This is the third bulletin from the Nurse (Penny Layden). It covers Penny's second week of rehearsals, including getting the play on its feet and her work with text and character.
Transcript of Podcast
Getting the play on its feet
In the first week we did a table session for every scene to make sure we know what’s going on. And then this week, we have revisited the scenes and started getting them up on their feet. There isn’t a strict blocking policy – it’s not set in stone – but it helps inform the relationships of the characters in the scene. For example, in the first scene with Lady Capulet, Juliet and the Nurse, if Miranda [Foster, Lady Capulet] just slightly edges her way in front of the Nurse or turns her back on the Nurse, that informs how I speak the text; once you are up on your feet, those physical relationships will be explored a bit more than they were in the table sessions. I think that’s pretty much the stage we’re at now. I actually did my third rehearsal on one scene yesterday, so you’re revisiting a scene that had already been stood up on its feet. And each time you just see it getting richer and richer, and we’re more confident with who these people are.
I’m fairly knowledgeable about verse speaking but there’s always so much more to learn – that’s what I love about this job, actually. And it’s fantastic to have a textual adviser, Giles [Block] on hand to go to with questions. The script we are using is two versions put together to make the one text, but Giles has a great knowledge of the first folio and the quartos: where the punctuation is and where it’s been changed, and where, for example, a section is in prose in one version but in verse in another. That’s quite helpful to know, as prose often indicates a comedy character or low class. So when the Nurse does speak in prose in a scene, it can be because she’s revealing her class, or because she’s trying to be funny and bawdy. She’s primarily in verse in the version that we’re doing, but she does have sections of prose, and she does witch between the two in scenes; I don’t know whether I’m right, but it seems that she also switches to prose when honest things are revealed. I’ll have to look at the text!
Developing the character
Having had more time, and had the sessions with Giles, different things are starting to come out in scenes.
In the scene where Juliet has sent the Nurse to find Romeo, Juliet is waiting for me to come back and moaning about how “from nine to twelve / Is three long hours, yet she is not come” (2.5.10-11). She just wants to know about her boyfriend, and when the Nurse comes on stage, she doesn’t mention Romeo for ages and keeps going on about her back and her knees and her head and everything else! There’s a kind of a game going on, which is a lot to do with the Nurse holding on to her power by retaining information; it’s not a vicious thing – there’s a relish there and an excitement! I think I was playing it too nice at first, but I’ve realised that it’s about letting the audience in on the secret against Juliet because she doesn’t know what Romeo has said, and enjoying her teenage frustration for just a little bit! It’s selfish, but fun!
That selfishness of the Nurse’s also comes out in the scene where the Nurse confuses Juliet about who is dead – Tybalt or Romeo, or both? Giles said something during the rehearsals, which was that the second half of the line is often more important than the first half of the line. So you have a line from the Nurse in that scene like, “O Tybalt, Tybalt, the best friend I had.” (3.2.61). It comes completely out of the blue, because you never, ever see her talking to Tybalt in the entire play. And that makes you think that that line is actually mote to do with her than Tybalt. It’s almost like she is going to show that she is grieving harder and more upset than anyone else, which is indicative of character.
These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as he goes through the rehearsal process - they are simply his own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.