In his third and final blog post Simon discusses working with experts at the Globe, going off-book and how audiences will react to the play.
Transcript of Podcast
The costume has been developing, but I think Timon’s look is going to be very simple. He’s not an ostentatious dresser at all, and we’ve got an idea of him being like a guru – the kind of person who’s been to ashrams and spent a lot of time doing meditation – so his clothes will be white pure linen. I also have a wig fitting next week, and he’s going to have a ponytail neatly tied back; hopefully it won’t make me look vain! In the second half, when I’m the wild man of the woods with just my loin cloth on, my hair can just come down and will make me look really overgrown and beast-like.
Timon will to the woods, where he shall find
Th’unkindest beast more kinder than mankind. (4.135-35)
He wants to become a beast to get away from humanity, and clothes are the embodiment of society, what we put on to hide ourselves, so in the second half I wear nothing but a loincloth. I have been rehearsing in just my shorts and it is exposing having to spend rehearsals like that.
Nothing I'll bear from thee,
But nakedness, thou detestable town! (4.132-33)
and he hurls his clothes at Athens. Perhaps if it was an even braver production, the actor would remove his underpants and flick them at Athens too, but then schools matinées would not be an enjoyable thing, so we decided to go with just a loincloth! I think that’s going to work very well, and its going to be very much at odds with a lot of the other costumes, which are very rich and reminiscent of birds’ plumage. There’s something very predatory about the design as a whole; it’s going to feel like a hellish aviary I think.
Working with the experts
I have never worked on a Shakespeare play before where there’s been someone who’s specific job is to take care of the text. There are times when Giles points things up and I have said ‘That doesn’t work for me’. He doesn’t stamp his foot about it. He says ‘I’m offering this to you and if you can’t make it work, that’s fine.’ Mostly I’ve taken on what he’s said and used it, but there has been a bit of give and take. Giles has also helped me things that I’ve wanted some clarification with – pronunciation of names like Lacedamon: would it be ‘Lassedamon’ or ‘Lackedamon’? Little things like that that have to be negotiated.
I haven’t seen the movement coach [Glynn MacDonald] yet, I think probably because I get no time off really. But maybe next week during our tech I might be able to get some stuff from her.
The physical language of the play
I’m still trying to find the physical language of Timon. He’s very centred in the first half of the play; he’s very happy in his own skin and he’s very physical about and with people, so I’m trying to find an easy physicality. In the second half when he’s so wracked with psychological pain, I’m taking that through to the body. The second half is a slow death really. As soon as he opens his eyes and he sees the sun, he appeals to it to draw ‘rotten humidity’ (4.3.2) from the earth and cancel out every thing. In all his hatred, his stomach acids are burning him, and his body is wracked – it’s all about the physical tension. I found in our run of the second half yesterday that it is physically exhausting to perform; not only is there a lot of talking, but there’s a lot of emotion and I require all the breath that I’ve got to get the language out and o to convey a person in a lot of physical torture. So I’m making myself do a couple of runs a week to stay physically fit.
I’ve learnt the play chronologically as I went, so the final scene with the senators when I finally lie down and die was the last one to get done. We paraphrased it, and then roughly blocked it, and by the time we’d done that, I was off book. And it definitely makes a difference. Finding the physicality of the part is so much easier once you’re not stumbling around with the script. But I have found that I had to be much more au fait with the language than in other plays. If you are in a heightened emotional state, your brain is whizzing, you’re physically sweating and tired, you’re having to fight for air and you’re much more likely to lose your lines than if you’re in a calm place and just chatting. For a play I did recently at The Royal Court called The Ugly One I just had five days rehearsal. But my character was extremely laid back and cool and calm. I was never physically tense. In this play, I’m so knotted with hatred and anger by the end.
The ending of the play
The discovery of the play has been that Timon doesn’t get more and more angry. At the beginning of the second half when Alcibiades and the two girls come in, Timon is raw. He says,
The canker gnaw thy heart,
For showing me again the eyes of man! [4.3.50-51]
He just doesn’t want to see humanity. And then Apemantus comes in, and Timon’s just attempting to get rid of these two people that he loved in his own way. Then Flavius appears, and he’s the real challenge for Timon’s anger, because Flavius has looked after him and there’s some tenderness there, but once he’s got rid of Flavius, he’s almost home and dry – he’s succeeded in isolating himself. After that, the two next pairs of visitors are people he can have fun with: firstly, the poet and the painter, which has become quite a riotous comedy scene for us; and then the senators, who he larks about with too, leading them to believe that he might help them, whereas in fact he’s not going to at all. So in a way, Timon reaches a place where he can see his grave after Flavius; he’s been making his epitaph, and he decides to have some fun before he dies. It goes in different way than I’d expected.
Speculating how the audience will react.
Having never performed at the Globe before, it’s a bit of a voyage of discovery. But I think I’m aware that audiences at the Globe are more prepared to be included than in many other theatres where you’re plunged into darkness and you’re watching something that is lit. Here, the whole experience is shared. There’s a lot of my curses like,
Maid to thy master's bed,
Thy mistress is o' th’ brothel’ (4.1.112-13)
Son of sixteen,
Pluck the lined crutch from thy old limping sire,
With it beat out his brains’ (4.1.13-15)
and so there’s much more of an opportunity for doing particular lines to particular people. If there is a kid there with his granddad, it’s possible to play off that fact – not that those lines are particularly witty – but speaking directly to the audience is an acknowledgement that we are a big body of people all there together.
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as she goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.