Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Pre-Rehearsal

"Never done Shakespeare. Never been at the Globe." Samuel talks about the challenge of coming to the Globe and performing Shakespeare for the first time.

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Time: 11 minutes 33 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Samuel Barnett:

I’m Samuel Barnett and I’m playing Sebastian in Twelfth Night.

Hayley Bartley:

Wonderful. So is this your first time at the Globe?

Samuel:

This is my first time at the Globe. I’ve seen plenty of stuff here and always thought, “Oh, I’ll never be able to play that space, it’s too daunting”. But yes, I’ve never done anything.

Hayley:

But you’ve done Shakespeare elsewhere?

Samuel:

No.

Hayley:

Oh, wow!

Samuel:

Never done Shakespeare. Never been at the Globe. So it was two completely terrifying things to do. And I thought if I’m going to have a crack at Shakespeare – because I had done a Jacobean, Women Beware Women, before and I didn’t feel like I dealt with the text well at all. So, because of my experience with it, in terms of me not really understanding a lot of what I was saying, it sort of put me off the text and I’ve never had any desire to do Shakespeare. And so when this audition came up for Richard III and Twelfth Night, I thought there is no better place to do it, in terms of throwing yourself into the fire. And no one better to do it with, in terms of learning from someone like Mark Rylance. And also friends of mine have worked with Tim Carroll and they said if you want to learn about Shakespeare and the language then he’s the best one to work with…

Hayley:

And how you get support as well from other practitioners and people like that, like Giles [Block] with text.

Samuel:

Exactly. And I didn’t know that was going to be on offer, so that was all fantastic. Giles said to me something about breathing at the end of the line was so that you could say the next line, not just because you were at the end of the previous line. And also breathing because you had a new idea coming for the next line and to sort of pick out the word in the next line of text that was the most important one. That’s how we think anyway, that we know we are heading for a certain word in sentences and even though we don’t know it, our brains work quicker than us so they know it. So when he gave me that, plus all the work that I’d done with Tim, it felt like it unlocked it for me. I feel like I could be given a text now and do something with it. And that’s what I’m discovering with Twelfth Night actually, that even reading it through I’m going “before I had done all that work on Richard III, I would not have had a clue, a, what any of this meant and, b, how to approach it.”

Hayley:

So although it may seem like it is quite a feat doing two plays, by doing the first one it must definitely help you for the second?

Samuel:

I was dreading doing two. I’m someone who needs so much sleep. I don’t do well on – we’ve got two shows today and I’m in tomorrow at 10 o’clock and I don’t do well on that. I find performing exhausting and I find I can sleep for 10 hours after a show; I’m not going to get that tonight.  So I thought I was going to be exhausted and grumpy and thinking “oh, I’ve got Twelfth Night rehearsals and I’m performing Richard!” But it’s not been like that at all, it’s been the opposite actually. It’s been galvanising and exciting to go in and go “actually I learnt so much that it’s like learning a foreign language, I feel like I have a skill that I just didn’t have before.” So it’s exciting going into rehearsal. I think it helps with Richard III, in terms of completely having to take your mind away from what is quite a heavy part that I play in Richard III and doing something completely different. I’m playing a boy, there’s more comedy in it, it’s a totally different story, different setting, different time, all that stuff. It’s really got such a different feel to it, Twelfth Night to Richard III, it means that when I come back to Richard I haven’t even thought about it and I can just go on and do it and feel much fresher. So actually where I thought I’d be grumpy and exhausted, I’m really excited and enjoying doing two. I kind of wish that this is what you get to do all the time because - well it’s what they used to do in rep. I personally have never liked doing 8 shows a week of something, it feels odd, it feels unnatural, but to be doing 2 here at the globe, and then in the West End, it’s so refreshing. It means that muscle that you use to do that particular play doesn’t get tired because you’re off using a different muscle to do that play. So yes, I’m loving it so far.

Hayley:

Something then that has been quite nice is having the same company for both because it means that, for Twelfth Night now, you must have, kind of, a head start maybe?

Samuel:

We do. And also just timing-wise – although we’ve probably got the same amount of time in terms of weeks to do Twelfth Night rehearsals, we have less time because of shows. So, all that, kind of, bonding you have to do as a company and getting to know one another, even if you don’t like each other as people, which we do, I think we love each other actually; it’s such a nice company. But you have to get to know each other as actors and what different actors do and, you know, we spent the first 2 or 3 weeks of Richard III rehearsals getting to know one another. It’s a shorthand now, we’ve got a language which we understand about one another. So we’ve, kind of, got less time but we’ve made up time by doing another show already. It would be weird if Twelfth Night was a completely different company, I think that would probably be hard work.

Hayley:

So, thinking more closely about Twelfth Night then: were you familiar with the play before? I guess you mentioned you had read it.

