Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal 1

“There are great moments like, they should all be asking Quince what he wants to do and they all turn to Bottom. And Quince is left standing there, going ‘I’m supposed to be the director, I wrote the play as well!’
In Fergal’s second interview he discusses the beginning of rehearsals, the power play between Quince and Bottom, and the confusion misplaced punctuation makes.

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Time: 11 minutes 38 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

 

Phil Brooks:

So if you could talk us through what you’ve been doing in rehearsals so far?

Fergal McElherron:

Well so far we’re kind of up on our feet now, and we’ve put a loose blocking on a lot of the scenes, which is basically just where are you coming from and moving around a little bit. And when we revisited them then we started to work out the dynamics between the characters a bit more, and just putting a bit more of fine tuning on it. So there’s been a lot of that, a lot of discussing what’s going on in the scenes, talking about what the intentions of the scenes are, what the relationships between the characters are and how they move throughout the scenes. And putting more fine points on the world that we’re inhabiting as well.  So where we’re coming from and where we’re going to, what the consequences of our actions are, all that kinda stuff we’re starting to nail in a wee bit more now.

PB:

Have you found any of those scenes particularly significant to your character and how you’ve interpreted your character?

FM:

The Peter Quince stuff- I’m starting to find his frustration a bit more now because Bottom is just a very very irritating character from Peter Quince’s point of view. And that whole sense of Quince losing control a little bit, in terms of – not actually losing his control and going mad – but losing his hold, his grasp on proceedings. Because we discussed how important this play within the play is, because it’s the Duke and the Duchess on their wedding day, it’s a big thing. And we did some research and found out at the time, if people played for any kind of big event or royalty there were consequences if it didn’t go down well or if the audience didn’t like it. And we mention in the play that we could be hung if this doesn’t go well, so we’re kind of playing the gravity of that a little bit more whilst playing the excitement of it going well. So we’re finding that there’s a lot of comedy to be got from that. But the good thing about it is it feels very real as well. With regards to First Fairy, I’ve been, myself and Michelle [Terry] have been talking a lot, she’s playing Titania, about the First Fairy’s relationship with her, with the Queen. And what his role is. And how involved he is in the whole Oberon trickery. And we’ve been starting to filter in little bits and pieces where the First Fairy – whilst he’s not involved directly – he’s kind of aware that something is going on later on, with regards to the Indian boy and stuff like that. Because all the feuding that’s been going on between the King and Queen, and then she goes off and falls in love with this donkey, and the First Fairy takes that quite seriously. So we’re starting to filter in. And because there’s nothing textual, we’re kind of doing it with just wee moments of looks and we’re trying to find little looks we can give each other. Or the First Fairy being present, for certain things, and just lingering a bit longer or being on the peripheral just witnessing things. So that’s really, I love that kind of stuff.

PB:

Have you started developing that movement around the stage?

FM:

Yes yeah, a little bit with some of those fairy scenes we’ve touched on. We did the scene where the spell is taken off Titania, and its been revealed that she’s been in love with this donkey all along. And as the First Fairy I’ve been playing with being very present for that. And myself and Oberon exchanging glances and then when the Queen wakes up kind of skulking back a wee bit so as not to let her see that I’ve witnessed it. Which is good as it leaves it ambiguous enough that we’re not going to lay something on that isn’t there, but it’s just filtering in a little element. And that’s great ‘cause Dominic [Dromgoole, Director]is just letting us play around with wee things, with the main focus of the scene is always the most important thing but if you just add these little bits of colour on the fringes, it just makes it a lot sweeter.

PB:

Its just the hint of something more is…

FM:

Yeah exactly and I think it makes the world more real. ‘Cause it’s not just ‘oh we’re fairies and there’s magic afoot’, there’s politics going on within this world. Which was something Dominic was very clear about in the beginning; he didn’t want us doing lots of fairy acting. The fairies are very real within their world; they’re just not real within our world. But that doesn’t mean that when they’re with each other their all being all fairy like, do you know what I mean? So we’re making the fairy world very real within itself, which gives us room to have these little agendas going on which is great. You don’t always have to be worrying about leaping over logs in a fairy manner or trying to pretend you’re hovering in the air!

PB:

You started talking about the text and the language there, what have you noticed about the both of your characters language that they use?

FM:

Well with the fairy stuff there’s more rhyme involved, which kind of lightens it slightly, there’s more of a music to it. Whereas the Quince stuff is more blank verse and prose type stuff. And then when we move into the play within a play, because Quince has written the prologue we’re back into rhyme but he kind of butchers it a wee bit. So it’s not quite as good as it could be, in real terms. Again it’s Shakespeare being brilliant as he’s managed to brilliantly write less than perfect stuff. But there’s one speech that Quince has, the opening prologue, where he gets the punctuation all wrong which gives the speech a completely different meaning. And the tricky thing that I’ve found with that is having to go in and find what the speech should be. ‘Cause the words are all as they should be its just the full stops and commas are in the wrong place. So we’ve looked at what is Quince trying to say. The most clear line in it, where he says ‘all for your delight, we are not here’, but ‘all for your delight’ belongs on the previous line. And the ‘we are not here, that you should here repent you’. Cause he’s saying we haven’t come here that you should regret coming here, but he ties it in the wrong way. So that’s- it’s tricky because it makes it confusing…

