Shakespeare's Globe

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In her penultimate blog post Philippa discusses the first week of performances, continuing to rehearsal while the play is being performed, and the work she has done on her voice.

Transcript of Podcast

First Week of Performances

We’ve just finished our first week of performances, so I’m very tired but very excited! Having performed here before in 1999, going out onto the stage in front of an audience wasn’t an entirely new experience, but it was very nice to be out there again. One of the nicest parts about this week for me has been that I’ve re-discovered the unique interaction between actors and audience that takes place in the Globe space. Because the audience is so close to the stage, and because we, the actors, can see them so easily, we always have to allow them to become participants in the play. An audience is quite unpredictable, and no two audiences will ever react the same way to a particular moment in the play. For example, in Act iii scene 2, Lysander repeatedly insults Hermia before finally turning to her and saying:

"… Get you gone, you dwarf,
You minimus of hindering knot-grass made,
You bead, you acorn." (iii.2.327-330)

In one performance, an audience may laugh at Hermia when Lysander says this, but in the next, they may feel sorry for her and sigh instead. It’s important to let the audience react in their own way and let each performance emerge from their reactions. What’s fun in this production is that some of us (the actors) get to join the audience, in a way, when we watch the mechanicals’ performance in v.1.


Rehearsals didn’t finish as soon as performances started; this week, we had both! For this week only, Mike [Alfreds, Master of Play] was able to call us for rehearsals at any time during the day when we weren’t performing on stage. One of the major things that Mike keeps reminding us about is that we must always be aware of exactly where we are on the stage. Because none of our scenes have any prearranged blocking, we have to be extra-aware of where everyone else on stage is standing at any particular time. It’s also very important that we don’t stay in the same place for too long; if we keep moving, it helps to keep up the energy of the production as a whole as well as allowing the whole audience to see us.

Voice and intentions

One thing I’ve been working hard on this week is making my voice stronger. Because there’s no roof on the theatre, it’s often hard for an audience to hear the actors’ voices. The key to being heard in the Globe is not to shout, but to use what Stewart [Pearce, Master of Voice] calls the ‘middle point’ of your voice. Some people describe using the middle point of your voice as using your ‘chest voice’; it’s all about speaking at the right pitch and volume to allow your voice to resonate clearly.

I find it easiest to use the ‘middle point’ of my voice when I am certain of my character’s intentions. It’s important to remember that there’s a reason why Hermia says everything she does; each line should either have an effect on another character, or on the audience. Actors often call these reasons their character’s "intentions". For example, in act i scene 1, Hermia says to Theseus:

"So I will grow, so live, so die, my lord,
ere I will yield my virgin patent up
unto his lordship whose unwished yoke
my soul consents not to give sovereignty."

There are two intentions behind these lines: to defy Theseus and to make him feel sorry for her. Knowing this fact makes it easier for me to use the middle point of my voice. Mike [Alfreds, Master of Play] has also been encouraging me to think about Hermia’s relationship with Demetrius, especially in act iii scene 2, when all the lovers are lost in the forest. Mike gave me a note (a criticism) about iii.2, suggesting that I was talking at Keith [Dunphy, Demetrius] rather than talking to him. I don’t think that Hermia feels sorry for Demetrius, although she does feel sorry for Helena, but even though she doesn’t like him, Hermia needs to talk to Demetrius because he might know what has happened to Lysander. It’s important for me to remember that Hermia’s intention at that moment is to find out what’s happened to Lysander, and Demetrius is the only person she knows who might be able to tell her where he is, so she can’t be too nasty to him in that scene.

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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