Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Production Notes 2

At this point, just over half way through the run of the play, The Merchant of Venice was given a 3 week break from performance.

Transcript of Podcast

At this point, just over half way through the run of the play, The Merchant of Venice was given a 3 week break from performance. This was to give the actors in the White Company the opportunity to rehearse full time for their second play of the season, The Honest Whore and to open the production with a week of performances, before the play went into repertory with The Merchant of Venice. Norbert is not in The Honest Whore, this means that he has been able to take a 2 week break to return to Germany, while the rest of the company have been busy with rehearsal, technical rehearsal and previews.

As the company had not performed The Merchant of Venice for some while they were called to rehearsal before the show for a line run of the play (for which the actors just say their lines, without movement). In the current UK theatre climate it is unusual for an actor to be asked to return to a play after such a long break - rep is becoming rarer and increasingly actors are employed with a company for one play only. The company was also exhausted from their work on The Honest Whore. Norbert found that he was the most relaxed member of the company, partly because he had been able to take a break, but also because of the way he is used to working with the Bremer Shakespeare Company. When he is working with his company Norbert would normally be playing in 4 or 5 different productions at the same time, any one production is not played more that 4 or 6 times a month, and there is a big repertoire of plays. Therefore he is used to leaving a play for period of time and returning to it later. Norbert feels that training in German Drama schools orientates actors towards working in this way.

For Norbert it was really good to return to the Globe and to hear the play again. He also greatly enjoyed the performance, the break gave Norbert and the whole company the opportunity to see the conflicts of the play afresh. The week before Norbert had prepared thoroughly, he read the scenes again and spoke the lines to hear the language and the rhythm of the speeches. Norbert's main difficulty during this time has been with his stockings, Norbert has been finding it difficult to keep them up and in one performance they started to fall down during the trial scene, which made it hard for Norbert to stay focused. At the moment the weather is very hot, and the heat in the Globe is quite intense. Audience members, particularly in the middle galleries, sit directly in the sun during the matinee performances. The actors have found that they have to fight for the attention of the audience and to hold their focus on the stage. This requires lots of energy from the actors. The actors themselves are not so effected by the heat as they are protected from the sun by the heavens over the stage.

Norbert's brother and his son came to see the play during this period and afterwards they talked a lot about its themes and content. Norbert found it particularly interesting to talk about the theme of generation conflicts (as depicted in the relationship between Shylock and Jessica), and the influence of Germany history on contemporary interpretations of the play, with three generations of his family. Norbert also hopes he was able to convince his nephew not to become an actor!

After the Globe theatre season ends Norbert will go to Canada to work at the University of Toronto. One of his first projects there will be to direct Twelfth Night. Norbert is busy researching for his production of the play which will have a cast of 9 women and 1 man. Obviously this is an interesting casting decision and will greatly influence the type of production that Norbert directs. Norbert feels that most of the characters in the play have an ambiguous gender and that the only character who is sure of his ‘male’ identity is Malvolio. When he is not performing Norbert is now working on his ideas for the production.

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 frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.

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