PB:

It slightly alters the meaning but…

FM:

Yeah you have to try and figure out what he’s trying to say and what he ends up saying. It’s great fun, but things like that with regards to text that’s the trickiest thing I have found text wise so far. Just its been wrecking my head a wee bit. The other Quince stuff is him trying to be all ‘professional actor-y’. He says “I will make [sp] a bill of properties, such as our play wants”, that’s him being all official. They’re craftsmen that are having a go at acting. But because this is a big deal now, this is the big play for the Duke, he starts going ‘rehearse your parts, we will do it in action as we will do it before the Duke, and this green plot will be our stage, this Hawthorne-break our tiring house’. He’s suddenly into all this jargon that you could imagine he might not always get into. The stakes have been upped for this. So that’s really good fun. The First Fairy thing, his first encounter with Puck, where he describes all” the cowslips tall her pensioners be: in their gold coats spots you see”, he’s talking all nature nature nature. And the rhyme is so strong in there, and if you just nail the rhyme, the sense just comes in after it. Which is a tricky thing as there’s always a temptation to put sense on it, because you think that’s what you do as an actor you put sense on something.

PB:

Find a meaning and then develop it.

FM:

Yeah but with this its helped by the fact that the rhymes are there, the structure of the lines is right so if you just trust that. So it’s a lot of that going on with regards to text. It’s great because the two characters I have speak very differently in terms of the style text, so it’s great for me, I’m enjoying having a go at each.   

PB:

What relationships in the play are important to both of your characters and why?

FM:

I think in terms of Quince his relationship with Bottom is kind of the central thing for Quince, because that’s where all the dynamic is. He knows that Bottom is the star turn; he knows that he’s the prize; he’s the ‘actor’. And I’ve got him; I’ve got him in my play. But the price is very high, because his ego or his manner is such that we’re vying for attention. Which is great fun as well, we’re kind of developing that even more, we’re both feuding – this unspoken feud to be the authority. To have the rest of the cast look to us. And there are great moments like they should all be asking Quince what he wants to do and they all turn to Bottom. And Quince is left standing there, going ‘I’m supposed to be the director, I wrote the cursed play as well’. It’s like ‘I’m the one’. So that character dynamic. And with First Fairy again as I was saying that dynamic with the Fairy Queen is really really developing. That first encounter with Puck where I recognise him – I’m enjoying the nice wee stuff with Puck going on where we’re wary of each other because we’re on opposing teams, but I know who he is, he’s got a reputation. And that’s not to say I agree with his reputation or the method by which he got it. But I know who he is. And also just because of what we were saying about the First Fairy and the Queen, that could spill over into some kind of relationship with Oberon as well as the First Fairy. Again something really really small, but it might just be a look at the right time to say that there has been a communication somewhere along the line between these two, in order to get things sorted so those relationships are coming along now which is great fun.

PB:

And finally what have been the highs and lows of the first few weeks of rehearsals?

FM:

It’s mostly highs to be honest; I mean any lows are just stuff in your own head. Like me struggling with that speech which isn’t a low as such, it’s just that’s where suddenly it feels a bit like hard work. Where you’re at home going ‘I cannot make this speech sound right’. There’s just been so many highs ‘cause were all having really good fun. It’s funny cause we’re still- were at the stage we’re at because we’re still taking stuff in isolation, I haven’t seen any of the lovers stuff at all yet. I could go in and watch if I wanted, but because none of our paths have crossed yet, so a potential high to come is me watching that stuff, because I just think all that stuff is great. And I’m dying to see what they’ve done with it, because we all see each other – if we’re having a big dance call – but we haven’t seen each other’s scenes yet. We did the play within the play the other day, and that was the first time we had all been together. Which was interesting, suddenly we’re all in the same room going ‘oh yeah hi guys’. It’s getting a bit scary now because the clock is ticking, and suddenly we’re going ‘oh god we’ve got a week left’. The lows haven’t been terribly low, they’ve just been, ‘well today just feels like I have to do my job and come up with the goods!’ Which shouldn’t be a low, but you know…

PB:

It just hasn’t developed yet.

FM:

Yeah exactly, it’s always a bit frustrating- getting off book is always a bit of a curse as well, it’s never a high. Having to learn your lines is just the most practical necessary evil, and I’ve yet to meet an actor who likes it, you know. Cause you’re just going ‘oh god these lines haven’t gone in…’

PB:

You just want to get out and play.

FM:

Yeah because you’re on the verge of knowing them but you’re still being kind of held back and you hate having to stop yourself to go ‘what’s the line?’, but we’re getting there. The lines are actually going in, everyone is, we’re flying ahead with that.   

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Comments

Thomas Countz, London, W1

I loved McElherron's comment on "adding colour to the fringes." This is what makes magic happen for me on stage. When I see that all of the actors are creating true moments for themselves without stealing focus, it makes me say "wow, I'm here with these people; I'm getting to experience their lives with them as it's happening."

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