Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Tech Week & Previews

"I’m really proud of it. I think it’s such a bizarre play. And I think this space really serves it in its most true sense."
In her third interview, Gemma discusses the play now performances have begun, performing in front of an audience in the new space, and getting used to wearing a ruff.

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Time: 6 minutes 30 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Phil Brooks: Welcome to the Adopt an Actor podcast series. This is the third interview with Gemma Arterton , who is playing the title role in the Duchess of Malfi.

So how was tech week and what did you do in that?

Gemma Arterton: Well tech week - because the theatre has never been used before - we were all just trying to work out how these candles would work and the candelabras. And actually we cheated a little bit – before tech we had candle work sessions which was basically sort of pretend tech, so when we did get in to doing tech week  we were pretty good with knowing where the candelabras were going to be, how they were moving. I guess because there is no lighting design as such so there was no sort of pre mapping as we went along. And yeah so for us it was very much about getting used to the space, getting used to the proximity of the audience which we didn’t actually experience until the opening night. But that was quite a big thing to get used to. And I think it was quite challenging tech week, just because we don’t have that many people backstage, and because it is so manual you don’t just press a button and then lights come on, it’s very physical for everyone backstage. But it was a really great experience, it was fun.

PB: How is it seeing the play now it’s all come together in its entirety?

GA: I’m really proud of it – it’s, I think it’s such a bizarre play, and within this space, I think this space really serves it in the sort of most true sense because I think – and I’ve never seen the play, but I can imagine that it is played quite grand often. And this place – this theatre – you can be grand, but it doesn’t really suit the space. So all it means is you have to kind of hone everything in and be very specific and be very within the thought.  And I think that’s meant that the whole play has made sense. Often act 5 , after the Duchess has died, often its cut a lot and because it’s very bizarrely written – there’s a lot of humour in it and a lot of bloodshed – often it doesn’t make sense. But I think in this space, because of the way we‘ve had to play it, which is with quite a lot of finesse and delicacy, I think it has sort of painted the right picture of what Webster may have wanted writing it. So I’m very proud of it. And the sound in the space with the musicians and the intimacy of it, I think it’s bought a different light to the Duchess of Malfi.

PB: How has your costume helped with that, now you’ve got it and settled in. has that helped with your character and helped with movement?

GA: Yeah of course it does make - my costume goes through a bit of a sort of, I have quite a lot of changes. In the second half I don’t wear a corset, at all. I’m sort of, undone a bit and very free. In the first act I wear a corset all the way through and one of my dresses is very very rigid. Which is great because the Duchess grows up so much within this piece and you see within it the evolution, how she evolves into the greatness of what she becomes. And the costumes really aided that. At first it was quite bizarre because you have to get used to the ruffs and things like that, they can be quite restricting – you can’t move your head around the way that you would nowadays – but that aids the character. And now I feel quite comfortable in them, I’m used to how I can move in them.

PB: Got used to the long flowing dresses and…

GA: Yeah, its everybody else [that] has to accommodate for them! They take up so much space, I just sort of flounce around and a lot of people have to – they tread on my train, it’s funny, it gives me a lot of status because they have make room for me!

PB: Are there any scenes that are still proving difficult to unlock, if any?

GA: Yeah, I think that I’ve always found that at the end of the first half it’s a very bizarre scene with Bosola. I think I’ve unravelled it, or I’m working through it, but it’s really where the Duchess – where she sharpens herself, going through heartbreak; she has to say goodbye to her husband and her child. So she goes through a lot of emotions and loss very very quickly but then sort of has to learn things and when you read it it’s a bizarre scene, it doesn’t have a structure to it, it kind of flows in and out of many things and at first that was quite hard. But it’s such a crucial scene. And I think now that’s my favourite scene to play, because everyday there is something I’m playing around with. But it’s not one that is locked down but that’s nice, otherwise things can get a bit, sort of, rigid I guess.

PB: you get a bit too used to everything…

GA: Yeah.

PB: Have you found it’s developed and changed much now you have an audience?

GA: Well it completely shocked us, ‘cause in the first week we didn’t realise it was as funny as it was. While we were in the – before we got into the theatre we were running it, I remember Dominic saying [Dromgoole, Director and Artistic Director] ‘Oh god, there’s no laughs in it. It’s so depressing.’ And then on the first night they were laughing at everything, and it’s sort of added this layer to the play because the laughter, the jokes and the bizarreness of what happens is there for a reason. I think that its there to take us into a world we don’t really know where we are. You don’t know if its right to laugh or not, or you’re laughing and you don’t know why and I think it made it – that has really made it, having an audience in there has really sort of given it its final little coat of varnish. But every night is so radically different you don’t know what the audience are taking from it or… but you know that keeps it alive so that’s great.

PB: I guess it helps to exaggerate the really tragic parts as well to the funny parts.

GA: Yeah absolutely.

PB: Brilliant thank you very much.

GA: Aw thank you.

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