This is David's fourth blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, where he talks about how his character is developing and cutting lines from the script.
Transcript of Podcast
We’ve got through the whole play which is great. It's good to have said all the words. This first time I feel as if I said them with a lot of anger and now I can go back and start doing further work. I’ve done one layer and now I can go back and do another layer on top of it.
Having done the last scenes seems to now be influencing the earlier work. For example, yesterday, when I was saying my final couple of speeches, it did strike me there are certain things that happen at the end of the play that I can highlight, which will resonate against things at the beginning. These things that I’ve discovered create more of a journey. Yesterday we had the supernumeraries in [members of the cast who take part in crowd scenes, they have very limited rehearsal time, are paid less than the regular cast, and are often drama students]. They help out at various times and because we only have them in for certain rehearsals, when they are in we tend to concentrate on the bits they are in. So yesterday afternoon, when they were in, we didn’t run in any kind or order, just worked on their bits.
We found ourselves doing the very beginning and the very end of the play, which was very useful. At the end of the play the last five or six lines are about Tamora. It is devoid of pity, Lucius describes her as devoid of pity and he treats her corpse without pity. I thought that was a very personal reaction, he doesn’t just treat her as Queen of the Goths. The we went back and did the beginning of the play where Lucius and Tamora are on stage at the same time, and there are a couple of lines I could direct at her, but I thought it wasn’t very interesting if I did that. At the start of the play she is a high ranking prisoner, Queen of the Goths but I don’t have any enmity against her except as a Goth. Then that changes, it becomes very personal. That's one element which has become clearer, the development of Lucius's feelings towards individuals like Tamora, because of the things she and Aaron have orchestrated against my family. That is a way in which work on the later scenes is influencing the earlier ones.
In the final few scenes, Lucius comes back from banishment. I’ve had to piece together what happened in that banishment. We’ve worked out that the period of time Lucius is away from Rome is eight or nine months because during that time Tamora has a baby. His meeting the Goths would have been quite an event in itself – last time they saw him he was dragging away prisoners and their queen. He had just killed many of them and reduced their nation and land to a fraction of what it was. Then here Lucius is, knocking on their door, saying please let me in. We thought that would have been nasty, he probably wouldn’t have been treated very well, and he would have been absolutely on his own – no slave or servant or anything. Then when he comes back to Rome one of the first people he sees is Aaron, which is interesting. What I’ve got out of this week is that Lucius, as a result of everything that has happened, will be very guarded as an Emperor. He's just seen that if you give someone an inch they’ll take a mile – and the consequences for the Andronicus family were huge. There are only three of them left - Lucius, Marcus and Young Lucius - so all trust has been broken. I think it will be a tough regime under Lucius. The line I’d pick out is the one he says in his speech to the auditory, when he says:
I am the turnéd-forth, ..
In the Folio it is slightly different, but in both the meaning is similar: I am the turned out, I am the castaway, I am the rejected. I think that really hurts Lucius. He spends a line talking about Lavinia, a line talking about his brothers, a couple of lines talking about Titus, and half a dozen lines talking about himself:
Lastly myself, unkindly banishéd,
The gates shut on me, and turned weeping out
To beg relief among Rome's enemies,
Who drowned their enmity in my true tears
And oped their arms to embrace me as a friend.
I think he is really hurt by that – it's feeding his toughness at the end. It is a wonderful speech – well it is on paper, we’ll see how it turns out. To have the gates shut on you, the oldest surviving son of the Andronicus family, one of the premier families of Rome. To be thrown out. These are proud, proud people. That has been the key section this week. The speech is also about persuasion. He has got to persuade all the people who are listening to him that he was forced into this. On the face of it, Lucius has disappeared for a while and he has come back with an army made up from the enemy. He has to persuade them why he did it – that he was forced into it. It is an interesting parallel with Coriolanus. We have talked about that in rehearsals a bit, and the editor of the Arden edition makes quite a lot of it. This was a template if you like for that aspect of Coriolanus. People who see both at the Globe this summer will be able to compare.
This isn’t the end of my journey with Lucius. I had a very good session with Giles Block yesterday, who does text work at the Globe. He has spent many, many years trying to find clues in the text to help actors. I went through all my lines with him yesterday. It is very good just to string all my lines together. I’d say each section of speech and he’d make comments, suggest tweaks or start a discussion. All the suggestions he makes come from the text, they aren’t directorial. They are the result of his textual study, not just of the play, but of Shakespeare in general. That session has highlighted to me that there are a few areas where I’m not quite clear of the thought behind the line.
Next week we will begin to run sections of the play, then run it in its entirety. That will give Lucy [the Director] the opportunity to see the play from the outside, to see the journeys people are making, so she will be able to comment further on what we are all doing. We have got all the building blocks now, it is just a matter of putting them all together. So I expect Lucius will change quite a bit over the next couple of weeks, and get cemented.
We toyed with cutting half a line the other day – about Aaron. I say:
A halter, soldiers! Hang him on this tree
And by his side his fruit of bastardy.
And we toyed with cutting, ‘on this tree’. We did that once or twice - only because we don’t have a tree. But then I thought we lost the rhyming couplet, so we put it back in. We thought that people accept that there isn’t a tree – they are more accepting of that in Shakespeare than in other plays. If you walk into a Pinter play and someone says, ‘Put that on the sideboard’, and there is no sideboard, it looks a bit odd. But in Shakespeare people just accept it – I suppose because in Pinter there aren’t twenty locations in two hours, but there are in Shakespeare. It is an accepted device when you do Shakespeare.
Is there a defining moment for the audience's view of Lucius?
There's a speech were placing just before the interval, Lucius's soliloquy, [III,I, 289-301] where his father says, if you love me, which I think you do, go and get an army of Goths. That leaves me on stage saying, alright, goodbye Rome, goodbye father, goodbye sister, and I’ll go and get an army of Goths and I’ll be revenged on Saturnine. That is a good moment. It comes neatly in the middle of the play, and it refers to what has happened before, it indicates what he's feeling about it at the moment, and states what he is going to do in the future. It also has the word revenge in it – ‘to be revenged on Rome and Saturnine.’ It brings up one of the main themes. I think that is a moment when the audience will understand what Lucius is about – they’ll know what he feels about what has happened and what he is going to do.
Lucius as Emperor
This is an unusual Shakespeare play in that most of the audience probably won’t know the story, so they won’t see Lucius at the start of the play as the man who is going to become the Emperor. Why is it Lucius who survives? That's an important question for me. I’m playing him. I’ve got to make it believable that this guy is wanted to be the Emperor. The audience must not be asking themselves why the Roman people want Lucius and not Saturnine. Based on the portrayal I give, I want them to understand why the common people of Rome want Lucius as Emperor. That is where the exercise concentrating on what other people in the play say about your character is very useful.
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.