Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 5

This is Keith's final blog post. This week he discusses the work that the company did on the play before the technical rehearsals: consolidating and fine-tuning ideas and running the play.

Transcript of Podcast


This week, I feel I’ve been we’ve been spending a lot of time fine-tuning little bits of the play that need work. Often, this is only a few lines, but it’s very important to get them right. I sometimes think it’s a similar process to learning a piece of music: there are people who will be able to learn a lot of each piece they play without effort, but who will need to spend a great deal of time on just a few phrases, to ensure they play them correctly. Half of our time running concentrating especially on those parts of the play that need work. Often, this is a very small part of the play, but it needs to be fine-tuned.


The week before the technical rehearsals is in many ways the hardest of all, when we try to consolidate everything we’ve done so far. Preparing for a production is in many ways like practicing the piano for a performance. You start learning the notes very slowly, then, once you’ve learnt the notes, you begin to concentrate on interpretation and other more subtle areas of performance. It’s the same for an actor, but before you perform, you need to spend some time going back over the notes to make sure that you won’t forget them in the middle of performance when you don’t have the time to think about them. So, for example, this morning we had a script session, where we went through out lines together with Mike [Alfreds, Master of Play] correcting us whenever we mis-stressed a word. This is particularly easy to do with Shakespeare; it is in some ways a different language, after all. It’s important to practice your lines out loud, especially if you’ve spent time, as I have, going through them and putting them into my own words. Often, my own version is very similar to my lines, but the stresses are sometimes very different. If you say Shakespeare’s verse, stressing the words as if they were modern speech, it often sounds awkward. I walked into the rehearsal room yesterday, and opened my mouth to say a line, but nothing came out, I was thinking about it so hard. In the end, we’ll just have to let it go…

The last few weeks have been spent revisiting everything we’ve done so far in rehearsals, and it’s very draining. It’s like patting your head, rubbing your stomach and doing the washing up all at the same time! One is constantly trying to remember at least four things, different intentions, meanings and movements, at any one time during rehearsals, and then on top of that we need to be alert to new ideas and suggestions. It’s exhausting. Eventually, we’ll just have to push all these ideas to the back of our minds and just do it. This is easier said than done; suddenly, we’re now into the final stretch, which, although exciting, is when elements of doubt begin to surface in an actor’s mind amidst the wash of information available. You suddenly begin to wonder; have I learnt anything over the last few weeks? Has it all been a waste of time? Will I be any good? You just have to let it all go. The other day, I went home with my head spinning and just had to lie down on the floor with some calming music on the stereo, just to clear my head.

Running the play

We’ve been spending quite a bit of time running through each half, and then the play as a whole. We did a full run on Saturday that went very well. We (the four lovers) were very relaxed and free, and we tried a lot of new things just on the spur of the moment. Whereas our verse work, our language, has to be constantly practiced and always precise, our movement has to be totally spontaneous to keep the performance alive. It’s much easier to run the whole play than to just run the second half, because it’s hard to pick up half way through our character’s journey. The play as a whole as an energy which fluctuates and changes as it unfolds, and as each character undertakes their journey, and takes a great deal more energy to pick up on this process half way through. Still, at the moment, what’s important is to take the production apart and then put it all together again in its final version.

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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