Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 1

This is Liam's first blog post. This week he discusses returning to the Globe for his fourth season, his reaction to receiving the part of Angelo and his preparation for the role, and the beginning of the rehearsal process.

Transcript of Podcast

Back again

I can’t believe this will be my fourth season on the trot. I find that quite amazing because it doesn’t feel like that long at all. Actually, I suppose I’ve only done three seasons so far; I originally came to play Macduff in Macbeth, then returned the following season to play Orsino in Twelfth Night, as well as a part called the Old Woman in a new play by Peter Oswald called The Golden Ass. Last year I played Bolingbroke in Richard II and Edward II in Edward II. This year I’m playing Angelo in Measure for Measure. We’re only in one play this season so it's going to feel slightly different – but easier! The Rose Company is the last of the three to begin rehearsals so our season will be a little shorter too. I think it will only be five months in all because of the way things have fallen, and that's going to be much more relaxed than last year: that season was just enormous – about ten months in all, including the American tour of Twelfth Night. Each of the seasons prior to that was a full six months, so I was expecting some differences this time round. The fact that a show [Romeo and Juliet] opened two days after we arrived made me feel like we really were coming in late. Much Ado About Nothing will open in about a week and a half so the strangeness is still there. It's very weird, as though you’re a late arrival at a party!


I think I was offered the part relatively late. We started rehearsals on the fourth of May and Mark contacted me towards the end of February. Again, that differs from the process last season: I found out about Bolingbroke and Edward II quite early on and spent a lot of time mulling over them through the winter. This time I made quite an instinctive decision not to do lots of work beforehand. There's just the one play, and the part is lovely – it's quite big but not massive like Edward II, and that allows you to be a wee bit more relaxed. I thought ‘No, I’ll just work really hard during the rehearsal period this time.’ I read the play through a few times before we started though. In one sense, there isn’t the same scope for research prior to rehearsal this time. Measure for Measure isn’t a history play like Edward II or Richard II, and a lot of my preparation last year concentrated on Bolingbroke and Edward's ‘real’ characters. I enjoyed reading the background history and taking trips to the places where the characters had been born or had visited during their lives. I’ll just have to go on little trips for the sake of it this time [laughs].


I jumped at the part when it was offered – if I’m honest, I wasn’t sure how I would react if I happened to be offered something this season. Four consecutive years is a long time at one theatre when the productions take half a year, and I had wondered about taking a break from the Globe. However when the phone rang and I was offered Angelo, I said ‘Okay, that's lovely. Thanks very much, I’ll have a think’, but as soon as I put the phone down I thought ‘Yes, this feels right.’ I didn’t know I was going to feel like that. I felt like I had jumped at the chance, so I accepted. There will be different challenges this year. We have a new director and a mixed company. There are also five or six people in the cast whom I don’t know, which is quite nice and helps to keep things fresh. Apart from Edward II, which was directed by Tim Walker, I’ve always worked with Tim Carroll. Each director has an individual style and works at a different pace. You just have to find a working rhythm that feels comfortable for both of you. John Dove [Master of Play] is taking his time and going into the scenes in very thorough detail at the moment. We’re not actually that far through the play at this point [second week of rehearsals] whereas another director might have gone through the whole thing in a less meticulous way by now. Everyone's approach is different and that's partly why working on these plays is still interesting.


Rehearsals don’t actually start on day one at the Globe because we have a big ‘Meet and Greet’ session. It gives the Company a chance to bond and introduces everyone to the building and each other. Since day two, rehearsals so far have mostly involved working through the play in quite a straightforward way… when you reach a new scene for the first time, you read it round the table and then you go back through it and thrash it out, making sure that everyone knows what everything means. We didn’t do a read-through as such, which seems to be happening more frequently these days. I don’t think it's a particularly great loss; they’re a bit nerve-racking really. We just went straight into the opening scene.

The process is quite static to begin with, because of the detailed text work. After we’re clear about the meaning, we tentatively put the scenes on their feet. As I said, we’re taking time. Tim Carroll would probably go plunging in, just get to the end and come back to close textual analysis later on. John's just doing something different. It will be interesting to see what happens. I have to say, I think it's a hard play. I had to read it about four times before I had a clue about what was going on… okay, I’m exaggerating a bit – but it definitely took me four readings before I knew what was going on at certain points. Hopefully what will happen is that the lines will become much clearer when you see them acted out rather than reading them on a page.

I feel that Measure for Measure suffers because the first couple of pages are incredibly difficult, and picking up the thread of the story is tricky. The play jumps right into the action and you don’t have much time to get your bearings. The first speeches [I.I.] are quite complex. Basically, the Duke is taking himself off for a while and passing over authority to me but the way we speak isn’t easy to understand and it's always problematic if people are put off by difficulties right at the beginning. We’ll have to make very sure the story is as clear as it can be so that no one recoils ‘Oh crikey, what are they talking about?’ I think after the first couple of pages it will get easier. Angelo doesn’t say very much in that first scene; it's mostly up to Mark [Rylance, Vincentio] to make the situation clear to the audience. I suppose it's enough that two high status people are saying farewell to each other and that power is being handed over. If people grasp those fundamentals, then that's great.


It takes some time for us to find out what sort of person Angelo is. He gets talked about a lot and it's always tempting to play what people say about you, but I think you have a responsibility to sit down and take a bit of time looking closely at the lines. We don’t necessarily go about displaying the all characteristics that other people identify as being part of our persona, and there are other characteristics that people will miss. If someone else wrote a three page description of me, I wouldn’t necessarily recognise myself at all, or maybe I would only recognise bits of myself. It's like that with Angelo: we don’t find everything out at once. He goes on a journey and he does change, although once the story gets going, I suppose we do move very quickly. The play spans three or maybe four days – as often happens in Shakespeare, events take place in a condensed time-frame so things seem to happen at pretty break-neck speed.

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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