Samuel:

I’d read it. I’d seen 2 productions of it, so I was familiar with it; I knew it was one I liked. I didn’t know anything really about Richard III, but with Twelfth Night I sort of knew; I thought I knew what to expect. But I’m kind of finding with the way Tim works that I love how, just by doing the exercises on the text, you never get the obvious answer which is great. Even though this production is a remount, if you like, on one that was done 10 years ago, I feel like it’s going to be very fresh. I did a show where we did it for a year, and then we had a break, and then we came back and did it for ages. And during that break I was thinking it will be easy coming back to it because I have done it for so long, but when I came back to it I had to reinvent, I had to freshen it up, because there was no way I could find what I had been doing a few months earlier. And I kind of love that about acting and that’s why it can be a lifelong job because as you change your casting changes. And I’m sure I’ll do Sebastian – gosh, if I think about how I would have done Sebastian 10 years ago it will be very different to how I will do it now. I can’t even tell you what the differences would be but I just know it would be very different. Johnny playing Viola, you know we’re both a similar age, we’re not early twenties, we’re late twenties-early thirties, so we’ve got 10 years more life experience than we would have had had we done it 10 years ago. When I read the script, you know, Sebastian is someone who comes in beginning, middle and end and I thought, “I know how I would have done this in the past, but I am hoping to find – and I think I will – just something more interesting by working with Tim and something less obvious to what I would do. I’ve really enjoyed playing so off centre, you couldn’t get more off centre playing Elizabeth in Richard III and it will be nice to come back to a male role who is kind of young, could be my age, could be a bit younger, and find something that isn’t so on centre for me.

Hayley:

What are your initial impressions of Sebastian, just from early days really?

Samuel:

Do you know, I like him already. It’s nice to play someone who is kind, really kind, and open hearted. And has values, values things such as friendship and honesty. And also he’s the heir to this huge estate in Messaline and his father’s died so he is the heir. And he’s, sort of, I feel like he’s a guy on the cusp of becoming who he really is and probably, well he does, he finds Olivia and he falls in love instantly, they both do. And he wants to marry her and they go along with it, not because it’s “lets go along for the ride”, but because he’s, sort of, becoming in his prime of manhood. I feel like he’s a bit of a boy-man, a boy-man, yes. I don’t think Shakespeare writes boring characters, I don’t think he would bother making Sebastian uninteresting. I think he has written him at a point where he’s ready to assume all the responsibility that his father had, which includes marriage and a family and being whatever his father was, a duke I suppose. And running lands and people and also, I just have to say, in terms of balancing it out with Elizabeth, I wouldn’t want to play another really heavy part in this repertoire. I’m glad that I’ve got, even in the few rehearsals that I’ve had so far, I already feel like Sebastian’s energy is so much lighter and younger and fresher, and not completely innocent but innocent enough. Sebastian isn’t having to cope with his children dying, he thinks his twin has died and then she hasn’t. He meets the woman of his dreams and then he gets his twin back so it’s a good story; it’s a happy ending.

Hayley:

Yes, I suppose for him his journey is: oh, it seems like it’s pretty bad but actually it’s fine…

Samuel:

…it’s great!

Hayley:

Elizabeth: it seems like it’s pretty bad, it’s even worse…

Samuel:

It’s even worse than you could ever possibly have thought and it’s about to get worse.

Hayley:

So, in terms of the play itself then, what are your impressions of that?

Samuel:

It feels like a bit of a dream play, which I know is an odd thing to say because I know it’s not A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it’s not magic, it’s a mistaken identity play, I guess, and it’s a twins play. Richard III feels gritty and the stakes are so high and it feels very real, and also it’s based on reality. Twelfth Night feels dream-like and they’ve left home and their ship has sunk, and they end up on an island and they don’t know where they are. It could be a dream, there could be spirits, it could be like the Tempest, it’s not, it’s actually more grounded than that. What I love is the richness of the characters, like there is a lot of stuff that is terribly important to them that really doesn’t matter actually. But mostly I think it’s about love and it’s about family and I’m really looking forward to getting into the rehearsals with Johnny where we get reunited, I think that will be really touching. And we’re really on the same page Johnny and I, without having talked we’ve got very similar ideas. And we’re having to play twins, you know, Johnny and I have very similar measurements – it’s not meant to be rude, we have very similar measurements – from the waist down. We have slightly different measurements on our upper body, like our waist measurements, our leg measurements, they’re completely the same, so physically, I suppose, we look quite alike. And they are going to do a great job with the wigs, we’re going to have make-up which picks out features, or makes our features look really similar. So I’m excited about that, I’ve never had to play a twin. We’re such a similar height and we’re a similar age so I think the effect could be quite magical.

Hayley:

I’m sure you could produce it in your acting as well.

Samuel:

Yes we could but Johnny and I are very different temperaments. My energy is quite frenetic and I bounce up and down like Tigger. I’m probably quite extrovert, Johnny’s quite laid back, he’s quite shy, his energy is more contained. But then you think we don’t have to be completely the same because, although he is Viola who becomes a boy, dresses up as a boy, we’re bound to be different personalities. I think, more than anything, it’s got to be the look that does it. Because I think that’s what’s exciting for an audience, knowing that “ok, these are twins, they look the same, can’t everyone else on stage see that they are different?” That’s delicious for the audience to know what’s going on and for us not to.

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