This is Paul's rehearsal diary for the third week of rehearsals, where he talks about getting to grips with the difficult scenes.
Transcript of Podcast
The Whole Story
This week has been nerve-wracking for me; we’ve worked on some of my heaviest scenes, particularly the winning and the losing of Cressida. They have been coming to life as we work on them in the rehearsal room, and they are exciting now. By the end of today we will have just about finished working on each scene. We have had a very good week this week and caught up a bit from where we were last week. Tomorrow we have a run-(or should that be stagger?)-through of the whole play for the first time, which will be useful because I can begin to work on the shape of Troilus’ journey through the play.
Last Friday we did a run of about five scenes, of which I was in three. It was good to put it together; but at the same time it was quite difficult. Personally I often felt a step behind, thinking “Oh, that’s what I was supposed to do there.” But it is a very useful way to get a feel for the journey we are going on.
As we work on each of the scenes we have blocked them. The way Matthew [Dunster, director] works is that he allows you to come on and do what you want to do, then he refines it. He is the outside eye, and can say, “That isn’t going to work” and then he moves it around a bit. It feels like a very organic process. We have not gone so far that I know that I’m going to be in exactly the same place for each line for every performance. It is looser than that, but there is still a structure, a firm base for why you move here or do that, which will stay fixed for most of the time. But anything could happen because we haven’t worked on the stage yet, and we wouldn’t have previews unless we thought we would need to change and develop things.
I find the scenes are often hard to unlock on my own, but as soon as we get on our feet and start to play around with it – to move it and shake it - it seems clearer. I can be sitting at home and reading the scene thinking, “I can’t see why he does that” but as soon as we get on our feet in here, his path and his journey fall into place.
Most of my key scenes are with Cressida. Obviously Troilus has all the emotion of being in love with her, you really see what his intentions are in those scenes. Who he really wants to be and what he really thinks of himself. I’ve discovered those things more in his scenes with Cressida than in any other part of the play.
The highlight this week has been being able to bash out those nightmare scenes that I’d been dreading, and finding some really beautiful stuff to play with. The scene where Troilus first meets Cressida is a good example [Act 3 Scene 2]. We did that scene as an audition piece, so I tried it with lots of different Cressidas and so it lost all of its spontaneity, all of its love, all of its beauty. So I’ve been dreading trying to artificially play all his nervousness. We’ve managed to strip it back to its roots, not to play nerves, but just to be truthful with what is going on.
Troilus and Cressida is obviously an historical piece. So people have come in and said, “In The Iliad it says this” and, “Homer says this” or “Chaucer says that”. But there are a number of different versions of this story, and we are playing Shakespeare’s version, and more particularly this version which Matthew had edited, which again is different from the full text. So while lots of research is important, lots of it can be irrelevant too.
We have made some important decisions though. Matthew pointed out that Troilus (who is 23) was 16 when this war started, so he has grown into a man in the middle of a war. He has been shaped by this war. Cressida is his first love, and definitely his first sexual encounter. He is losing his virginity, which heightens the stakes, and makes him much more interesting to play – much more vulnerable.
I’ve seen some sketches of the armour, also body paint and tattoos, it all looks great! I like what they’ve done with me. The costumes give it quite a military feel, and some of the actors playing Greek soldiers are having their hair cut in a military crop - short back and sides - which contributes to the whole look. I love things like that, changes you can make on the exterior to help you get to your character. I don’t mind if it makes me look odd walking down the street.
I’ve tried a skirt on, which is very short, but probably looks quite authentic. I’m still in the gym every night working on the bits the costume doesn’t cover!
I’ve done a few voice sessions with Jan [Haydn-Rowles], the voice expert. Still accent work rather than projection or articulation or technical things like that. This is going to be a production which uses regional accents. Trojans are from Manchester; more specifically from Oldham. This is handy for me because I am from the North West. The Greeks are from all over – which is authentic because the Greeks come from lots of different cities. So for Greeks we’ve got everything from RP [Received Pronunciation] to Welsh.
These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as s / he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his / her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.