Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

In this week's blog entry, Matthew [Kelly, Pandarus] talks aboutworking with the script, the time line of the play and the different interpretations of Pandarus' sexuality.

Transcript of Podcast

Working on the script

We’ve done over two weeks of text work, just looking at the words. We sit in a circle, no tables, so that you can address people that you’re speaking to in the script across the circle. And never sitting in the same place twice! We’d read a scene and then go back to the beginning to work out what it was actually saying. Generally people know, or have read the notes, or have worked here before, but even if you don’t know, you just say “I don’t know!” Then together you explore, asking what the line means, what the character is saying. Quite often, you can miss things, but doing this can bring new stuff out and means you aren’t missing a trick! And sometimes it takes getting the play up on its feet before you realise why there is a reason for a certain bit.

Timelines

In the script work, we’ve also been going through the timeline of events. There’s something interesting about timelines in Shakespeare’s work which Giles [Block, text] pointed out: very often, there are two timelines in the world of his plays. There is the actual time of the story, which we’ve worked out with the company as we go through the text. For this production of Troilus and Cressida, it starts on Day 1 at 8.30am and concludes on Day 3 at 8pm. Encapsulated in those three days however, you also have your second timeline, which covers a longer period of time than the three days, but which the audience completely accepts. There is a story going on between Pandarus, Cressida and Troilus that covers their history, things that you would think would take much longer to happen.

For instance, Pandarus gets very ill at the end of the play and he is obviously dying. Personally I think he is dying of syphilis, but that’s not something that happens in three days. So if you were going on a literal timeline, he would start the play as ill as he ends the play, which is clearly not the case. But you accept that fact that there is a big gap between when Pandarus sees Troilus for the penultimate time and when Pandarus appears for the very last time. There is a theatrical suspension of disbelief I suppose, where an audience is able to switch between the two.

Sexuality

There is a reading of Pandarus, based on his love for Troilus, where you can see him as gay. But I kind of struggle with this, because I think there is more to it than that – it’s too simplified, there’s too much else to deal with. Firstly, is this Greek man-man love? Secondly, is it an Elizabethan interpretation of Greek man love, and what was the Elizabethan attitude to homosexual love? Is it even a sexual love at all? Or is it just about one man’s love for another, or of a mentor for a younger man? Or is it merely expedience? It could be that Pandarus needs to keep his position after his brother Calchas has defected to the enemy, using Cressida as his ticket to keep his position in the society. Or is it our 21st century cultural references that make us think he should be one thing or another? You’ve got all those things to bear in mind when you tackle the role.

The other side of Pandarus’ sexuality is in his name. When I looked up in the dictionary “pander”, “to pander”, and “pandering”, it shocked me. We use the word in the sense of someone always trying to please someone else; it’s an insult, but it’s a mild one – it doesn’t really have any sexual connotations. But in its literal sense it does – a pander is a pimp. Now, I think Pandarus gets a really bad press and is treated pretty unfairly. As a result, because pandering and being a pimp is so sexually explicit and negative, if you then add in the homosexual element, it contaminates that and encourages you to view the homosexual element as negative too, through juxtaposition. That’s the struggle I have about pandering and Pandarus and his sexuality.

Movement

I love the people in this theatre. Everybody is part of the team. It’s like you would have if you worked for Manchester United football club, you have lots of different people – physiotherapists, coaches, trainers, managers, nutritionists and that’s what it feels like.

I had a movement session with Glynn [McDonald] who is marvellous. She has a wonderful way of describing what your body is doing using great analogies. I do have a particular problem with my shoulder and arm at the moment and I think it comes out of what she calls being professionally poorly. I was doing a play called Victory some months ago, playing a cavalier, and we were doing exactly what we do here – warm-up games, circuit training, yoga for about ten weeks. It was fantastic. I went straight from that to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? within ten days. For that we went straight into fight calls with no warm-ups and then straight into scenes. About half way through the run I started to get a pain in my elbow and then it started to go up to my shoulder. So Glynn has been working on my posture and movement.

These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as s / he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his / her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.

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