Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 3

In his third blog post, Paul discusses how running the play has helped clarify the production, how his ideas of playing the Porter have developed, and how the Witches can be made fun!

Transcript of Podcast

Running the play

Last week we did a run through of Macbeth, which was very useful. I am reassured that the style we have developed for the production will work, however, things may still be changed, added or cut. We have cut ten pages of the text so far. Therefore the staging of the play is dynamic, not ‘fussy’, and certain scenes merge into each other. The ‘England’ scene (between Malcolm and Macduff) has been cut up and interspersed with other scenes.

The Porter

I have been discussing the character of the Porter with Tim [Carroll, Master of Play]. The Porter scene is not naturalistic in our production, unlike many other productions of Macbeth.

We are still pursuing the idea that the ‘Porter’ scene is a representation of Macbeth’s state of mind. I had an idea about how this scene could be staged. Macbeth stays on stage after the previous scene (when Lady Macbeth is telling him to wash the blood from his hands). Ten cast members come on and start clicking their fingers, however, Lady Macbeth responds as if the clicking is the loudest knocking in the world. Steadily the clicking grows louder. When the Porter comes on, the clicking changes to stones being dropped, with a loud bang, into tin buckets. We have a configuration at the moment of five chairs surrounding Jasper who is facing downstage staring into the audience (the chairs are brought on by the cast members, who then almost ‘melt away’) and I am at the other end of the stage with my back to the audience.

When I start to speak my lines as the Porter, I really want the words to go out to the audience, but at the same time I want to relate the words back to Macbeth as if I am having a conversation with him. Once my soliloquy is over, I let Macduff in through the gates. My character goes from a surreal scene, where he appears to be expressing the thoughts that are in Macbeth’s mind to a scene with Macduff in which he is just a Porter. While I talk to Macduff I move chairs around, as if I am a Porter clearing away after the night before and setting chairs out for the morning. At the end of this scene, the Porter gives a speech about “Lechery”. When Macduff asks, “Is thy Master stirring?” that is when Macbeth would normally come on stage. The function of the first part of the Porter’s scene is often regarded as a time filler, included in the play so that Macbeth can get changed and wash the blood off of his hands before his next scene. In our production Macbeth does not need to do that as there is no blood (blood is represented by gold thread) and he is on stage throughout the scene. At the end of the scene I simply tip the chair up that Macbeth is sitting on, as if it is weightless, and don’t I notice that anyone is in it. In this way Macbeth makes his ‘entrance’ back into the scene.

The Witches

We want the audience to have fun and really enjoy the scenes with the witches. The costumes for the witches are the same for the other characters, but we will now be wearing glasses with misted lenses. The scene will not be like the traditional witches’ scene as there will not be any burning cauldrons, we cannot dim the lights and the witches will not be reacting in the usual way. There will also be some salsa dancing! I think that the way we are staging this scene will have a great impact on the first appearance of the heroes Macbeth and Banquo.

I do not know how the audience is going to react to this. Some people may be disappointed that the production is not realistic in its representation, however, I think that we are working in the right way. It will be thrilling if these ideas work, as they are so strong.

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 may change frequently as the rehearsal process progresses.

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