Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Leeds Castle, Kent

We are in Kent at Leeds Castle. The castle is at the top of the hill, surrounded by the moat. The portcullis and the gangway go down to a little road, which comes down to the gardens, which are beautifully manicured.

Transcript of Podcast

My good sweet mouse I commend me heartily to you…

We are in Kent at Leeds Castle. The castle is at the top of the hill, surrounded by the moat. The portcullis and the gangway go down to a little road, which comes down to the gardens, which are beautifully manicured. The road leads into some more gardens, and the maze which we are yet to explore. The stage space is a bit of cornered-off green, which is just opposite the moat in front of the castle. It is sheltered and surrounded by beautiful flowers and foliage. It has a gorgeous old outhouse at the back, which I think is a converted barn. There is an impressive tent erected where they shelter the champagne for the punters – which looks really quite appealing when we are performing the show. This place is absolutely beautiful – there’s even a little stream – it’s so picturesque. It’s just like the scene in the film Elizabeth when they have the water festival party. We warm up before the show in this place by one of the more modern houses, in a little rose garden. It’s so peaceful, and perfectly Elizabethan too – you can breathe in the history there.

The weather has been idyllic. In Bristol the sun made the show and the audience completely different. But here it has been heavenly. Yesterday, as we were performing, the clouds turned red – in “gallop apace…” we were talking to the clouds literally as they were there looking like horses galloping into the sun. It was marvellous. The sun makes a difference, because you’re not fighting against the elements. You feel warm and come to life, rather than, well, sometimes the wind gets in your bones, and you feel like you are fighting for your life. The sun also changes the way the stage is illuminated, it seems somehow more naturally theatrical. I know people have said that the rain and the wind make the play more dramatic, giving it an epic quality. But the sun makes you feel opened up and freer. The audience were very engaged last night, and were audibly responsive. When it rains, you can’t hear much of that. It feels incredibly different.

We’re having time and space to develop our characters now and be a bit freer. Everyone’s performance is growing and it’s starting to feel really exciting like we’re really taking the play to a new world. Everyone in the cast has been determined and strong which has been really inspiring. Seeing how everyone else coped with the harsh weather has really helped me. Now that it is a bit easier, we’ve got tougher, and it really just feels quite exciting. I can’t wait to do the show each night – a little drop of rain is nothing. I have a pair of thermal underpants standing by, but right now we don’t even have to wear our socks. And finally my bikini is sitting very comfortably.

I am beginning to enjoy the travelling. I feel like I could live out of a bag happily for a lot longer. I haven’t been home, even when I could have done. It’s quite nice to have nothing, especially when you’re getting into a costume – it feels as though that’s your home, so going home and putting your own clothes on feels a bit strange.

When you get to the set, it feels very relaxed – the focus is on that. I’m completely knackered, but in a good way – a warm exhaustion. To begin with I didn’t let myself disconnect with Juliet mentally, so I found myself not really letting what I was experiencing in the play, emotionally and psychologically, go. I can now, thank goodness. I always get a bit confused with that.

We have to sew our costumes up a lot. I’m on my second pair of shoes. Initially they were ballet pumps, but I’ve gone for a pair that’s better in the rain. There is constant immediate sewing done by Kelly, especially when we’re throwing ourselves around the stage. I think Woody, Paul, has gone through two pairs of trousers. And the stage is becoming so warped, that it seems to damage the clothes more. The sun is shrinks the wood and the rain makes it swollen, but we will go on naked if needs be – that’s how committed we are. There is a bit of glass in the van window that keeps popping out. We’re never sure if it will stay in during the show.

The audience is a complete mix, champagne drinkers, opera goers, and people in their early twenties, but no children. It is a real theatre-going crowd and very vocal. Yesterday it seemed as though they were much more emotionally affected by the end of the play; they seemed quietly accepting. And the ushers are wonderful. If we need to use the loo in the interval, we have to skip the queue ahead of the punters, who want to ask us questions.

Juliet’s changing all the time; she is almost getting frizzante, cheeky and goofy. Perhaps that’s because I’m more relaxed. Juliet’s a bit less scared to be in her own world and braver when she needs to be. Because it’s very consuming and demands that you experience so much within the play, I haven’t really had much time, or allowed myself, to decide or fix what’s going on. When we’re doing the scenes, we want it to remain alive, so I’m open to what dynamics other people have in the scene. Sometimes with Lord and Lady Capulet, it’s very aggressive, and sometimes it’s more terrifyingly distant, and unpredictable. It’s the same with the Nurse; we play around with it and choose how to say stuff to get what we want.

The play is growing and growing, becoming more explosive. I think it’s getting richer. We’re grading the different levels of emotion and we’ve introduced more contact; we’re challenging each other more, because we know what we’re doing. Some scenes, like the banishment scene, which we rehearsed on an epic level, is finding new ground in banality, which is quite strange. I find myself, rather than going to dramatic extremes, going from moment to moment, thought by thought. In some scenes, there are things you say which you realise mean something so much deeper than you’ve had a chance to explore before. There was something last night that nearly made me giggle as I was being dead. Richard grabs Tyne as the apothecary from the van, but the door wouldn’t open. All I could here was her being pulled violently, it sounded really awful, but because I was nervous, I got the giggles. Tyne was fine though, in the end.

… And so sweet mouse, farewell, and brook our long journey with patience,

Ellie Piercy

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