text, she works from the Arden and the folio edition of the script and has made a cue script for Nerissa.

Nerissa does not have a lot of lines (her longest speech is 10 lines) and she has 63 in total, but listens to approx. 1500. This means that Nerissa is on stage a lot and is a big presence in the play even though she does not dominate the dialogue. Nerissa is essentially a servant, but in many ways does not behave as one; she is Portia's companion who through her work has gained some status in her own right, (a modern comparison might be Princess Diana's butler). Nerissa's world depends on her maintaining this status.

In the first scene Sonia feels that that Nerissa is cheeky, she is having a laugh at the expense of the men who come to view Portia. Does she know which casket contains Portia's portrait?

Sonia has decided that she would like Nerissa to originally have come from outside of Italy, she is exploring developing Nerissa as an Armenian women who has been in Venice for many years in Portia's service. Sonia has been doing some research on Aremnians and have discovered they are an old race one of the first tribal people to be converted to Christianity. Sonia is trying to build some of this ethnicity into her portrayal of Nerissa and to reflect it in her costume, speech and movement.

Sonia feels that Nerissa is intelligent, she has a developed philosophy of life and in parts of the play speaks in aphorisms. The only act that Nerissa undertakes independently of Portia is at the end of the play when she demands that Gratiano produce her ring – up to this point she has always followed Portia, even her acceptance of Gratiano's proposal is dependant on Portia's fortunes.

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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