“Ophelia is not really able to relate to her father, she’s just very alone I think. And she thinks she’s found a confidant in Hamlet, and then for her to suddenly experience him being quite aggressive and in a way she’s not seen him before, makes her feel incredibly alienated and alone.”
In her first interview Phoebe discusses her initial thoughts on Ophelia, what they’ve been doing in rehearsals so far, and preparing to play multiple roles.
Time: 7 minutes 6 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Phil Brooks: Welcome to the Adopt an Actor podcast series. This is the first interview with Phoebe Fildes who is playing, well you’re playing many characters…
Phoebe Fildes: Many characters!
PB: So who are you playing?
PF: So I’m playing Ophelia, Gertrude, and a range of other characters including Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Horatio, and various other little characters that pop up here and there throughout the piece.
PB: Fantastic and so rehearsals have begun. What were your initial impressions of the play now you’ve started to go through it and you’ve read it.
PF: I was really excited actually when I found out that I would be performing in Hamlet. I was an English student at university, and I studied Hamlet I think as a GCSE or an A level text, so I knew the play quite well from a, I suppose an academic point of view really. And I read over that text before starting rehearsals so it’s nice to get a clean copy without all my scribbling’s on it when I arrived! And it’s just been brilliant, we’ve been rehearsing for about 10 days and we were saying, I was talking to one of the other actors the other day, John [Dougall, playing Claudius & Polonius]. And he was saying that the play itself is so nourishing, and you sort of go away, you go home every day, and you feel like the text has sort of really revitalised you, it’s really wonderful. It’s definitely an absolutely excellent play to be working on. It’s brilliant.
PB: What about your, I guess we should talk about Ophelia as it’s your main character, what were your initial impressions of her?
PF: It’s been an interesting journey already, I’ve had a few thought changes along the way. Today actually, on the scene where she’s just been sort of quite traumatised by having encountered Hamlet at the beginning of his sort of lunacy. And it just strikes me that it’s a really awful situation because she’s not able to really relate to her father, she’s just very alone I think. And she thinks she’s found a sort of confidant in Hamlet, and I think then for her to suddenly experience him being quite aggressive and to experience him in a way she’s not seen him before, I think makes her feel incredibly alienated and really alone. And I think once you’ve seen that appear after the scene where she’s talking to her brother and her father in quite a familial and loving way, it’s suddenly quite an awful stark moment where she sort of loses touch with anyone in the play, and becomes very alone. It’s just really tragic. Terrible.
PB: And how is it playing, you’re sharing the role with many people, being a touring production you’re doing different roles, how is it having someone else playing Ophelia, are you sharing ideas quite a lot?
PF: Yeah it’s been really fantastic. I was really unsure of how it was going to work. And I’ve understudied before and that’s quite a strange process because you’re sort of, you’re watching and learning and not doing. Whereas this is wonderful because you’re watching learning and doing. And it’s wonderful because the way the process is kind of working at the moment is that somebody will begin by jumping in when its sort of being put up on its feet as it were. And then we’ll all switch around. And there are some parts, that for whatever reason there are 6 or more of us covering. For example there are 6 Horatio’s at the moment, so that’s, we call it, I think we call it the carousel. Because it’s basically just a case of one person jumping in, having a couple of goes, stepping out and someone else jumps in. And it’s really nice because everybody obviously beings something entirely different and you can kind of weave together the bits you like from other peoples. And that’s very much accepted and encouraged so it’s a nice way of working.
PB: Kind of energetic and spontaneous….
PF: Yeah. You kind of feed off each other in a way I think if you were confined to doing one part as you often are, I dunno you can sort of be like a little magpie and thieve little bits that you like, it’s a lovely way to work.
PB: Those other characters you are playing, is there anything, is there anyone that has stood out so far?
PF: Well we haven’t, the only ones really that we’ve sort of got to, where we are in the rehearsals stage, have been Horatio and Ophelia, for me anyway. And I am looking forward to having a crack at the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern stuff, I think that’ll be really good fun. I think the biggest challenge for me will be the Gertrude stuff because it’s something, well, obviously, she’s probably the character that is most out of my comfort zone in terms of her age, she’s a lot older than I am, and just the kind of depth and extremes of emotions that she has to go through I think. So that will definitely be the biggest challenge for me. That’s something to look forward to over the next couple of weeks.
PB: Is there much preparation you do – I guess this is quite different because you are having to prepare for multiple roles, but in general is there much preparation you do for a role like this?
PF: Yeah, well it’s funny because before I start rehearsals for a play I would definitely try and have read through the play a number of times, and done some quite detailed work on the bits of text that I would expect to be doing. And obviously will this it was a really tall order because, first of all there wasn’t a huge amount of time before rehearsals began at all. But the other thing is if I were to do that with each of my characters it would probably be going through most of the play in detail! So I haven’t done a huge amount of specific text research, but what we’ve done during the table work we do before we get the scene on its feet has been really invaluable and that basically just entails everybody who’s involved in the scene sitting round discussing the kind of minutia together. So we are all sort of on the same page, and from then I’ll go home and do my sort of consolidating work afterwards, which is a way I haven’t really worked before. But it’s quite nice to sort of know you’re in the same zone as everyone else and then sort of build upon on your own that later on. Whereas normally I would do the reverse which is to sort of do the work in advance, so it’s quite a different way this time.
PB: Sort of flipped everything around!
PB: A little about you as well, have you performed Shakespeare before?
PF: A little, bits here and there yeah. I studied at Bristol University for three years and I did quite a bit of Shakespeare, just in student theatre and stuff while we were there. I actually directed a version of As You Like It, which was an outdoor sort of picnic, jolly festival type vibe which was great. I was really lucky, our university got a grant to put on a production of Pericles which was directed by Jonathan Munby, who’s a brilliant director and I think has done quite a lot of work here at the Globe. I played Marina in that production which was really great and I think that was definitely where I learnt the most about, in my initial sort of introduction to Shakespeare. And then I went to study at drama school and did a little bit there. But yeah Marina and Jonathan Munby were definitely my sort of first launch into the world of Shakespeare in terms of performing it.
PB: Nice, and so this is your first time performing at the Globe as well.
PF: Yeah its an absolutely wonderful place to be. Funnily enough I worked here for about a year in the offices, I was the music assistant. So I got to know the Globe very well and I’ve seen it from the other side really, from the inner workings of all the offices. But it’s my first time performing here and it’s amazing to be back. Yeah it’s a wonderful place to be.
PB: Out on the stage this time, not back in the offices!
PF: Yeah! Not carrying drums onto the stage. That will be a very strange experience actually, sort of being on it and not watching from the yard, it’ll be quite a strange experience but I can’t wait.
PB: Fantastic thank you very much.
PF: Great thank you.