Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 1

This is the second blog entry from Matthew Kelly (Pandarus), in which he discusses early rehearsals, the read-through and circuit training.

Transcript of Podcast

Early Rehearsals

There was a lot of getting-to-know-you acting at first because it’s a big company – there are nineteen of us – so simply learning everybody’s name and character name was not easy. On the third day we played the name-game and Jamie [Ballard, Ulysses] had only just come in but he was the only one who knew everyone’s names, I reckon he was showing off! I’ve never worked with Matthew Dunster [director] before but I really like his style. I like his directness, a spade is a spade. I love that. I’m not a great believer in democracy in the theatre, I like the dictatorship way, I think the clue is in the title – “director” – I’ve worked with people who are more like facilitators, which is alright but I like being told what to do.


I love read-throughs. I was a stage manager for a long time and so I know from experience that all actors go into read-throughs thinking that everybody will be judging them. That’s the main thing about actors; they’re so busy being worried about themselves that they haven’t got time to worry about anybody else; nobody else is ever judging them at all, so they’re only ever judging themselves. As a result, I always think you can do what you like in a read-through! There were some people who weren’t there for that first read-through, for instance, Jamie Ballard [Ulysses], who has some epic speeches. But when Jamie arrived yesterday, he made absolute sense of those speeches, which are long and intricate and quite deep. I just don’t know how he’s done it, but it is a fantastic character and he’s a lovely man.


Matthew asked us yesterday, “If your character could have one modern prop, what would it be?” I’ve got two things I’d quite like for Pandarus. The first thing is that I’d like to go round with a hospital drip on wheels, but make no reference to it at all, because clearly he is a syphilitic old gut-bucket – that is what he is dying of at the end. Or the other idea was to have one of those battery-operated fans; I think it could be used in a very self-regarding, almost camp, way. So if he allows us to have anything I’d like the fan.

Circuit Training

Productions are team events, so what I love about Matthew [Dunster] is that everybody in the cast is involved all the way through; we will all be the Greek army, we will all be the Trojan army, we will all be the market place and everything else we need to be. So in order to do that and to do this kind of play, which relies enormously on pace and energy, we need to be fit. We have circuit training first thing in the morning when we’re running about and lifting and jumping – I hate it! But I’m grateful for it and it’s a great way of getting people together, trusting other people, getting to know people and bringing up the energy. The only other thing we’ve done is a bit of fight training. There is a big opening fight sequence in the prologue, which we’re all doing, then there will be big battle scenes of course, so you’ve got to start on all that early, you’ve got to be specific. I’m not a natural fighter, but some actors can really do it well. We’ve also done a bit of improvisation this morning. Just working out what we’re doing, establishing characters. As far as text is concerned, all we’re doing is sitting round in our big circle, going through scripts and discussing what every line means, which is great for me.


I can never remember how to act; every time is an entirely new experience. It’s the weirdest thing, you would think after all these years you’d get an accumulative knowledge. I’ve been working for forty-two years, yet I get more and more nervous as well as more and more certain. It’s a very odd thing but I feel safer onstage than anywhere else in the world. The theatre is where I live, when I go home to the washing up or the gas bill that’s like work. It’s a funny thing, the stage is where you are at your most vulnerable and you are putting yourself up for judgement yet it’s the only place I feel totally at home.


These comments are the actor's thoughts and ideas about the part as s / he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his / her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsals progress.

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