Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Production Notes 1

In her penultimate blog post, Margor discusses preparing for performances, audiences and weather, and the difficulties of the jig.

Transcript of Podcast

Getting into costume

I always want to be at the theatre an hour and a half before a show goes up. It just gives me settling in time. I go to my dressing room and put the rollers in my hair. For an evening performance, at about 6.40 I take the rollers out and go to the hair and wig person who does my hair and puts an extra hairpiece in. At 6.55 my dresser comes to put me into my costume which involves several layers and needs to be tied at the back. And then I’m ready!

First Night nerves

This was one of the few first nights when it was as scary as I imagined it would be! It was a shock. Nothing had prepared me; no warnings or information or kindly counselling about what the sheer press of people would be like when we came out in our first little scene, sewing away. It's so high all around you, it's like an opera house, and it's so far behind you and so near…I’ve worked for thirty six years in theatre, I’ve played in the round and I’ve worked at the Theatre Royal Haymarket -which is a massive barn of a place - tons of west end theatres, tons of schools and pubs and village halls…the Globe is like all of those in one! It is the most extraordinary space. The audience are wonderfully near and intimate. It's like when you dive into the sea the first time; you want to go swimming, but it does knock your breath away. You just gulp. Your senses are overwhelmed by the press of people who are just so present, bombarding you with information of how to do it, that you can barely pull back into your own inner concentration. It's such an overwhelming sensation to be out there on that stage, and the audience were very much running the show tonight that night. They were dictating it because of their great energy and it gave a great happiness to play it. I suppose there has been a better balance the nights since, when we have perhaps been in better control of our material, and more interactive with the audience, rather than just weeping with relief because people laughed. You get so desperate and pathetic about that on first night.

Unpredictable laughter

On the first night, there were lots of laughs that came where we hadn’t thought of it and that felt very affirmative and good. It's such a vocally affirming reaction. It doesn’t necessarily mean it's the right one, or the one you were trying to get. If the audience was a classroom of kids, you would be saying at those points ‘oh we’re going to have to drop them down deeper into this’, or observing that they’re enjoying skimming around on top of things and they are having a lot of fun. But we know they are here for other things; the audience is here to understand the play and to have their hearts and minds moved, to be fully engaged in a deeper way - we hope - by the time they leave.

The physical experience of being at the Globe is a fundamental part of the experience but if that is all you get out of it, you might as well go to the circus, or go and watch a fire-eater, or - as Shakespeare was in competition with - a bear or cock fight; the exciting aspects is due to its being at a live event. But there is a balance or a relationship to be struck, I think, whereby we have to learn how to play that space so that we engage every aspect of the audience; all their fears and hopes and happiness and try to take responsibility for the meaning of the play. And that has an impact, too, on how we should play this very hard space.

Weather and the audience

Weather does literally affect the acoustics, whether it sharpens them up or not. It's very hard I think when everyone has their rainproof clothing on because of the noise of the rain hitting the plastic. It's also more subdued when it's raining, obviously because they are wet, but in my opinion they also can’t quite hear if they have hoods up. It's just a different dynamic. It's not better or worse, but probably not as easy or as comfortable because concentration is bound to be a little bit decreased. But then, as everybody says brightly, that is just part of coming to The Globe. That's what you experience. We opened on a very sunny Friday, but then the next Saturday it rained pretty much all the way through. But the slightly damp, grey weather on the Sunday was actually pretty good, because we don’t get too hot wandering around in the costumes in that weather. And I think the audience, when the sun is beating down, probably find it quite hard to stand for three hours.

Doing the jig

The jig is great if you can dance! Unfortunately, I’m the worst person at the jig. But having said that, it's a relief to do it. It's such lovely music and, most importantly, it's the end! You know you’ve survived! Happiness all round. But I am so bad. And it's not that I can’t dance; I can’t even clap. I just can’t remember the sequence of movements. It's absolutely lovely to do, and a happy, affirming thing to do, and clearly the audience like it. I’m just glad I made the wise decision to be an actor, not a dancer, because I am so bad.

Did they do the jig in Shakespeare's time?

Yes. They also did a parade at the beginning, where all the actors came out and paraded to music to begin the play. Brecht would have been proud of them as I suppose it's an earlier form of ‘alienation’. The actors come out and in effect say ‘We’re the actors, you are the audience, you all know why we are here, we look like this, and we’re going to do a show for you.’ And at the end, the dance is an acknowledgment that we have all been in this space, and going through this experience for three hours. You’ve been watching, we’ve been performing; it was a play and Coriolanus isn’t really dead. Thank you!

It's a funny thing to do with the suspension of disbelief, which I think Brecht would like. He would always use devices such as ‘breaking out ‘of a play, to say something or to remind the audience that they are watching. I don’t know why, especially, because unless you are six years old and lost in a pantomime, I’m not sure people do lose themselves in the play, other than for the right reasons, other than feeling a sense of emotional identity with the characters. You still believe it's truthful. I don’t think it needs to be real. You can’t just tell people things. The ideas in Coriolanus are essentially so complicated that they could be quite boring to get over to people. To put them in a play, in a pretend story about politics and families and violence, it's a fiction whereby the truth can be revealed.

 

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.

Back to top

ADD YOUR THOUGHTS TO THE CONVERSation

We welcome your opinions. This is a public forum. Libellous and abusive comments are not allowed. Please read our Forum Rules.