Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Production Notes

This is Pippa's final blog post. This week she discusses how the first performances have progressed, taking over the role of Nerissa and rehearsing for a new play.

Transcript of Podcast

The First Performance

We were all quite excited and nervous. Because we’d had tech week, and the great thing about tech week is that we’d had the tour people coming in and watching, you have kind of got a little bit of an audience. There is nothing like your first performance where you literally see a sea of people around you and all these circular faces – everybody’s just looking at you! Its quite unbelievable. People really came alive and started really playing with the audience and exploring a little further what we could never do in rehearsals, because we were out on that stage. The company just bounced off the energy and it took the show to new places. The audience were just absolutely lovely; so involved and so generous.

Playing Nerissa

Unfortunately, the actress playing Portia was indisposed and left the production after the first week. Kirsty [Besterman, Nerissa] and I got asked to step in and read – this was very last minute. The show was meant to go up at 7:30pm and this was at 7:35pm - so we said yes! Its obviously been quite a sad situation, but because Kirtsy and I were both doing it we could really play off each other. Kirsty had been in the Portia scenes more than I had, so she knew how they worked. I had seen her doing them in rehearsals so it was quite funny because Kirsty was calling me Nerissa and I was thinking – no, you are Nerissa! Because I was playing two characters in each performance we decided to play Nerissa with her hair up and Jessica with her hair down so that the audience got some idea who I was playing . There have been a couple of comedy moments because in Act 5 Nerissa and Jessica are on stage at the same time. When I do the scene where Jessica argues with Lancelot Gobbo, I went off as Nerissa and he called me back as Jessica and every time I would come back on looking absolutely knackered, but the audience loved it. Its been quite funny. It was quite an exciting week, doing that.

It was great to be working with Kirsty because I’ve known her now for seven or eight weeks, but have never had much of a chance to perform with her. I often found that I would be mimicking what she’d been doing which was actually very funny for both of us. The first time I played Nerissa, I had to literally go by what I’d seen rather than trying to make sense of it. We then got some help from the director and voice coach to try and make more sense of it and I found that I started inhabiting the role for myself. The gift from it was that it gave me a lot more confidence on that stage, more exposure. When I went back to playing just Jessica, I real felt that my performance had grown.


It's good to have been reunited with, and back playing her. I really do feel that the experience of Nerissa has put Jessica back in to perspective for me and opened up lots of possibilities for playing that space and making bigger discoveries. Its good to return and I feel that I’m able to give other stuff to it. Kirsty is now playing Portia and a new actor has joined the company to play Nerissa.

The Globe Audience

They are very very reactive – obviously at the comedy bits. There is also a moment where Bassanio and Antonio have quite a long kiss and the other day an audience member cried out ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ literally so loud that people were reacting to that reaction. I’m finding them very vocal – sometimes people at the front of yard are banging on the stage because they are finding things so funny. I also find them really responsive to little detailed bits like the scene with Jessica, Lorenzo and Lancelot when she eats pork (which we’re still developing) the audience are really noticing that by laughing, but also realising that its quite a delicate moment.

Holding Fire!

We have started to rehearse another play. It’s a new play called Holding Fire! by Jack Shepherd and it’s about a nineteenth century political party called the chartists. Its quite hilarious really because Kirsty and I are both playing older women. I’m playing a character called Mrs Kettle who is a drunk and Mrs Banes who is the mother of one of the principle characters – a very poor London family – although she’s rural. Then I’m playing a young maid called Dorothy who works in this posh household up north as well as many other bits. This is the third week of rehearsal and because the press night for Merchant has been delayed, we’ve only just finished rehearsing it. Now we can just get our teeth into Holding Fire! a bit more, but its all been a bit sporadic.

Because we’ve been performing a lot, my mind has been somewhere else. The majority of the company know each other so there’s been no having to worry about getting to know each other, although there are four new actors who have come in. We’ve actually just been getting down to work. We’ve got to do a bit of our own research but there hasn’t been much sitting around the table discussing because there hasn’t been the time.

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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