This is Michael's fourth and final blog entry for the 2002 production of Twelfth Night in which he talks about the first night, audience responses so far and continuing rehearsals.
Transcript of Podcast
The First Night
Twelfth Night has now opened, and the first night was an amazing experience. I don’t think my performance was as good as it will be; I was slightly intimidated by the audience which meant I spent most of the time just concentrating on getting my lines right! I lost a lot of the focus that I had in rehearsal and I wasn’t particularly relaxed, which meant I felt like I was simply going through the motions, like a robot. Still, it got much better by the second performance. Because I was scared on the first night, I started to judge what we’d been doing in rehearsals rather than trust in it. As soon as I started to trust that our preparations were good, I started to enjoy myself more, and my performance has become much better.
It's quite a scary experience to walk out onto the stage in front of 1,600 people for the first time. Having said that, my first entrance is through the trap door in the stage floor, so I don’t have time to worry about the audience when I’m scrambling through the trap making sure that my dress doesn’t get caught! For this production, they’ve removed the panels at the front of the tiring house so that the audience can see the actors getting into their costumes from 30 minutes before the show goes up. As an actor standing in the tiring house, it's an amazing experience when the theatre doors are opened and there's a flood of people rushing in towards the stage. Getting into costume is quite an elaborate routine; I have to be ready to start getting dressed an hour before the performance. I go down to the tiring house in my smock (a long vest) and stockings to meet one of the dressers and one of the makeup artists. First, I have to be helped into my corset, then they put my makeup on, then we start on the costume. After the first scene, when I have to change out of my dress into Cesario's costume, I have about 4 dressers helping me so that we get it done on time.
Even though we’ve opened, we’re still very busy because during the first week of performances because rehearsals continue until the end of the week. These rehearsals are simply a chance to work on aspects of the show that Tim [Carroll, Master of Play] feels need work as a result of the opening performances. For example, I’ve been doing some work on how to speak to the audience. When working in the Globe, or in any theatre I suppose, it's easy to fall into the trap of declaiming your lines instead of simply speaking them. Tim noticed that I’d started to shout my lines at the groundlings rather than talk to them, so I’ve been working with him on keeping my delivery clear and natural.
The audiences, especially the groundlings, seem to be especially enjoying the end of the play and the confusion that ensues when Sebastian and I are on stage together. Lots of people have commented that we look amazingly similar to each other. I’m enjoying exploring different ways of playing the scene, but at the moment I think that Viola is very confused and frightened. When Sebastian enters in Act v scene 1, I hide behind the pillar! Viola's already guessed that it's her brother who is causing this confusion before he arrives on stage, but when he finally appears, she's terrified that it might not be him after all. I don’t know when she finally accepts that it is her brother standing there; possibly not until after the play ends, as she tells him:
Do not embrace me, till each circumstance
Of place, time, fortune, do cohere and jump
That I am Viola;…
It's all a bit of a shock, and it's possible that she wants to be absolutely sure of what is happening to them both before she can enjoy their reconciliation. This is just one of the questions I’m looking forward to finding lots of different answers to over the next few months.
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.