This is Yolanda's second blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III in which she talks about characterisation, difficult scenes and the battle scene in particular.
Transcript of Podcast
The Battle Scene
We’ve been really busy this week trying to refine and work through the battle scene (Act V Scene 3) as we found that it was very slow and simply not working. We have also managed to incorporate the scene into our first staggered run of the play (a run of the play where we stop for a short time after every scene). When we did the staggered run of the play we saw for the first time ever what the play looked like, whereas before we had only ran the first or second half of the play and became excited, I noticed that when we ran the whole play the excitement had gone and it was very flat. However, people who watched the run said it went really well and the lack of energy was something that we were noticing rather than the audience. Also during the staggered run we used all the music and wore our costumes and make-up first time; this gave all the back-stage crew the opportunity to make specific notes on where costume changes need to happen and so on. This is particularly important to the play as there lots of actors playing both men and women. As the male characters need less make-up, a staggered run lets the costume team know when make-up changes need to happen. This has been our main focus this week, because as of Monday, we enter production week; this means that for the majority of the company, next week will be their first time performing on the Globe stage.
My personal focus this week has been to try to get to grips with the scenes which I feel are not working so well and make mental notes of them as we go through the play so I can bring them up when the time is right; sometimes one wants to be very selfish and bring up concerns as and when they appear, but you have to stop yourself and say: ‘No, I’ll have to wait until next time.’ There are a couple of scenes that I am having difficulty getting to grips with and one is the scene after the king has died (Act II Scene 2). In this scene Queen Elizabeth is with her family and the Duchess of York- she tries to kill herself and I think that this is because she knows that from this point in the play life is going to be incredibly difficult for her and her family and she would rather not be part of it. Logistically, Elizabeth starts off in this scene very strong but weakens very quickly and it is finding those changes in her character that is quite tricky for me (e.g. in one scene she comes in with a knife and the intention of killing herself, yet ends the scene agreeing to go to London to see her son crowned king).
Now that we have started to run the play I am finding new dimensions to my character; I feel that Elizabeth can sometimes appear to be quite silly and I think that this is because she is bullied and pressurised by the house of York. When the play begins Elizabeth hasn’t got a lot of substance really, she appears to me as someone who quickly loses her temper or very quickly becomes over emotional, yet after the princes’ death she changes and then there is immense strength in her. Her strength seems to appear very quickly after the princes’ murder and it is a strength that takes Richard by surprise. In (Act III Scene 4) Richard thinks that Elizabeth is going to be a push over and that he can easily get anything that he wants from her, however it is interesting to see that he has met his match and he is bowled over by this. All the way through the play the audience can see little snippets of strength but then all of a sudden they can see what she is really made of.
My approach to characterisation is to read the whole play concentrating on my character and what my character says, and then I look at what everybody else says about my character and what information in the text there is to suggest who I am and where my character comes from. When I am playing a character from one of Shakespeare's plays I look closely at the language that my character uses and the language other characters use when talking about me. Once I am on stage I begin to look at the inner-characteristics of a character; what I think is going on inside my character's head and how a character portrays that on the outside. A character may be insecure on the inside but appear to be very arrogant on the outside and I think that this is the case with Elizabeth- I think that she is insecure because she is not born into royalty and so she takes an arrogant exterior to mask this and attack this.
Another aspect of characterisation is to think about animal study- if Queen Elizabeth was an animal what would she be? I have decided that if Elizabeth was an animal she would be a swan and this helps me in the way that I might walk or move around the stage. I chose a swan because I think that she works very hard in looking right and being very elegant but when swans try to fly they look very awkward and this to me is what Elizabeth is like. When she is attacked by everyone in the court; she tries to fly back at them but ends up looking very awkward. Also, swans can look very pretty and attractive but up-close they can be quite vicious especially if somebody tries to go near their children. Animal study really helps me to interpret my character's world of movement and feelings.
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.