Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 3

This is David's final blog post. This week he discusses attending rehearsals, the importance of timing in comedy, and whether or not to shave his beard.

Transcript of Podcast


We’ve been working on the second half of the The Comedy of Errors, and in the second half I’m only on in Act Five, which is just one long scene. I come in about a third of the way through that, so my rehearsals this week have been fairly limited. I’ve had an hour or so here and there. It has been very good to get all the way through the play, and it is a great conclusion to the play. It is a really well written fifth act. It is great to have come to it early in terms of rehearsing. Notoriously, Shakespeare Act Five's can be left in the cold a bit, so to come to it early and do it in as much depth as everything else is very good. Because I haven’t been called an awful lot, I came in one day to observe the rehearsal of a scene I’m not in. That was very interesting. Character-wise it is important I arrive in Act Five without the first idea of what has been going on, but actor-wise it is nice to feel part of the company and to have an idea of the shape of the show – it helps me feel I’m in the same play.

We haven’t resolved the beard. I have spoken to Chris [Luscombe, the Director of Comedy] about it, and he isn’t keen on the beard. He wants the Duke to be as glamorous as possible, and, reading between the lines, he doesn’t think my beard is glamorous. I do like it for Lucius though. I’ve yet to have a conversation with Janet [Bird, the designer for Comedy], but the razor could come out at any time I think. The second half of the season is predominately Comedy, so I have to do what is better for that.

Working on a comedy

Some leading light, a comedian or a comic actor, said that for comedy it has to be split second timing, and with other drama it can be anywhere within a minute. I do think timing is important with comedy. If you are timing a line in order to get a pay-off laugh it is very important. Obviously in a farce, as Comedy is in many ways, timing of things like entrances and exits is very important. As a company the majority of us went to see a farce called See How They Run which Doug [Hodge, who plays Titus] is directing. He says directing farce is precision engineering. It can be as specific as if somebody raises an arm while somebody else is walking forward, they don’t get a laugh, but if they don’t raise their arm, they do get a laugh. So I think somebody who has experience of farce and low comedy would argue that timing is absolutely of the essence.

With tragedy or straight drama I think it is still very important to keep the energy going. Probably one of the things about watching farce is that you notice how well it is timed. You sit there and you think, that's fantastic, the way they’ve done that. You appreciate the mechanics of it. It is more apparent in comedy or farce. A useful analogy is keeping the ball in the air – you have to keep the ball in the air whether it is a tragedy or a farce, if it drops the energy goes and the audience lose interest. That is the same whatever kind of play you are doing.

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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