Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 4

In her fourth blog post Siobhan discusses the tech week, overcoming problems with Hippolyta and being able to remember her lines from when she played the parts before, eighteen years ago.

Transcript of Podcast

[Siobhan is reflecting on what has happened so far this week during a short break for lunch during the Tech rehearsal All the cast are in costume, which they protect with large cotton cover-alls while they eat their sandwiches. For the first time, they are working in the theatre, with their set on the stage. There are two ramps curving from the corners of the stage into the yard. The ramps, and a large circle, which covers much of the floor of the stage, are painted a vivid blue. A number of poppies stick up from the blue circle. There is a semi-transparent blue cloth hiding the facade of the Tiring House. They are working on Act 3 Scene 2.]

Week six

We got two runs in last week. It was quite exciting to do the whole thing for the first time on Friday. Some people from the Globe, and some people working the show, came to see the run on Friday. Because King Lear (the first show in this year’s Globe season) had its press night on Friday, they had to leave at the interval. They did tell us in advance, so we didn’t think that they hated it and left. We did it again on Saturday morning, which was a bit Saturday-morning-ish, with people getting confused in places they had never been confused before. But it has been very valuable, good to have two goes before coming in here, because the Tech slows everything down and breaks it up. Already I can’t remember what it is I do in the beginning of the play, now we are on scene seven.

Tech week

Of course, things have to change, because things you have been imagining, or marking out in the rehearsal room, turn out to have a life of their own, or to be completely different in proportion or dimension to what you had anticipated when you get on the stage and in the space. So there is a bit of creative compromise going on.

Obviously, I’m the happiest woman in the world, because of what I’m wearing. I’d be quite happy to die now, and to be cremated in this dress. I said that yesterday and Tom [Manion, Thesius/Oberon] said if I got to close to him while he was smoking, I probably will be cremated in the dress. I’ll be lucky to be heard above the dress, because the dress is so fantastic. It is extraordinary, and when you see it for the first time, the full sensation, with the cape and all and the fairies sprinkling petals, it will be a good ten minutes before people listen to anything I say. It is very light, so it lets me do my dance, so I can’t blame the dress for any mistakes I make in footwork. It is lovely to be in the yard, and I have all the make up in the world on my face.

I did have a crisis of nerves on Monday morning about trying to pass myself off as a fairy at my ripe old age. Then I thought, too late now, nobody else knows the words, I’m doing it, so I’ll just have to get on with it, and people will make of it what they will.

The Tech rehearsal is going quite well. It is unusual Tech-ing at the Globe because, unlike any other theatre, you have to stop in the afternoon, so that the set for the evening show can go in. Then, in the morning we have to wait for our sets to go back into place. So we are Tech-ing in intensive bursts. There is quite a holiday atmosphere [London is having its first hot days of the summer]. We have decided to take a short lunch break and eat on the hoof, so we can get more done.

It is quite disconcerting, when you are doing a Tech, to have some king of audience, but tours continue to go round the theatre all the time we are working. It can be useful. I was able to ask this morning, when I was tangoing with Paul [Hunter, Bottom], if they could see up my skirt to an indecent degree, and they were able to reassure me that they couldn’t.

At some point this afternoon we come to quick change hell, once Titania has been awakened from her slumber, there will then be the fastest change in the world into Hippolyta again – so we’ll see how that goes. There will be crack teams of wardrobe fairies standing by to help me with that. I fear for myself. By October, I’m going to be thinking I am the queen of the fairies. I’ll be dressing entirely in pink, and I’ll be looking for the fairy who walks in front of me scattering rose petals wherever I go.

The set is wonderful. I’ve been regularly snagging Titania petticoats on those poppies, because they have bits that stick out at the side. I’ve been trapped by them on several occasions. I walk through the yard on my first entrance and I’m a bit apprehensive – will people get out of my way without me tapping them on the shoulder? For me it will be really, really useful to have an audience for some of the stuff I have to do, with the Donkey and with the child on stage, because I’m not quite sure what of audience can make of that combination, and the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

I’m looking forward to running it at speed it situ, and getting the Tech over with. There's one dreadful moment when I’m the only person in the theatre who can see Paul Hunter’s face [Bottom] when he is done up as a donkey. The only way to deal with this is to put my eyes completely out of focus. We are nose to nose and he is facing upstage. It is unspeakably funny; frighteningly funny. He just goes on and on – and I hope he does, because he is magnificent. There will be the inevitable ear and tiara tangle, but we are just going to have to vamp our way through that. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will.

The Tech is due to finish on Friday. We have a Dress rehearsal Saturday afternoon, and then the first preview on Saturday evening. It seems unbelievable to me. Hatfield House Country Fair on Sunday to take my mind off whatever has happened the night before. I think it is about time we had an audience, because now we are at the stage where the audience will tell us what they need.

Hippolyta

Sometimes I think that Hippolyta could do with some of the love juice. Because she is barely on the page, there are lots of different decisions I could make about Hippolyta. I know there are lots of things I could do which would be great fun and would be entertaining, but which would short-circuit the larger story of the play in this production. I spoke to Jonathan [Munby, the Director] about this sometime ago, because this high-risk strategy I have adopted, just arriving in the scene and seeing what happened, made me feel as if I wasn’t bringing him anything in the rehearsal room. But he says what he wants is a very strong, calming, female presence, which he realises may not be as much fun to do as other things. For instance, you could play her drunk in the final wedding scenes. She doesn’t shut up. She has hardly spoken during the rest of the play, then she pipes up all the time in those scenes. It would be great fun to do, but it wouldn’t necessarily help this production. So I just have to trust what Jonathan says.

There was an elephant in the room, which we have chased away at the beginning of scene nine [5.1]. It is like the first scene between Theseus and Hippolyta, which is interrupted, and they don’t necessarily know they are going to be interrupted. We’ve thought quite hard about what would happen if they weren’t interrupted. It is very difficult for Tom [Theseus] as his character runs the show for the last scene, and I didn’t want to put extra pressure on him, but we both felt better after our conversation. So the Hippolyta elephant has been chased away for the moment.

The script and lines

We have all been given a clean copy of the script, printed on A4 paper, with no notes, and that is what I’m working from. Tom has been like a proper actor, with a battered copy of the Penguin edition in his pocket, which he whips out at a moment’s notice, so he can refer to chapter and verse. I still have no notes in my script, which feels very odd. We’ve also been given some pages from Giles [Block, the text advisor] with our lines on, with his own system of notation, which means perhaps that you could put the stress in a slightly different place or you could colour the word a bit more, or you are talking nonsense. There is a system of symbols on the back to help you. Then he takes those away, and issues you with some new ones. I’m still working from that. I really have walked backwards into this show, rather than doing lots of research, and it is a very luxurious position to be in, because in fact – giving myself some rope to hang myself now – I have not had to learn lines. They were stored there. If my life had depended upon it, two months ago, if you said to me, say something that Titania says I would have only been able to come up with, ‘These are the forges of jealousy’, and that would have been the end of it. But actually, I did know them all. I’ve had a very easy time of it compared to normal. Eighteen years later, and it was still there. I would not have been able to just reach in and get it, I had to read it aloud a couple of times and I started to remember it. They are neither of them verbose characters, and I did do the show for a long time before, and I was on stage for a lot of it, so I was hearing everything. I’m not on stage so much in this production.

 

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.

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