‘In my portraying of it I’m trying to find the strength and steeliness in Ophelia towards the end, and that “mad” scene, and pepper that throughout her journey.’
In her third interview, Phoebe talks about her changing impressions of Ophelia, the music within the production and the practical challenges of playing multiple characters.
Time: 5 minutes 40 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Phil Brooks: So, welcome to the Adopt-an-Actor podcast series. This is the third interview with Phoebe Fildes who is playing Ophelia and many other characters.
What have you been doing in rehearsals since we last spoke?
Phoebe Fildes: I can’t remember when we last spoke. Two weeks ago, wasn’t it? Last couple of weeks we have actually been going back to doing a lot of the practical parts, piecing the show together really. We spent a week doing time consuming scene changes and stuff. And obviously because we’re having to do all that in about ten different permutations it kind of takes quite a long time, it was a case sort of putting development of the scenes on hold for a little while, and sort of getting the structure of the piece. But it’s actually been really great because since then, we’ve been able to run the piece as a whole, and it makes a massive difference, sort of seeing how everything slots together. Also it’s been great because we’ve all sort of seen the scenes that we maybe weren’t in for rehearsal. Well, I say, ‘starting to get a sense of the shape’, which is probably a good thing because we open quite soon. Yeah, it’s been great basically kind of getting a fuller understanding of how the play really fits together.
PB: How is it seeing the play as a whole?
PF: Yeah, it’s been really fantastic. And what’s lovely is that we spend quite a large portion of the show on stage, playing some of the music cues and stuff, so obviously when we’re on stage, we’re sort of watching it from a really different perspective to when we’re sort of studying in rehearsals watching from the front. But, yeah, it’s been really lovely and obviously, we’ve been watching each other do the tracks that we are playing as well – everyone’s sort of been rotating. The amount of things that have been found in the last two or three days, the lovely kind of moments, have been amazing – lots of variety, and lots of people kind of sharing with each other in a very generous spirit, which is really nice.
PB: How important would you say music is to your production?
PF: Pretty important! As Bill [Barclay, Composer/ Music Director], our composer just said, pretty integral actually. Well, what I think is really wonderful, and something I’ve never done before, is not only do we play cues of music but we’re also kind of using a lot of instruments to make quite atmospheric sound effects. There are some amazing techniques that I’ve never even heard of, that Bill’s introduced to, kind of, support the presence of the ghost throughout, or particularly in Act 1, and that involves bowing cymbals, which I didn’t even know was possible, and that creates a really, chilling, kind of haunting screeching sound. That’s been a real fascinating part of the process for me, actually – kind of picking up instruments I never really heard of and playing instruments in a way you would never imagine they should be played.
PB: Of course, alongside with the music you have the jig at the end. How have the jig rehearsals been going?
PF: I love the jig. The jig’s one of my favourite parts. It’s just such a fun way to end the show. It’s nice actually because at the moment we’re sort of beginning each day with a jig call. It’s kind of a great way – you come in, pick up an instrument. Obviously each day, we tend to do the jig in a different formation, so I might be playing Gertrude one day in the jig and Ophelia another day in the jig – an actually, those are two hugely different tracks again, so it’s an exercise of concentration, but more than anything it’s really good fun.
PB: How have you found that – switching between all of your different characters?
PF: Really challenging. Just from the point of view of having to be very focused and know exactly the practical things really, so, ‘When do I pick my violin up? Where do I put it down? Where does it need to be at this point?’ And it’s been good, because it’s kind of forced us all to be disciplined in terms of keeping a note of each part. I’ve got about five different notebooks for each kind of track. I think, as a result, it’s kind of forced you to be quite diligent in a way that perhaps you might not be if you were just playing one part. Actually I think because it’s been quite a chaotic process in terms of everybody swapping around, we haven’t really had the time to sort of settle in and be comfortable, which I think actually is sometimes a good thing because you sort of find things in the frenzy and the chaos that you might not find were you feeling comfortable and relaxed.
PB: I guess it must be quite tricky to figure out, in a practical sense, which character you’re going to be when you go out on stage.
PF: It’s hugely complicated and there have been several hilarious moments where somebody has either asked the other person who they are on stage. I live in fear of the moment when someone is just going to start the scene with the wrong actor and then realise half way through that they’re addressing their dialogue to the wrong person. And obviously the people playing the music cues is dependent very much on who’s playing what part and that changes all the time, so it’s really important more than ever just to be as focused as possible, really.
PB: To talk about Ophelia a little bit, how have your initial impressions of Ophelia changed? Or have they been confirmed since you started rehearsals?
PF: Actually, having rehearsed and done a few times now the, as it were, the ‘mad scene’, it’s been really great because it’s kind of started to inform, in part, the scenes that precede it, and I think in my portrayal of it, I’m trying to find a kind of strength and steeliness in Ophelia towards the end, in that mad scene. And I’m trying kind of to pepper that a little bit through the earlier scenes, so that it kind of makes sense – the journey – rather than her feeling…because she’s a character who is obviously very young, quite naïve, but I think that for her to get where she has to go, by the end, in terms of losing sanity, that has to kind of appear through her journey, if that makes sense. So, it’s been quite fun because I’m trying to find the balance now between the youthfulness and the naivety with moments of, kind of, strength and steeliness.
PB: Thank you very much.
PF: Great, thank you.