Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Performance Notes 2

This is Peter's sixth and final blog entry for the 2003 production of Richard II in which he talks about performing the production on the Globe stage.

Transcript of Podcast

Performing at the Globe

We have now opened at the Globe, and it was incredible. Because we’d already performed the play over 30 times at Middle Temple Hall, the first night was slightly different to usual, but everyone was still very nervous. As soon as we got on the stage, though, it was all fine. The audiences here are so supportive, and their reactions to what is happening on stage are so much bigger than at Middle Temple Hall. When the audience laughs here, it's very loud! When I first walked out onto the stage as the Duchess (through the centre doors), 1,600 people gasped, and in the middle of V.iii, when the Duchess is begging for Aumerle's life, an ‘ahhh’ suddenly came from the audience; we didn’t get that sort of reaction in Middle Temple Hall. Suddenly, because of the size of the space, we can open out the production and address lines to vast sections of the audience where appropriate, and they will react.

The Audience and Comedy

Now that we’re in the Globe, the comedy in V.iii is suddenly much more apparent, as audiences are laughing loudly at what we do on stage. There are certain amounts of physical comedy, for instance, when Aumerle says “Unto my mother's prayers I bend my knee” (V.111.96), he kneels, then I push him to the ground so that he's lying face down. The audience, especially the groundlings, love physical comedy, and they always roar with laughter at that point, but I think we have to be careful not to add too much to the scene as a whole. I was talking to Mark [Rylance, Richard] and Tim [Carroll, Master of Play], and they both agree that the scene is intended to be comic, especially given that it's placed just before the plotting, then the execution of Richard. However, it's important to focus on what is written and to make sure the language of the scene is very clear. Because it's all in rhyming couplets, I think the language of V.iii is naturally funny; the rhythm helps the comedy. But, at the same time, you have to remember to try and say the lines like they’ve never been said before. The key to this is to remember that, often, you are replying to what another character says; if you say the lines as a reply, rather than just reciting them, it helps keep the way you say them fresh.

Some characters in Richard II speak directly to the audience, but I’m careful as the Duchess of York not to do so, despite the comedy of V.iii. I do open out lines to the audience, looking around as I say a line, but I don’t address anything to them directly. This is because of the severity of the situation she finds herself in; she is risking everything in opposing her husband in front of the king, and her son is about to be condemned. I don’t think she would even think of making a side-comment, despite that there are some lines which might work as such.

Moving On

We’ve now started rehearsals for Edward II by Christopher Marlowe, our (the White Company’s) second play of the season. It's exhausting, but I do enjoy rehearsing one play during the day then performing another in the evenings. If I just have a performance in the evening, I find that I can’t really concentrate on anything else for the rest of the day, so I really enjoy rehearsing in the afternoons.

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.

Back to top



We welcome your opinions. This is a public forum. Libellous and abusive comments are not allowed. Please read our Forum Rules.