Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 4

This is Margot's fourth blog post. This week she discusses the relationship between her character and Virgilia, costume fittings and technical rehearsals.

Transcript of Podcast

Volumnia and Virgilia's relationship

The marriage of Coriolanus and Virgilia seems to be an arranged marriage in many ways and poor Virgilia is stuck in Volumnia's household. There's obviously enormous irritation and clearly Volumnia is the most ghastly, overbearing mother in law and a very oppressive woman, but as the play progresses there are points of unity between them. Once Coriolanus is exiled they unite in their anger at the tribunes, the people who led his expulsion, and they unite in pulling the women and Coriolanus’ son together to go and plead for the safety of Rome. I think they recognise their mutual dependence by the end, there's an alliance out of what is in fact two women who have the most opposite points of view.

At the beginning, Virgilia is clearly missing her husband and is sad that he's in the war. Volumnia gives her a little lecture demonstration in that first scene basically saying ‘You’re crazy! This is good. It's good to go to war and kill lots of people. That's what your husband is about, it's a great and honourable thing to do. Wounding people is what he was put on the earth for, it's great!’ However, both of the characters have shifts in their opinions during the play and Volumnia certainly isn’t that woman by the end of the play. She is somebody who's trying to stop bloodshed, which is interesting. Volumnia and Virgillia are temperamentally very different and it's a relationship that changes and develops throughout the play.

Costumes

I’ve had a costume fitting and it's lovely! My dress is all grey, but it's made up of different shades of grey or white. It's so detailed and so elaborate because it is based on a proper Elizabethan costume with the corseted top, the full skirt with pleats and slashes, separate sleeves and a very stiff corset so I hope it will be OK for breathing. There is such a high level of detail - the different kinds of braiding that's even on the bodice or around the cuff, the different kind of muslin around the neck - is all so wonderful.

My outfit is being made from scratch. It's all from a pattern that's pinned on you. It's made up on you and cut from material - not just a dress that's being adjusted to fit you. I think there is going to be some toga like piece of material over my dress as well to denote the Roman connection. Actually having put on the costume I thought I would be weighed down with another huge sheet of material on top!

I have another costume for the last scene of the play when we go to plead for Rome not to be invaded. That's a sort of wrecked version of what we’ve been wearing. I don’t quite know what it is but I’m sure there’ll be another fitting soon.

The finish on all the costumes here is amazing. I know that it is a speciality of the house here that they pride themselves on, as with all the props and stuff like the armour. It's all real armour - there is an armourer! Brian, the stage manager, was saying how disastrous it was when this bloke made a breast plate for an actor last season and it didn’t fit him, and if you can’t move your arms properly in it you can’t fight properly. He does make it tailored to fit you, it's even more precise than a corset! I think designers working at the Globe are restricted in what they can do with the set so maybe they want to make a difference with the other aspects of the design, like the costumes.

Technical Rehearsals

A technical rehearsal is really the move out of the rehearsal space to the space where you are actually going to give the performance. It's absolutely for real; the only people missing are the audience. You come on in real time, in the real space, with the real props and you are in full costume. So unless you have had the presence of mind to work in rehearsal skirts previously, you’ll be moving out of your jeans into full blown Elizabethan skirts, with maybe a wig and make-up. You are physically becoming your character.

The play has had its own sort of inner life in the rehearsal room and now we are moving out into this extraordinary space that is the Globe theatre and it's just amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything like it before. So the technical rehearsal is about how you physically put the thing together.

The changes that have been made are really just practical things, such as having to stand in a different place when you say a particular line because another character can’t be seen. And of course the music - which is live music here, which is wonderful - is added on top which affects the speed of things.

 

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.

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