“I guess disturbing or disrupting preconceived notions [of the play] is the enjoyment I'm getting from it.”
In her final interview, Michelle talks about the different types of audiences and how seeing them is a joy, and watching Pearce Quigley waiting to go on stage.
Time: 5 minutes 21 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
PHIL BROOKS: So, thinking back, how was opening night at the Globe?
MICHELLE TERRY: Oh my goodness, that seems like a very long time ago now. What is that – about 6 weeks ago now, is it? So not so long. I mean brilliantly here, because at other theatres the majority of the audience is made up of friends and family and people in the business, but because this theatre is so enormous and people don’t really care whether it’s press night or not, it’s filled with people that just want to come and see the play for the play’s sake rather than come to support you because they’re family or friends or they happen to be a reviewer. So it’s really refreshing here that actually opening night, press night, is exactly the same as all the other nights, it carries exactly the same amount of weight because there will still potentially be an eight year old in the audience that has never seen Shakespeare before, so you sort of seek those people out and do it for them. So I actually can’t distinguish that night from any of the others because, brilliantly, it wasn’t any different. So that’s good, because it shouldn’t be any different.
PB: Do you find those audiences are reacting in ways you that expected?
MT: I suppose you acquire expectation. Before you get out there you don’t really know what people are going to like or they’re not going to like. But, interestingly, the more you do, you suddenly start to compare or you get a gauge: are they a quiet audience, or a listening audience, or a raucous audience? That’s always based on what the night before was like or what they laughed at the night before. So actually you can try out and go with no expectation, but the more you do it’s harder to get rid of that expectation based on what’s been.
PB: Are you finding your character has developed as the performances have gone on?
MT: Yeah, I think inevitably because it’s Shakespeare the more you do it . . . there’s so much in it. And I think I’ve probably said this in other [podcasts] before, I keep getting surprised by things I hear, by things other people say, things that I hear myself saying, which is what keeps it fresh. We’re going to be doing this play for a long time, and also we have so many breaks – not necessarily long breaks, but in a normal theatre you do eight shows a week over the course of seven days, one day off, then you’re back to it, so you get into a sort of routine of stuff. Here brilliantly you have two days off here and there, so you’re always . . . that nervous edge never quite goes away. And also the 1200 people are different every single night so there’s always something different to negotiate, even if it’s just a massive helicopter, where that might fall over, which speech will definitely change things. So, yeah, I guess what my character receives changes nightly. But the danger is the more you do it you try to impose change on it, and actually the hard thing is to keep actually shaving away, rather than adding on. So I guess hopefully it’s developing that way – as the saying ‘less is more’. So I’m trying to hold onto that, rather than add things on to it.
PB: What kind of reactions have you had so far from the audience?
MT: I think people like it. Obviously most of my friends have seen lots of theatre. People I tend to talk to will have seen this play certainly more than once, but the joy is that they see something new in it, in the production, which I think is job done, really, that’s what you should do. And then they hear things afresh, and different characterisations that they haven’t seen before. And talking to students as well that get quite textbook interpretations of this production: ‘we always thought the character of Titania was XYZ’ or ‘Bottom was XYZ’.’ It’s quite refreshing to go actually: ‘well they’re just human beings, and that’s dependent on the human being playing that character.’ But I guess disrupting or disturbing preconceived notions is the enjoyment I’m getting from it.
PB: How is working with the distractions of the Globe – such as seeing the audience and the birds and the planes?
MT: Well seeing the audience is a complete joy, because that’s the thing that keeps rooting you back into this play. Ultimately a play doesn’t exist without them, so it’s amazing to see them, and hopefully see them interested. It’s not quite so enjoyable when you see them not enjoying it. But the helicopters, they’re just part of it. In the Elizabethan times it would have been the smell of wee and other things you have to contend with. Now everyone smells really lovely, but we have to contend with Chinooks or whatever they’re called bellowing out over the top of us. But that’s OK, you just have to acknowledge them rather than pretend they’re not there. Like when the pigeons land on stage you might as well invite them to the play, or shoo them out of it. Ignore them at your peril I think!
PB: Adds to the forest scene . . . And my final question is, what is your favourite moment of the play?
MT: Oh bloomin’ eck. Ah! One of them is offstage, where – in the second half it’s quite full-on, so even when we’re not onstage, John Light [Oberon] and I have quick changes into Hippolyta/Theseus, but there’s one moment where we come off – it’s as the Mechanicals are waiting for Bottom to return. So have this moment where we get some water and can chill out for a couple of minutes. And my favourite bit is watching Pierce Quigley [Bottom] wait to go on as he does his little clog dance. And he does this brilliant little skip, and I don’t know why, but it’s so pure of heart and it’s just very heart-warming. And now we all congregate in the wings to watch this definitive moment as Pierce Quigley enters the stage.
PB: Fantastic, thank you so much!