Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Performance

“Things that might have been a little bit of an idea in the rehearsal room and something that you’re still having a go at in previews suddenly becomes a very definite choice during the run. So it’s ever changing.”
In Fergal’s final interview he talks about the reactions from the audience, how some scenes become more defined as the production goes on, and his favourite moment in the play.

Audio placeholder

Time: 8 minutes 33 seconds

Download (7.8MB, mp3 format)
To download, right click on the link and select 'Save link as'.

Transcript of Podcast

Phil Brooks:

So, thinking back now: how was opening night?

Fergal McElherron:

Oh, opening night was great. It was a really, really nice house. Opening nights can be funny because, as the performer, it’s just the start of your run. You’ve already been previewing so in your head it’s just another show because you still have to do the same show. But everything around you is saying, “oh, it’s opening night, it’s press night, blah blah blah. It begins now.” So, it’s an odd thing and it can go either way because sometimes you get an audience of people who are very aware that they’re there on opening night or press night. So, there’s kind of an atmosphere. The opening night for this was great! They were really up for it. It was really good fun. It felt like just a really good show as opposed to something other and something really like heightened or whatever. We had a ball. It was really good craic.

PB:

So, it’s just like another show rather than a separate…

FM:

Yeah, kind of. They were up for it. They just felt like a really, really good Globe audience as opposed to a house full of industry heads or critics, which can sort of feel a bit weird.

PB:

And have the audiences been reacting in ways you have expected?

FM:

It’s typical of the Globe [that] you get certain audiences that are particularly giddy, especially for the comedies. And they just go nuts from the beginning and then your job is keeping them reeled in. And inevitably, you get some houses where they just listen more closely. They’re not just laughing because it’s a comedy. And they’re really interesting houses because you have to work the text a wee bit more, which is great because that’s what you’re doing in rehearsals. That’s what you’re aiming for. It’s not a given. So, it’s been varied but always really positive, which is great. So, it’s good for us.

PB:

How has your character changed or developed, if he has at all?

FM:

I think I’m more secure with the character. So, I think he’s bedding in a lot more. Inevitably, you get more goes at it. You get it out in front of an audience, you get the reaction back and you start to see what lands and what they’re getting. And then also everyone else in the scenes with you, the same thing happens to them. So the characters you’re acting opposite become more kind of, secure, and defined. So your performance changes slightly in accordance with that. The scenes change slightly, they become more confident, they tighten up. And things that might have been a little bit of an idea in the rehearsal room, and something that you’re still having a go at in previews suddenly becomes a very definite choice then during the run. So it’s ever changing. Especially the play within the play.  It’s just bonkers. I’m so glad all my lines are finished by then because it’s very hard not to laugh.

PB:

Do you find it hard to through that play to keep focused -

FM:

Sometimes! It’s tricky, it is tricky! It’s such craic like, it’s really good fun. And the likes of Pearce [Quigley] who’s playing Bottom is just – he’s so funny. Just keeping it together is a chore.

PB:

Is it one of those things that changes slightly with every show or do you try and keep it fresh or –

FM:

You try and keep – the telling of the story has to remain true at all times. But the performances vary slightly depending on… there’s so many things that can affect it. The audience being a big thing. If we get an audience of people who are just like absolutely up for it then you tend to get a slightly giddier show. But like I said you always have to kind of keep them in check so that it doesn’t become a laugh fest for the sake of it. And you have to hit all your beats. And the scenes where you want to really listen to what is going on you have to really work for that which is great. The weather can play – I mean if it’s really really warm it gets so hot in the yard, so you get an audience in there – they are loving the show but their energy levels are down because they’re so warm.  You get a lot of people fainting. And that affects because that kind of pulls focus and stuff. So performances are always changing in accordance, do you know what I mean? And you might just get like the actors, on a particular day might be in a very very frisky mood, and wee things happen with that. I think with this show, because we’ve all gotten on so well and we’ve all loved the project so much, the show itself is solid as a rock, and the telling of the tale is really solid. We can kind of play within that a wee bit. And it’s great for us, keeping it fresh. Because you just don’t know what’s gonna happen and what they react on any given day, someone could react to something that never got a reaction before and you kind of go, ‘Jesus where did that come from?’ So it’s good craic. I mean that’s the nature of theatre I suppose in a way.

PB:

 Do you enjoy working with those distractions like, seeing the audience, extra birds, helicopters…

FM:

I love it. I absolutely love it. I think it’s massive gift that this theatre in particular has, to give us as performers. You’re working – you’re not working against these things. You’re working – in spite of them sometimes. It just, it keeps it fresh. You kind of, it never feels stale. Because even the very nature of being outdoors; the air is fresh, you might be standing backstage –there are nights inevitable like any job where you’re just not in the humour, you’re just going ‘oh my god the thought of doing this tonight.’ But you walk out there and without fail, every single time we step out on that stage you get this rush. And that’s part of the Globe audience, the Globe building, whats gonna happen, the aeroplanes. They can be frustrating now ‘cause if they come at a particularly moment where there’s just either a beautiful piece of text or a very plot driven piece of text, that can be frustrating. The trick is to try and not show the audience that you the actor are frustrated because then they just get pulled out of it. But yeah I love all those elements, I love that it’s just constantly shifting slightly, you just don’t quite know – we don’t know what show we’re going to do tonight  do you know what I mean? It’s just really good fun.

PB:

And my final question is, what is your favourite moment in the play?

FM:

Oh gosh…there’s so many, there’s so many. The play within the play for me is an absolute joy to watch because I get to watch it. Because all my dialogue and all my interaction is kind of done. Even though I’m still quite active in the scene, the way we’ve done the play. But I just get to watch the lads on stage…surviving…the play. Which is just really really funny. Other moments for me – it’s funny because a lot of, and I find this with other plays I’ve been in. My favourite moments tend to be moments where I get to watch other actors because I always think being on stage, you’re in a very privileged position to watch the play in a way that no-one else gets to see it. The first meeting of Titania and Oberon for me is always really electric. I love that moment, I think it’s very exciting. Moments like that. I mean Chris[topher Logan] as Thisbe is just a joy to behold. I just think he cracks me up every time. So things like that. It’s just really good fun. And watching Matthew [Tennyson] play Puck is just stunning. The Puck First Fairy encounter, again I’m just standing there on stage just going ‘wow, I’ve got the best scene in the house.’

PB:

Watching him moving round…

FM:

Yeah it’s great. And also knowing that play and the performance, so I recognise when there is a little variation and that always gives me a thrill when you go ‘Oh Ok, he’s doing it slightly different – he was leaning that way tonight, it was slightly different before to the one I saw last time, and I always think that’s really exciting. So they tend to be my favourite moments. All the mechanicals stuff for me to be in is great fun. It’s an absolutely joy. The first mechanicals scene I always really enjoy. And also where we come along and find - the first rehearsal where Bottom is transformed is really good craic. So yeah.

PB:

Great thank you very much.

FM:

Thank you!

Back to top

Comments

Merville Spiers, Monte-Carlo

Brilliant 'Play within the Play' - if I never see another I was there at the best. Exquisite timing, perfect complicity between actors, rock solid characterisation and pure farce. more

If you have ever been in Amateur Dramatics then this is all your nightmares rolled into one. Thank you.

ADD YOUR THOUGHTS TO THE CONVERSation

We welcome your opinions. This is a public forum. Libellous and abusive comments are not allowed. Please read our Forum Rules.