Simon talks to us about his final experiences with rehearsals and the challenges of performing in different locations.
"It takes a while, I think, to warm up. We’re finding that we can relax to some degree about that, as long as we keep playing those opening scenes with good pace, we don’t have to worry so much if the audience is in hysterics, because by the time that the two garden scenes happen, we find that the audience is really going for it."
Time: 8 minutes 8 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Phil Brooks: So, thinking back to tech week, a couple of weeks ago now… how was that and how was the end, finishing bits of rehearsals?
Simon Bubb: The last week of rehearsals was kind of crazy because we had to – the same goes for tech, as well – we had to learn all the bits that go on between the acting, basically. The scene changes and the pieces of music that cover the scene changes, and things like that which - in a show of this kind of staging - the way that you carry those things off makes the difference as to whether the show works or not because there’s only eight of us and there’s endless quick-changes and things like that, so… it was a bit crazy in those last few days of rehearsals because there’s a part of you that really wants to be focusing on the acting and the text and that sort of stuff, trying to feel as confident as you can in the scenes, but we had to spend some time doing other stuff… but then we finally we did – Max [director] did - some really good work with us on that, the scenes that we’d already done, you know we were honing and polishing stuff. By the time that we did our final run through in the rehearsal room, it really felt good. I think we felt ready to – as ready as you can be after four weeks of rehearsal - and then we all pitched up in Margate for the tech in the absolutely beautiful Margate Theatre Royal… and yeah, it was one of the more complicated tech processes I’ve had, not because of lights or sound, or things that usually make techs difficult because we didn’t have any of those, but we did have all the stuff I was just talking about – the scene changes – this time with added costume.
PB: So just sort of remembering which costume you’re meant to be getting in to…
SB: Yeah, and in a tiny amount of space to get changed in and just working out where props are and where costumes are and whether you’ve got time to get into that one and back on stage in three seconds and things like that, which means that it’s a very difficult few days of tech, but when you finally get it, it’s worth it because it means that the show – I think Max used the word virtuosic – you know, he wants people to come and watch it and kind of thrilled by the fact that actors are disappearing behind the curtain and ten seconds later appearing in a completely different costume, playing an instrument, and being a different character. So that was good, and then it was just great to get it in front of an audience, and so far the audience has been great.
PB: And how was that opening night in Margate?
SB: It was wonderful! We had a nice bunch of people come from the Globe down to Kent to support us and they clapped and cheered and laughed –
PB: In all the right places.
SB: In all the right places, yeah! And with a comedy, you don’t really know what you’ve got until you’ve put it in front of an audience, and it’s nice they laughed…
PB: Have they been reacting in ways that you expected?
SB: With any comedy – any play, really – when you finally put it in front of an audience, laughs you were expecting don’t appear, things you found funny in rehearsals aren’t funny to an audience and stuff that had never occurred to you to be funny gets a huge laugh. That can change from day to day, even once you’ve been performing it for a while, which makes it interesting.
PB: And then this week you’ve been performing it here at the Globe. How was your first night and this week at the Globe?
SB: Absolutely awesome. I went to see Titus Andronicus on Saturday night to sort of get a feel for that space – what it was like seeing a Shakespeare play in this space – it’s been a while since I’ve seen one, actually… and I just sat there in the audience just feeling incredibly excited that in two days’ time, it would be me, and there’s just nothing like it. I will cherish that memory of the first night for the rest of my life, I think. To play a part like Benedick in the place where it was sort of written, and to have an audience like that is just… it kind of feels like surfing, when you’ve got that kind of crowd response, ready to listen and laugh, and really play with them… it’s an absolute joy.
PB: Are there any scenes that are still proving tricky or difficult?
SB: We’re finding that the opening scenes are the most difficult because they’re written just – to a certain degree – to establish and set up the characters. They are less obviously funny. So there’s jokes in them, and some audiences have been really good and ready to laugh from the beginning, but it takes a while, I think, to warm up. I think what we’re finding that we can relax to some degree about that, as long as we keep playing those opening scenes with good pace, and keep playing those characters with intention, we don’t have to worry so much if the audience is in hysterics, because by the time that the two garden scenes happen, we find that the audience is really going for it, so we know we get them by the interval, if not before.
PB: Just the initial set up… what would you say were the challenges have been in putting this production together?
SB: Like I said, doing it with eight actors means that the process of putting it on – people are constantly having to change costumes, and I think Sam - who plays Claudio - his big scene is the wedding scene, and he doesn’t have any time to prepare mentally for it really because he has to be a watch character and then throw his different costume on, play the guitar, turn around and come back on again as Claudio, and that’s the sort of thing we all have to do. But actually, it’s quite healthy in a way, because sometimes as actors we can think things too much and it’s probably quite good for us be forced to just get over ourselves and just get on with it. We’ve had to adjust to playing in very different spaces. So we’ve played in one of the oldest theatres in the country in Margate and then we played in a very nice playhouse in Alnwick , and then we played in a huge public square, in the rain, in Romania, and then because of the next day we had to move into a theatre foyer, and then the Globe stage, which is unique, and then next time we’ll be in a public park-stroke-graveyard in Brighton, so I think we’ll have to be very flexible in how to make this show work in different spaces.
PB: Have you found it’s changed and developed much as you’ve kind of gone on?
SB: Yeah, I think so. I think it teaches you to tell the story as clearly as possible, because in Romania, that public square we were in had a major road – urban road - literally three meters away from it. They closed the road to cars, but they didn’t close it to anyone else so we were doing the show with dogs walking by and homeless people, children, skateboarders… so you sort of have to really know you know what story you’re telling, and tell it well. I think that’s how we’ve been forced to do that, and at the Globe, you know, you’ve got to tell the story when there’s helicopters flying over, or when it’s raining or there’s the noise of rain on people’s waterproofs, and school children are talking to each other and things like that. Again, that’s very satisfying when you get the stage towards the middle of the second half when you know you’ve got them, when they’ve all stopped rustling…
PB: When no matter how many distractions, they’re still-
PB: And my final question is, what is your favourite moment in the play?
SB: I don’t know if this is… I’m just going to answer this off the top of my head – there’s a moment when Benedick has to be very serious with Claudio - and I won’t give away how we do that… people will expect pyrotechnics now – I do an action and every single time we’ve done it, the whole audience has audibly gasped. Sometimes it’s half laughing, and sometimes it’s half shock, but I just love it when you get an audience reaction like that because you know that they care – you know that they’re interested, and other than that when things tie up at the end, it feels so joyous and riotous when the audience is with us.
PB: Brilliant, thank you very much.
SB: Thank you.