Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 4

In his fourth blog post Keith discusses working on his character, Demetrius' relationship with Helena and the perils of speaking in his native accent.

Transcript of Podcast

Character Work

This week, I've been concentrating on my character work. If I were to picture Demetrius as an animal, I imagine he'd be a snake, because he is sly and unbearably cocky. This idea has started to affect the way I move on stage. I'm not saying that I've been sliding around on my belly, but I have been working towards gliding a bit more, a very smooth type of movement. Imagining Demetrius as a snake has also affected the way I speak the lines: he is often very condescending, and his speeches slip off the tongue very quickly. I would be very happy if the audiences found him totally unbearable, and I think his arrogance towards Hermia should achieve that effect. I'm beginning to see the idea of Demetrius the snake as the key to understanding his character. He is often played as a rather bland, boring character, a stereotypical lover, but hopefully, this new idea will help me to present the audience with a different view of him.

Demetrius and Helena

It's questionable whether Demetrius has changed by the end of the play, as, unlike Lysander, Puck does not undo the spell that's made him fall in love with Helena again. An audience might therefore ask the question; "Does he really love Helena, or is he just under Oberon's spell?" I would argue that the spell serves to right a wrong. In many ways, Demetrius was always in love with Helena (we are told in the opening scene that he loved her before the start of the play), but because he is fickle, he decides to chase Hermia instead and makes a fool of Helena in the process. You could say that when Oberon drops the potion onto Demetrius's eyes he rights the wrong that Demetrius has done to Helena and charms him back to his rightful love.


I naturally speak with a strong Irish accent, but when I'm on stage, my accent takes on elements of Received Pronunciation [R.P.; a standard English accent often used by newsreaders]. I'm not doing this intentionally, it's just something that happens to my intonation now and again. I think this is partly because I have done a lot of Shakespearean plays using RP rather than my natural accent. At the back of my mind, there is always something telling me that the audience might not be able to understand me if I don't temper the way I sound. Most of the time, I'm not particularly conscious of speaking differently on stage, but I am aware that I will need to be careful and make sure that people don't think I'm trying to do a pure R.P. accent and I'm just making a really bad job of it!

This week's rehearsals

So far, this week's rehearsals have been very frustrating. We were able to use the Globe stage for a run of the play, but now, because Twelfth Night is starting, we are back in the rehearsal room. It's like giving us a load of sweets and then taking them all away! Sometimes I think that trying a scene on stage and then leaving the space for a while is like taking a great step backwards. Having said that, technical rehearsals start next week and we'll be spending all our time in the Globe space, so we'll really be able to make the play come alive. The tech week is really our main chance to do that. It's going to be a hard process and will involve a lot of trial and error but it will also be incredibly exciting. Mike [Alfreds, Master of Play] has been pushing us all very, very hard. He has been picking us up on every mistake we make, whether it's in our movement or our verse, and especially when we don't stress our lines correctly. Mike's a great director and will settle for nothing but the best, but everyone is very tired at the moment, which doesn't help. It has been a very long rehearsal period, far longer than most companies get to rehearse a play for, and we're all ready now for the next step. Next week's change of scene will do us all good, going into the Globe space and starting to build towards next Sunday - the opening night. It will be very interesting - we'll have to wait and see what happens!

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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