Shakespeare's Globe

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In his penultimate blog post Frank discusses the technical rehearsal, how he brings his character to life and the opening night.

Transcript of Podcast

Technical rehearsal

In some ways, technical rehearsals at the Globe are easier than most techs because there isn’t a huge or specific lighting design as there would be in other theatres. Similarly, due to the nature of the Globe, there wasn’t much to speak of in terms of a set. So with those two things gone, and virtually no props, the tech was rendered quite simple in terms of just getting through it. We were able to explore the space without interruption, because normally in a tech you’d get five lines in and somebody would shout “Stop, stop, stop!” and it all becomes about the technical aspect, whereas here –unusually so- this was very much centred on the performance.

The technical rehearsal lasted for four days and the whole thing was done in full costume. This was necessary because we were given our togas for the first time, and togas are bizarre. If you are wearing suits you have a reference to modern life; it's easy. But then suddenly you get this big piece of fabric wrapped around you and it falls and droops and does all sorts of things so you sort of have to learn how to present it, to make it seem like you are used to wearing it.

Costume and character

I tend to use my toga quite a lot on stage. I think that Sicinius is the sort of character who would do a lot of adjusting of his tie were he wearing a suit, so if he is wearing a toga I reckon he's got that sort of officiousness about him where he would be quite sort of aware of how he looks and how he is presenting himself. The putting on of the costume reveals stuff, it always does, because a costume designer has looked at the character and has made decisions on that, so when you put it on it kind of informs you a little bit. Sometimes you disagree with the costume, you think it is wrong, and there can be a process of negotiation, but very often it's a revelatory thing.

My costume is more colourful than Brutus’ costume. I think what is being subliminally presented by our costumes is that we are both political ‘machinators’ and we are both very ambitious. In the text, it seems to me that Sicinius is just slightly more ambitious and slightly more driven. To present that visually in terms of the costume, he's more of an arriviste or more of a ‘new money’ type character, so in today's terms Brutus would be in a nice simple black suit with a good shirt and tie, whereas I would have something a bit more flashy.

There is a line in the play that says ‘your beards’ meaning both of our beards but I just have a tiny little bit of light stubble and initially I didn’t have anything at all. I don’t really think it's that specific. If Dominic came along and said ‘You know, I really think you ought to have a beard’ then I would have grown one, much to my disappointment because I don’t really like having a beard. But John [who plays Brutus] decided he would have one and so grew it for the part. It's just a bit of dynamism visually and adds a contrast to me as well.

Brutus and Sicinius

I think that Brutus is certainly less pro-active, although he does give Sicinius advice. But I am the person who opens the gambit and I’m the character who says the first line, which is an invitation to think about what we are going to do about this guy, Caius Martius; he's not right for this society, and he is arrogant, and he is a figurehead that needs to be taken away. So I open that debate with Brutus and I have a ready accomplice. We have just been elected as tribunes really so we have to decide whether we are going to take this post as just a titular thing or whether we are actually going to do something with it. I think Sicinius is ambitious and if he gets a small bit of power he is going to do something with it, and he does.

First entrance

When Brutus and Sicinius first enter the stage, we are standing far away from the others. We are scrutinising, we are watching what's going on. And we are very definitely presenting the fact that, although we have been newly elected tribunes, we’re not going to be on side with the patricians and on side with the nobles. Straight away when we come out, we’re not part of the fray, we’re not shaking hands with everybody, we’re just watching from the sidelines and then we emerge to do our business.

Movement

I think if you do something subtle with your movement, it kind of underpins what's happening in the language or illustrates maybe a little bit. The language is dense and difficult for some people to engage with straight away, hopefully not overly so but maybe just a little bit. So my movements are there in case you, the audience, are in any doubt, I’m throwing something at you which will make you think hmmmm there's something up here.

If you ever watch Question Time [a British political programme] or similar shows it's really interesting to look at their body language. You can always tell what might be going on with them. Very often, just unnecessarily adjusting a tie or repositioning yourself on a seat when something is said, it's telling. It's not specific, you can’t specifically say what it is, but you know that there is something going on. There is something ticking over in somebody's mind. It should look un-self-conscious. It's not ‘Dr. Evil,’ it's ‘I’m preoccupied’ and that preoccupation in the silences and then when you speak is kind of joined together in a weird kind of way.

First night

On the first night, I felt was bizarrely calm. The good thing about not being the very first person on stage is that you get to listen to the audience and the unfortunate actor who actually has to speak the first line of the play. In Coriolanus it's a good ten minutes before I come on, so I can sit in the tiring house and listen to how it's going. And because I can hear the warmth of the audience straight away, and the first people on stage have got a dynamic going with the audience, I just thought that this audience are receptive and relaxed. Of course you are always nervous – it's only natural. But knowing it is a friendly house, an open and welcoming house, I just tried to keep calm and do what I’ve been rehearsing.

Every night I go out I find that, because of the nature of the space and the impact of the weather, light, cold, chill, wind, hot sunshine and all of that, there are adjustments in every performance. The weather adjusts an audience's concentration, and consequently it can sort of adjust yours if you don’t concoct ways of keeping yourself locked in the play and refreshing it for yourself without distracting another actor. I wouldn’t say that I move from point A to B to C every night; particularly when it is me and John on stage we move around one another quite fluidly, almost in an improvisation style. We kind of float, and if he floats one way I’ll float another. It keeps it all nice and organic and alive, which is good because I love that.

Connecting with the audience

I do find myself looking into the eyes of people in the audience, particularly when I am delivering speeches to the citizens, giving them our thoughts and trying to stir them up. Both John and I use the audience. It depends who is there really but we do sometimes get distracted by them; once I looked at somebody who had this look of complete terror as I was looking at them because that fourth wall was coming down, the fourth wall was falling for them and they just looked away immediately in terror and panic, as if I was going to jump on them or something!

I was doing a matinee show on Saturday and there was an actor I know from Ireland just standing in the audience looking up at me, and that was really, really distracting, because he was so there! I did catch his eyes but then very briskly moved away, trying to stay in the world of the play, trying not to think about what he's doing here and that I haven’t seen him in years! It is possible to get quite distracted by that. You do get back but you just have to start concentrating again, start listening to what you are saying, and more importantly listening to the other actors, which is something I’m doing more and more of now that I am comfortable in my own role. It's very important in acting to listen to what other characters are saying, not just to act listening but to genuinely listen so that you enhance your performance. Because I’m getting to the point where I listen properly to the other actors, I’m beginning to understand the rest of the world of the play. I still haven’t made my mind up about what Shakespeare was trying to say with this play.

 

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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