Shakespeare's Globe

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Julius D'Silva (Ross) talks to Adopt An Actor about the 2010 production of Macbeth. In this first interview, he discusses his experience of Shakespeare at school, how he became an actor, his initial impressions of the play and the first day of rehearsals.

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Transcript of Podcast

Paul Shuter:

Welcome to this Globe Education podcast. My name is Paul Shuter, and this is the first of a series of conversations I’m having with Julius D’Silva, who is playing Ross in this summer’s production of Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe. So, when did you first come across Shakespeare at school?

Julius D’Silva:

We didn’t have a drama department at my school. There was an English department. The only plays that were done were usually by the staff, and it was a pantomime that included the staff. And then we had one teacher who did Under Milk Wood once and then A Midsummer Night’s Dream another year, and that was our only experience of Shakespeare. And then we had to study Macbeth at O-Level (which is now called GCSE), and that was our first experience of it, I had a very nice teacher for O-Level called Mrs Turner, who introduced us to [Roman] Polanski’s film of Macbeth, but it wasn’t a rounded experience because there was no drama department.

PS:

So it was all sitting down and analysis of the text?

JD:

Very much so, it was quite old fashioned even though it was the 80's, it was still very much stuck in the 60's.

PS:

How did life develop so that you became an actor?

JD:

There was a local theatre group in my home town, in Falmouth in Cornwall, and they were doing West Side Story, and somebody asked me if I’d be interested in West Side Story, and my parents (I think it was my dad), said “You’d like West Side Story”. And then I saw the movie of West Side Story and was completely swept up by it. I mean, it’s a pretty good introduction to theatre and drama really. And it’s Romeo and Juliet as well of course, so that was my first proper theatre experience.

PS:

And did you go on to drama school?

JD:

I went to Birmingham School of Speech and Drama, which is now called something else - Birmingham School of Acting I think it’s called - and yeah, I had quite a rounded training there. We didn’t have the advantage of being in London so things were a bit harder for us, but as far as a preparation for the industry was concerned we weren’t really very well prepared for what was to come when we left I think!

PS:

Have you done much Shakespeare in your lifetime?

JD:

Lots, I’ve done a lot, a lot of Shakespeare. When times weren’t that great and I couldn’t get employed I started working with the fantastic Bruce Wall and The London Shakespeare Workout, and specifically Bruce’s prison projects which would take Shakespeare workshops into prisons and we’d work with young offenders and we’d work with lifers, and we’d work with people in Pentonville, in Wandsworth, in Brixton and all the rough-house, nasty Victorian nicks, and all round the country. And we’d meet, if we were travelling out of London, we’d meet at the Thornton’s Chocolate Wagon in Victoria Station and get on a train, and we’d rehearse what we were going to do on the train, and then we’d get to the prison and we’d do a workshop with these guys.

And, far from being worthy, it was of great benefit to the inmates and the actors alike. I remember Orson Welles saying something like (and this is a misquote), you realise the power of Shakespeare when you hear it spoken by someone who’s never heard it spoken by anybody else, if that makes sense to you. You hear someone speaking it for the first time who’s not been influenced by any other actor or anything like that and I remember Welles saying that when he did Macbeth in Harlem. And Bruce Wall’s work is particularly strong with that and I’ve got him to thank for an awful lot,

It was because of his work that I got spotted by someone. I was in Pentonville Prison of all places, and someone spotted me in that and as a consequence of that I went on to the RSC and worked in the Swan [Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon] on some Spanish plays, and then Michael Boyd, the head of the RSC, asked me to stay on for his Histories season, and that was two and a half years where we did all eight of the history plays over two and a half years, and cleaned up at the Oliviers in 2009.

PS:

My next question is, were you familiar with the play, well you certainly were in that you’d studied it when you were 16…

JD:

Studied it when I was 16, and I had a good teacher with it I remember, and as I said before we were shown the Polanski film, which suddenly put it into perspective for us, which gave us an insight into it, especially that opening shot on the beach with the witches which I thought was great and the sort of weird soundtrack that went with it, and the bleakness of the photography brought it home to me. So yeah, I was familiar with the play, I’ve seen it a few times, I saw Greg Hicks play ‘Maccers’ at the RSC and I’ve seen a few other people do it and… yeah, but, I’ve never worked at the Globe before and I was keen to, and I’ve never worked on that play, so I was keen to come here.

PS:

Do you do a lot of preparation before rehearsals start?

JD:

Well, I’ve been playing Mr Bumble in Oliver! at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane for 18 months, so I wasn’t able to do much preparation until I’ve just finished last week, so… I usually try and do a little bit of research, but on this one I haven’t had that much time, so I’m shooting from the hip a little bit and playing catch-up with the other actors.

PS:

And what was the first day of rehearsals like?

JD:

It was a sunny day, and we had a meet and greet with the Artistic Director of the theatre in a long room overlooking the river and I thought ‘This is a very beautiful room’. And that was good, and it was nice to see some old faces, some familiar faces. You realise how small the industry is, certainly classical actors often crop up in different institutions doing different plays. And it was nice to see Keith Dunphy [Macduff] who I know very well, and Elliot [Cowan, Macbeth], who had done one of the prison workshops with me a long time ago, and meet new people as well and also get a chance to introduce myself to the Education Department, who I’d like to work with. The more cross-pollination between people who work in a theatrical building the better, you know. I think the more the actors have to do with the education department and vice versa, and the technicians have to do with the actors, and the more you know each other, the better things work all round, and the more you can live in a sort of happy symbiosis, I think, and develop each others’ work, and help to develop each other’s work. And that was good.

And then we had a read-through, which is always nervous, and you want to impress your colleagues, and you want to impress the director, and make sure they don’t think they haven’t made a mistake by employing you, so yeah. And then we went off to look at the model box which was brilliant because Lucy [Bailey, director] is famous for having good visual pictures, you know, she always has a strong concept of what something’s going to look like, I think, and looking at this, sort of circles of hell idea that she’s got going on in the model box for the Globe was fantastic and basing things slightly on the [Gustav] Doré sketches of Dante’s hell and Virgil and hell and things like that. Fascinating, you know.

PS:

Okay! Right, thanks, that’s the end of the first one.

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