Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Pre-Rehearsal

“Even going back to plays you always discover something new - With A Midsummer Night’s Dream you think you know it, and then suddenly what the word love meant to me 15 years ago means something completely different now”. In her first interview Michelle discusses her initial thoughts on the play, and how she finds performing Shakespeare life affirming.

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Time: 5 minutes 27 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Phil Brooks:

Welcome to the 2013 Adopt an Actor podcast series. My name is Phil Brooks, and I’m here talking to Michelle Terry, who plays Titania in the upcoming Globe production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

How familiar were you with the play?

Michelle Terry:

I thought I was very familiar with it, until you start reading it, and re-reading it, and dissecting it, and mining every single amazing word that this man wrote, and suddenly you realise you don’t know anything at all, and suddenly something that felt very close and known seems incredibly far away, and I’m very  glad we’ve got six weeks to try and figure it out!

PB:

Had you read it before the rehearsals?

MT:

Yeah, I think like most people it’s the one Shakespere, like Romeo and Juliet, it’s the one that you know and it’s been abridged and given to you in many different guises from school upwards. And I’ve seen versions of it and read it, and bits at drama school. It’s got the most amazing speeches. It’s the classic text for dualogue and monologue, so, I thought I knew it well and now, suddenly, I don’t know it at all. 

PB:

What were your initial impressions of the play when you first came across it?

MT:

I think the magic of it. We’ve been talking lots about playing the fairies – what are fairies? What do they mean? They’re obviously something that are constructed by humans, they’re not too far away from us. And so the magic of it really, and what does that mean to us now and what did that mean to an Elizabethan audience that would be very familiar with seeing courtly people and the mechanicals – they’re quite stock characters – but suddenly  to have these fairies appear on stage, what’s that about?  The magic and the love of it.

PB:

What about your character? What were your initial impressions of Titania?

MT:

I suppose, again, lots of preconceptions about who this person is, most of which comes from the title Shakespeare gives us, which is the Queen of the Fairies – what is that? What does it mean to be a Queen? What does it mean to be a fairy? But quite quickly it becomes quite domestic , about this argument between, essentially, a husband and a wife over this newborn child, a child that isn’t theirs, and what that does to their relationship  which, I was saying to Dominic [Dromgoole, Director], is probably very textbook psychology. Couples I know that have children, it’s a huge thing, and when this couple are fighting for each other’s attention and so jealous of each other, to have a third party in the mix that is taking that love and that passion and that attention away from each other. Trying to root it in the domestic really rather than going ‘airy-fairy’ with it.

PB:

Have you started working through that relationship with Oberon?

MT:

Not really. We’ve sat down and had a week and half of text analysis, so really going through every single word and trying to understand what our modern day equivalent would be. But that’s semantics and just word understanding, it’s not really getting to the heart of the relationship yet. So today is the first day we’ll stand on our feet and start belting these words at each other and see what happens!

PB:

Have you performed Shakespeare before?

MT:

Yeah, quite a bit – stuff at the National and here before, so not a stranger to Mr Shakespeare.

PB:

You say you’ve performed at The Globe before – are you excited to be back?

MT:

So excited. Performing Shakespeare anywhere is a joy because of its depth. He’s the great humanist so it’s always relevant. Even going back to plays you always discover something new and, like I say with Midsummer Night’s Dream, you think you know it and then suddenly what the word love meant to me fifteen years ago means something completely different now. So doing Shakespeare anywhere is for me – it’s terribly cheesy, but I find it life affirming. But to do it here. Something about that epic language and that very mythic language makes complete sense when you really do have the elements around you.  And it’s incredibly active, it’s not something that should be sat and studied at school, or even watched in a black box of a theatre, it’s a dialogue between the characters on the stage and the audience. And when you can see the whites of the audiences’ eyes and you know whether they’re bored or interested or entertained, your job is very clear. It’s not just about who am I or what am I, it’s very much about ‘can I capture this audience’s imagination as well as my own?’

PB:

What preparations have you done for your role before the rehearsals started?

MT:

I don’t really tend to do that much. Obviously, knowing that the original practice was here there’s an element of having to historically contextualise it. So, a little bit of what did fairies mean to an Elizabethan audience, when was A Midsummer Night’s Dream put on, where would it have been put on. But I think for me it’s quite dangerous to come with so many preconceptions. Like I say, I had so many preconceptions about it. The thing that will make this A Midsummer Night’s Dream very specific is because I have never played Titania before, John Light has never played Oberon before, but it’s the specificity of who is talking to who that will make this unique. So it’s slightly dangerous to go away and do my own stuff before I’ve met those people and go ‘oaky, what is this play to us, what is it to Dominic, what is it to all these people in the room?’ That’s when the work really beings for me. I think I might get into the territory of going, ‘oh, that’s good, I’ll nick it’, or, ‘that’s not good, how can I do it differently.’ It becomes something added on, as opposed to something interrogated from ‘what does this mean to me, right here, right now? How do I relate to these words?’ Rather than going, ‘oh, no one’s ever done it like this, let’s try that’, which is not really authentic.

PB:

Sort of seeing it afresh?

MT:

Yeah, exactly.

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