Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Performance Notes 1

This is Peter's fifth blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard II in which he talks about performing at Middle Temple Hall, and tech rehearsals upon returning to the Globe.

Transcript of Podcast

Performing at Middle Temple Hall

Playing at Middle Temple Hall was a very special experience. It was an amazing few weeks; the whole building is rooted in history, Shakespeare himself performed there, and we all wanted to speak the lines as well as we possibly could in the space. Before each performance, the audience were allowed to walk through our dressing room and watch us getting changed into costume. That was a very odd experience; although the audiences for Twelfth Night at the Globe last year could watch us dressing through the frons scenae, at Middle Temple Hall, they were much, much closer. I felt like an animal at the zoo.

Audiences at Middle Temple Hall were very different to those I experienced last year at the Globe. The two spaces are similar in that audiences can see each other, but Middle Temple Hall is a much smaller, more enclosed space, which meant that anything a member of the audience did would often draw a lot of attention, even if they only shuffled in their chair. In general, audiences were very polite and well behaved; they would laugh occasionally during the Duchess of York scenes, but most of the time they seemed to be listening very carefully to every line.

Because every movement spoke volumes at Middle Temple Hall, I was very careful what movements I made in the opening scenes, when I’m playing Lord Ross, and I tried to make sure that they would show an audience whom I supported in each situation. My costume gives them a hint; Richard's flatterers, Bushy, Bagot and Green are dressed in very bright colours, but I’m dressed in a dark brown, similar to the dark colours worn by John of Gaunt, the Duke of York and the Earl of Northumberland. Any movements I make, I try to make them show that I support these characters, so I occasionally walk over to York and have a word with him, or exchange a look with Gaunt; just little things, but they immediately show whose side I’m on. Everyone was very pleased with the production at Middle Temple Hall, but at the same time, we wanted to get into the Globe.

Tech Rehearsals at the Globe

As soon as we finished the run in Middle Temple Hall, we had one day off, then we were straight into technical rehearsals at the Globe. We hadn’t really had time before to think about doing Richard II on the Globe stage, where we have such a huge choice about where to move and what to do. Tim [Carroll, Master of Play] encouraged us to simply keep moving, to keep trying different things, standing in different places and so on. We had one session with Mark [Rylance, Artistic Director and King Richard] on the stage, where he had marked out circles and triangles showing different ‘paths’ across the stage that we might find useful. He then demonstrated these paths together with the stage managers, which meant we could sit and watch how different angles and ‘paths’ affect how your character is seen by an audience, which was very useful. Technical rehearsals at the Globe are very different to those in other theatres, as we have no lighting or sound cues to blend into the production. Instead, we focus on entrances and exits; where will we come on, who will open the doors and how quickly, together with the music cues. Because we had so little time, and because Tim [Carroll] was in the middle of rehearsing Dido, Queen of Carthage for later in the season, we only rehearsed two scenes properly on the stage. Those scenes were I.1 and I.3, the scenes where most of the company are on stage at once; it was especially important to make sure we weren’t going to bump into each other!

Originally, I was going to make my entrance as the Duchess of York through one of the side doors, but Tim [Carroll] took me aside and told me not to, but instead to enter through the centre doors. I’m not sure how audiences will react, but we’ll see.

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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