Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal 1

It's the first week of rehearsals and Emma talks about her initial impressions of the play and her characters.

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Time: 5 minutes, 56 seconds

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Transcript of Podcast

Can you summarise The Comedy of Errors in 30 seconds?

The Comedy of Errors is a play about Ephesus and there are two people who live in Ephesus called Antipholus and Dromio; Dromio is the servant to Anthipholus. And on the day that the play happens, and everything in the play happens on one day, another person called Anthipholus and another person called Dromio arrive freom Syracuse (originally, but they’ve been travelling around the world). It just so happens that both the people called Antipholus are identical twins and both the people called Dromio are identical twins and this leads to an enormous number of confusions and violent struggles about who is who, who has what, who owes who what, and where people are supposed to be at any one given time. And by five o’clock in the evening it all gets resolved and they find their lost parents and everything is resolved.

What are you initial impressions of your characters?

So I have three characters. My first speaking role is the character of Balthasar and he is a merchant, he’s a very high status merchant, and seems to be fairly disapproving of Antipholus of Ephesus who he meets, one assumes, as part of a transaction he’s about to do with him, maybe a business relationship that he’s striking up, and he’s fairly disapproving of the behaviour he sees from Antipholus. So the exchange that he has with him is outside his front door when he can’t get into his own house, which is very puzzling, and he uses lots of long sentences and lots of drawn out words, so we’ve just been looking at the way that Antipholus behaves in front of him as a clue as to who he is, because there’s not much to go on, it’s quite a small part in terms of what you see of him, so we’ve just been trying to work out by the way people behave in front of him what a kind of a man he is. And that seems to be what he is, he’s essentially a merchant, quite high status and fairly disapproving of the behaviour he witnesses in that scene in the play. The second character I play is the Courtesan who is a friend of Antipholus of Ephesus and she has dinner with him and there is a ring trick that happens in the play where she gives him a ring in exchange for something he doesn’t give her which is one of the many confusions in the play. She is essentially a businesswoman, you know, she gives her company for money, so she’s another mercantile character but the female version of that; what’s available for women in that world is being a prostitute basically. And she is very straight talking, no nonsense, but is confused by the events of the play, as is everybody because they don’t know what’s happening. She’s a witness to lots of the confusion as is everybody in the play, so the audience are the only people who sort of know what’s going on most of the time, if we tell the story properly, which is quite nice because it means they find everything funny which is why people are confused. And the third character is the Abbess and she doesn’t arrive until the final act and she helps Antipholus of Syracuse escape when he is being beaten up and chased around and banged up by various characters who think he’s mad. And she is also involved with them in that she is the mother of the Antipholuses so she is part of the undoing of the confusion at the end, by revealing who she is and that she knows Egeon, who is her husband who she hasn’t seen for many, many years, and she’s there to tie up all the loose ends. She is one of the jigsaw puzzle pieces that slots into place and helps everyone see the full picture.

What are the challenges that come with playing more than one part?

The biggest challenge is differentiating between them for clarity, for storytelling clarity. And, of course, that’s helped with costume and physicality, things like status and sex, obviously; so if it’s a man it’s very different form a woman, costume, of course, helps with that. Also accents and the way people speak, the way people react to them on stage; so there’s a whole range of things that you can do to help that but I think that’s the biggest challenge, being clear so the story doesn’t get confused because it’s already very confusing and we have one actor playing both Antipholuses and another actor playing both Dromios so there are already lots of issues of identity and what you see being who you think the person is. So it has to go beyond the visual, I think, it has to be something to do with the voice, the speed they speak, the way that they receive information, what they notice, the language they use, and all that sort of stuff which is in the play.

What relationships are important to your characters?

Balthasar’s relationship to Antipholus is important and also to the other merchants in the play because his role is mercantile and also about reputation which is linked to the business world, you know, what does it seem that you are? Are you a good person? Are you an honest person? Are you reliable? So, his relationships with other merchants and Antipholus in that is important. The Courtesan’s realtionship to Antipholus is important and also to his wife because obviously, in one sense, they’re rivals not for his heart but for his time, which also for her means money. And helping her to get back what she’s owed, she uses Adriana as a tool to help her get back her ring that she’s lost. And for Emilia, her relationships to – I think to everybody really in the city are important because she has a very definite role about helping people to find piece and to heal and so there’s that general relationship; and to the Duke obviously who has the status. But then there are also, of course, enormous bonds with her lost sons, their servants and her husband, so there’s this personal revelation that comes up at the end where suddenly her life is resolved in a way; she talks about it like giving birth on this day because she’s spent years and years looking, or in her heart looking for her lost sons and then she finds them, so it’s almost like having them born again. So I think those are the main relationships in the play.

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