Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 1

This is Jules' first blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard III. In it she talks about being part of the first all-female company at the Globe, beginning rehearsals, and the work they've been doing on Act IV, Scene V.

Transcript of Podcast

Making history at the Globe

My overall feeling on the first day of rehearsals is that it is always wonderful coming back to the Globe and meeting and greeting everyone. I feel so at home returning to this magnificent building as it has such a beautiful feel. However, I hadn't realised what a fantastic opportunity it would be to be part of the Globe's first all female company- I'd been in all female companies before so I didn't see it as such a big deal! That changed on the first day when the 15 members of the company got together for the first time; it's not often that you get that many women together in the acting field, as a company, we got a lot of attention, plus we're all different shapes, sizes, ages and nationalities. I think we're an incredibly interesting bunch of women! When I first entered the rehearsal room I noticed that there was only one man in the room [Barry Kyle, Master of Play], even the Stage Manager is female, and it was at this point when the 'gender-thing' hit me- I thought 'this is completely different; this has a very different energy'. I think that the building of the Globe has it's own personality and this is the first time it's going to get a huge injection of femininity. I now feel incredibly excited about being part of the first all female company and it has occurred to me in rather grand way that we are making history- it is the first time that this has ever happened in the Globe's history.

Rehearsals begin...

I found the first few days of rehearsals quite difficult because I was carrying around with me the huge fear of doing a history play and feeling very unprepared. Although I'd read my history books at school I felt rather inadequate and, in all honesty, freaked out by the idea of so many characters in this big, solid history play that's normally done by men. As the week went on I became more and more confident because the first week of rehearsals focused on games, such as character exploration exercises, which would help us get over these insecurities. For instance, I'd be questioning my characters' relationships with other characters in the play but then I realised that it was ok not to know all the characters' histories; you just have to put up your hand and say 'I don't know, or I don't understand' and recognise that there is no shame in not knowing something. I quickly realised that as I was asking questions and admitting to having gaps in my knowledge, there was a whole train of people in the rehearsal room who felt exactly the same. Exploring the play together really helped us bond as a group.

Throughout the first week we played lots of games designed to question the details and uncertainties of our characters and attitudes towards others; does my character like you? Is my character frosty towards you? What are my character's feelings towards King Richard? All these considerations began to give me ideas about my characters so that I could start to take these people off the page, `pad them' out and give them colour and vibrancy.

After we went through the process of playing games and building up relationships with the other members of the company, both as our characters and as ourselves, our Master of Play [Barry Kyle] felt that we needed to move quite quickly because Richard III is such a big play to rehearse with only 6 weeks and 15 actors playing all the roles in the play. Barry felt that we had to move quickly to go through the play scene by scene, talking through it and working out any relationships, details, motivations or attitudes that we may be uncertain about. This process allowed me to consider why my characters were saying what they were saying; the motivation behind their speech. After reading and discussing each scene we would then get up and 'free-fall' each scene; this means that we don't have to worry about where we would move on the stage or about sounding loud and clear, but just have a go at the whole scene and listen to the words of the text. Quite often we'd be wandering all over the stage, exploring different energies, physicalities and speech patterns. After 'free-falling' each scene we would then sit down again, discuss what we have discovered from going through that process and assess what we found useful. I feel that 'free-falling' helps us as actors because I think it encourages us to move freely around the space and be creative, but also I think it helps the Master of Play see the patterns of what he actually wants to happen on stage; what works position-wise, where it's good to have more people, where ensemble work may be effective and so on.

Act IV, Scene V

Now we're nearly at the end of going through the play and it's a very interesting place to be at because an awful lot starts to happen- lots of important information pours in and the text starts to gallop like a fast, furious horse! Although this information is vital and we need to be careful not to gabble, the audience still has to get the feeling that the text is galloping on, that the story is moving on quickly. A good scene to illustrate this is act iv scene 4. In this scene, three messengers, of which I play one, enter to tell King Richard various pieces of extremely important information; information on the armies advancing, information on Buckingham's whereabouts and details on what is really happening outside. All this information floods in fast and furious and interestingly enough it is the messenger with the good news, the Third Messenger, which Richard strikes. Richard refers to the messengers as 'songs of death', and also compares them to owls. This has proved a really useful image for us to use for the messengers; it has given us the idea that we are swooping in like screeching owls. We've even been thinking that when the Third Messenger, (played by Linda Bassett), is hit by Richard she should make a noise that sounds like an owl. Essentially we want to get the feeling that the messengers are birds swooping in to attack Richard, all three want a piece of him.

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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