This is Pippa's first blog post. This week she discusses returning to the Globe, exploring her first impressions of her character and working on the play text.
Transcript of Podcast
I left the Globe last October, and about a month previous to that I’d already got a job at the Soho theatre doing a play called Joe Guy, written by Roy Williams. So I was rehearsing that for three weeks while still performing The Merchant of Venice and Holding Fire. Joe Guy went into production from October until the end of November, and then I had a couple of months off, went snowboarding and went to America. Then in February I went to work for the RSC in another play by Roy Williams, Days of Significance, which was based on Much Ado About Nothing, and I was playing the Beatrice character, Trish. We got transferred to the Tricycle theatre, and that finished the week before we started rehearsals for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ve had a pretty continuous run of work, and I feel lucky, though sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of a break.
We started off by doing a read-through. But Jonathan (Munby, the Director) didn’t want us to read our own parts, he got us to read different parts for each scene. He wanted us to hear the play properly, and make us take into account the other characters. Read-throughs can be quite a nerve wracking experience, as it is the first time you’ve met a lot of people, and you want to sound good and show them that you know what you’re talking about. So you probably don’t listen to anyone else as you’re so focused on what you’re doing. But Jonathan’s approach helped us to get right inside the play, and although we were sight reading it made us really listen to it as a whole, and not think only about the character we’re cast as.
I know A Midsummer Night’s Dream well, I know Helena and Hermia and the lovers and I had done scenes from it at drama school. When I came for the audition I had the choice of reading Helena or Hermia, and instinctively I went for Hermia, because I’m naturally dark and although not really short, I’m very petite. I’d played Hermia before, but a long time ago, and what I liked about Jonathan was the fact that he recognised that we all know the play, many of us have done it before, and he was keen for us to come to it with a fresh head and approach it as if we’ve never done it before. So I’m just trying to come to it at the age I am now, in the context of the Globe, and working with Jonathan who will have a completely different vision from the other directors I have worked with.
I’m still exploring them. I know Hermia’s part of the Athens community, she’s fallen madly in love with Lysander, and it’s reciprocated. Demetrius is madly in love with her, and the possibilities of what she was like with Demetrius before Lysander came along is something we’re still exploring. Perhaps she was very flirtatious with him, or perhaps he just read too much into a single glance. I know her relationship with her father is very damaged because she’s disobeyed him, and there’s lots of arguments because she’s fallen in love with someone he doesn’t want her to be in love with. I know there is a very strong spirit within her, and that when we first meet her she’s in the process of finding her voice, which we can see from the way she is speaking to Theseus. She is very brave to run away into the wood, but she isn’t completely rebellious as Lysander desperately wants to sleep with her in the woods and she wants to keep her virginity until she’s married, so she still lives her life to the moral standards of the court. Helena calls her shrewish at one point, so I know that there must be a feistiness and fieriness within her.
Hermia and Helena
We were talking about Helena’s parenting, and Laura [Rogers, playing Helena] thinks that Helena’s father has died, and that she’s come to live with me and my father, which explains why we are such bosom buddies. There are so many references to how close they are, Helena she describes them as ‘like to a double cherry...two lovely berries moulded on one stem’(3.2.209-211). I think it’s a really sad story for Helena, not only does her best friend run away and she might never see her again and the guy she’s in love with is in love with her best friend. So I’m sure there’s other emotions going on for her, but as far as I’m concerned she’s my best friend, that is until my lover falls for her!
Hermia compared to Jessica [The Merchant of Venice]
I feel a lot more confident coming back to the Globe. I think that the relationship between Jessica and Lorenzo is a serious and sincere part of The Merchant of Venice, and acted as the darker sub-plot to the more comic side of the play that Rebecca [Gatward, the Director of The Merchant of Venice] wanted to emphasise. So it’s nice in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to get a chance to play comedy, and it’s fantastic to have a bigger part. I feel lucky that I’ve played in this space before, as I’m a lot more familiar with it and it won’t feel as daunting going on stage as it did before. Jonathan has a very different rehearsal technique from Rebecca, as with The Merchant of Venice we spent the whole of the first week together as a company exploring the play. But Jonathan has split us into different groups, I’m probably in half a day at a time with the lovers, and then he’ll see the mechanicals, and then the fairies, and then once or twice a week we meet up as a company to do dance or voice. It’s early days to compare the two experiences, but as an actress I feel in a different place. I feel lucky having more to do, playing a character who has a lot at stake but is fun to play. It’s a great part and an emotional part, as she could lose everything. She’s really central to the play, it kicks off with her dilemma, and when they go into the woods she loses everything, and it’s not until she gets put to sleep that it all gets given back. There’s a lot going on for her, for all the lovers, but she’s definitely got her own journey.
The play text
Giles [Block] who works with us on the text, describes himself as an ‘extra ear’ within the company. I can choose what I want to go over with him, and I’ll read to him a chunk of verse and he’ll listen for where I’m putting the stress, and correct me if he thinks it should be different. My instinct might be to put the stress on this word, and he’ll look at the whole structure of the line and decide that Shakespeare’s intention would have been to put the stress in a different place. And then you try it out his way, and suddenly you go ‘oh, so that’s what the line means.’ He also explains some of the trickier lines, for example when Hermia is talking about how Lysander would never leave her (3.2.51-55), it is so complicated that I really needed the time with Giles to help me make sense of what it means. And once we’ve talked it through and spoken it through again it makes sense, and it really saves time in the rehearsal room to have sorted out those problems at an earlier stage.
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as she goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.