In his second blog post Paul discusses the second week of rehearsals, including work on movement, text and voice.
Transcript of Podcast
We’ve carried on going through the play working in quite a lot of detail on the scenes, we tend to spend one rehearsal looking at the text in detail, in terms of making sure we know what’s happening in the scene, and being very clear about all of the language. And then in the next rehearsal session we go back to the scene, and put it up on its feet. That’s always the exciting time, as even if you’re not quite getting the text you suddenly have to make choices physically, and you’re sort of thinking how this is this going to pan out? So we’ve done that through the whole play really. At the same time all the possible other elements of the production are coming into play, like the sort of movement side of the production that Sian [the choreographer] has been working on. For instance we’ve been playing with the idea that second half will begin with Titania and Bottom doing a tango together. So I’ve been learning the tango which has been great fun! And then also various other bigger movement type things like the mechanicals’ Bergamask dance, which is in the text. Yesterday we got through to the end of the play and had great fun having a go at Pyramus and Thisbe for the first time and actually doing the play. That was my highlight of the week, playing at playing an actor, and even though it’s very rough at the moment, if we commit to it in the right way I hope it will be a lot of fun for the audience. It feels like we’re in quite an exciting place as we’ve made some discoveries and now its time to take it a bit further.
I always enjoy the physical side of the work partly because of my background. Beginning the day with some physical work with Sian, such as a warm up and then a movement exercise, really helps me. I’m not saying that it’s the same for everybody, but personally I find that now when we come to look at the scene in terms of the text I find myself more engaged with it because I’m physically engaged. Also I’m a big fan of Sian’s work, as a dancer and a choreographer, so when I was asked to do the show and Jonathan [Munby] told me she was going to be doing the choreography and be in it I was very excited to be working with her. She’s great, we tend to work quite quickly so even if you’re not quite grasping everything by the end of a session you’ve got a rough idea of what it might be like. I enjoy the way we don’t get too bogged down by the detail, but look at the broader thing, and then when you come back to it you can start to figure it out. I like any show that’s got a dance in, I think all plays should have a dance! I’ve never done tango before, I directed a play in Northern Spain where two of the actors performed a tango and they were very good, but I have to block that out of my mind and not worry about it, this is Bottom doing the tango, it doesn’t have to be like some great South America Lothario. Sian’s working from the Argentinian tango which she says is much sexier than the European tango, so hopefully it will look quite ludicrous, as Siobhan is much taller than me. It will be a very fun way of opening the second half, to get the audience back into the world of the play, and it works well with Oberon’s line: ‘I wonder if Titania be awak’d’ (3.2.1).
Text work with Giles [Block] has been really fascinating, I’ve really enjoyed that. One of the great things about being at the Globe is you’re aware of the resources available to you, not wanting to describe Giles as a resource exactly but he is very useful! It’s a great way to discover things, as he’ll unlock something that makes you think about how you might play something. For instance within the rehearsal of Pyramus and Thisbe there’s a line I’ve been struggling with, a line from Quince’s play. Giles suggested that it might be the case that Bottom had got the punctuation of the line wrong, and I thought of course, that makes sense, Bottom’s got it slightly wrong and that’s what gives it such a strange meaning, and I hadn’t really seen it like that. Then that unlocked something between Michael [Matus, playing Quince] and myself, and so now Michael shows Quince’s frustration at that point.
The transformation of Bottom is something that has to be considered early on, and even before rehearsals started I came in to meet Jonathan and Mike [Britton, the designer] to have an initial discussion about it, and I was excited to hear that rather than adding a mask or full head they were going to transform my own features. We were talking about some sort of Mohican which will go on top my own hair and then become like a donkey’s mane, and then lots of incredible hulk type hair coming out from my shirt and sleeves which I quite like, and a tail. We’re also toying with the idea of false teeth, and I went last week to a place in town to have some fitted, so that I can have some to rehearse with. I want to make sure you can still hear me, and that it doesn’t suddenly sound like I’m talking gibberish. I like some of the ideas for when we do Pyramus and Thisbe, again I won’t really know until we’ve had the fitting, but they’re talking about us being maybe quite an experimental looking company, so we might be in black tights and short shirts looking like some sort of avant-garde movement company, all very exciting.
Jonathan hasn’t done much blocking with us, again that’s partly what I’ve really enjoyed about this rehearsal experience as its not been formalized in that way. We’ve been given the freedom to experiment quite a lot which is always great as an actor. You’re quite restricted in TV, as you have to be in particular places for the shots. But in theatre, especially somewhere like the Globe, it’s different and it feels like we’ve been given a lot of freedom to explore the space. Of course there are certain moments when Jonathan may want us to enter in a particular way or through a particular door, but once we’re actually in the scene and we’re playing, he tends to let it play. He might suggest you break down stage at a certain point, but his direction tends to come from what he sees us doing, making it more of a mutual process, which I always think is really nice, rather than him imposing his ideas on us. I’m sure that when we do the technical rehearsal there will be a lot of changes, so I’m trying not to hold on to things too much in case we get in there and they go: ‘no, that doesn’t work, we’ll change that.’ I’m constantly coming in and having a look at the space, its easy just to come into work and go into the rehearsal room and stay there for five weeks and then come into the actual performance space. I’m going to try and see King Lear so I can see a play performed in the space before we go in, as seeing how people use it is always a good exercise.
Voice work with Jan [Haydn Rowles] has been interesting. Jonathan had this idea which we’re still exploring, that the mechanicals are all from South London, so we’ve been working on developing the same South London accents to show that the mechanicals work together and know each other really well, and are a united group. Initially I had some concerns about this, as particularly in comic roles accents can interfere with your instinct, as the brain is to busy thinking about the accent. But you’ve got to give it a go. Actually I’ve quite enjoyed it because it has changed quite a lot of how I might play things which is good. The one-to-one sessions with Jan are fantastic because she’ll be so specific about those things you’re doing in relation to your own accent and the accent you’re trying to do, to get it all just right. Obviously for it to work you need to get to the stage where you’re not thinking about it at all and it’s just second nature.
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.