This is Yolanda's first blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III in which she talks about beginning rehearsals, the all-female company and playing Queen Elizabeth, amongst other things.
Transcript of Podcast
I'm very excited about being in Richard III and playing Queen Elizabeth in the theatre's first all female company. This is my third season at the Globe and as usual on the first day of rehearsals we focused on games and exercises that would allow the group to get to know each other. Most of the cast (15 in total) hadn't met each other before so it was really important for us all to get to know each others names and learn a little bit about each other. One exercise that I find particularly effective in breaking the ice is to work with a partner and talk for 3 minutes about yourself to your partner, then the other person introduces you to the group. This exercise is useful in two ways; it helps the group get to know each other and it shows how good our memories are. Also, it's really interesting to see what people choose to reveal about themselves!
As the first week progressed we worked on a variety of games and exercises that were focused on helping us begin to understand our characters such as writing a biography of your character. I also found 'hot-seating' our characters a very useful exercise; this is essentially when each of us takes turns to be asked questions about our character by the rest of the cast and answer their questions in character. When I took the 'hot seat', the questions ranged from what is my character's favourite music to what is my character's biggest secret. As the questions got harder and harder I realised that I didn't know enough about my character- I hadn't done much research into my character before rehearsals so my responses were based entirely on my knowledge of the play and my instinct.
It's the Master of Play's [Barry Kyle] intention for the whole cast to produce the image of a horse on stage during the battle scenes and so we've also been working on being horses in rehearsals. We all 'produced' different horses; some worked very well, others seemed a little bit like hobby-horses which were good, but not necessarily right for the image of a battle horse. In addition to this we've been working on a 'men-on-horse' (improvising riding a horse) movement, which again had to be very strong and powerful. We've done lots and lots of work like this, although we have been looking at the script as well. We've gone through the play scene-by-scene; looking at the words and the verse and working on our character's intentions and motivations (what we want and why), and the history behind the play. We have also been talking through our characters relationships with other characters in the play, and every now and then we've got up and worked tentatively through a scene.
Playing Queen Elizabeth
I'm very excited about playing Queen Elizabeth. There is a lot of doubling (actors playing more than one part) of characters in our company but I'm very glad to be playing just one role because it's quite an emotional role. Elizabeth goes on a very powerful emotional journey during the play. I think that the role is going to be quite emotionally demanding and that slightly scares me; I'm not scared about getting up and doing it, but the knowledge that I'm going to be weeping and wailing quite a lot of the time means that it takes a lot for me to walk into the rehearsal room!. Although normally I get very excited about coming into the dressing room before a performance, I did a play last year where my character spent most of the time weeping and I would only arrive in the dressing room five minutes before my call; I realised that because the performance was so emotionally exhausting I couldn't bring myself to spend any more time then necessary in the dressing room. However, I was fine when I eventually got on stage. I'm having the same emotion with this role- once it starts it's fantastic and I really want to do it but I find the idea of it quite exhausting.
The biggest challenge for me in playing Queen Elizabeth is maintaining clarity of emotion throughout the play, and a directness and understanding of what her intentions are at any moment. For example, in act iv scene 4, Elizabeth has to try and contain her emotions whilst she confronts Richard. When the audience saw her last (act iv scene 1), she was in a very emotional state, but in scene 4, she has seemingly become more thoughtful, more controlled. Having said that, I think there are moments in that scene when her emotions almost get the better of her and she doesn't manage to hold back all her tears and pain. The challenge is to identify these moments and ensure clarity in the scene so that the audience can see her pain without it clouding what she is trying to do, i.e. confront Richard.
I'm really excited about being part of the Globe's first all female company. When I met Barry Kyle (Master of Play) a few years ago he asked me what character I would most like to play in Richard III and my response was all the male characters; Mark Rylance [Artistic Director, Shakespeare's Globe] and I giggled about this and he said that he really wanted to have an all female company perform at the Globe. So when I heard that it was actually happening I was very, very keen to be part of it- I think it's really exciting and I think that we're going to prove that it can be done; it's a challenge but I think we're going to do it!
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.