Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Production Notes 1

In her penultimate blog post Siobhan discusses acting on the Globe stage, developments in the production and the looming press night.

Transcript of Podcast

Hippolyta in scene one

In the most unlikely of situations, two middle-aged people have actually fallen in love. And then this other extraordinary thing happens, which gives Hippolyta a reality check, as to what kind of world she is marrying into. As you can see by Hippolyta’s costume, we are not playing her as an actual Amazon queen, but there is no reason to suppose that things are run, where Hippolyta has come from, in exactly the same way as they are in Athens. I think that a woman who is a monarch in her own right would find it extraordinary, that women are treated as disposable items in Athens. It will give her pause for thought that the man who she has fallen in love with seems to subscribe to that school of thought. I withdraw from him a little as the scene develops; it seems to me to be the most logical way through it. So, essentially, she is in a huff, offstage, until we see here in a huff on stage, in the scene we refer to as ‘dogs’ [4.1]. As usual, the lines don’t help much, because Hippolyta doesn’t speak much. I am getting to like that now though – Hippolyta is a person who speaks when she has something to say. The exception to this is in the final scene, where she is batting for the girls, so to speak, in chipping in the insults about the little play. But that has happened after she has said she doesn’t think that this is a good idea. She says that she doesn’t really think it is fair to watch people squirm their way through something that they are not very good at, and Theseus says he is hell-bent on it, so she just says if this is how it is going to be, I’ll just chime in then.

Acting in the Globe

Last night I was under my own personal flight path. Every time I open my mouth, a jet went overhead. A few short weeks ago I would never have believed that something like that could have happened to me and I wouldn’t have had some kind of embolism, but in fact there is no arguing with it. The fact that everybody knows what the noise is, and everyone is aware of it, arriving, happening, and leaving at the same time, makes the whole thing easier. I’m learning not to pitch myself at the same intensity as planes, but go under them or over them, and hope for the best. It seems to me that this can work, that people do hear at least some of what I’m saying. It is unfortunate when it happens, as it did last night, most of the way through the ‘forgeries of jealousy’ speech, which is Titania’s weather report [2,1 82-118]. And of course, it is much easier to play the second half of the play when the sky isn’t so busy.

I have said before that I am a bit of a noise Nazi in the theatre, but actually I find it much easier to deal with here. People collapsing, giggling coughing, sneezing, moving about, is much more acceptable somehow, because I can see them, and I can see where it is happening. It is not random noise attacks, which is how it can feel when it is coming at you out of the dark in a conventional theatre. So I am a convert really. I really like playing here, but I am very grateful that I’m doing this play here. I imagine this is possible the easiest of his plays to do here.

Other developments

I’ve forgotten, because it is so long since I did this play, that it is a bit like juggling with confetti. It comes deceptively easily off the page, but so much of each scene is about where your character’s heart is, and if you don’t start it in the right place, no matter how well you act, you do feel a bit like you are running behind the bus. A lot of work has to happen off stage, and I’m beginning to have the opportunity to do that now that I am not thinking about where I put the toy donkey or where the Indian Boy is? Now that I don’t have to be dress wrangling and prop wrangling with every bit of what passes for my conscious mind, I can find opportunities to think and feel myself into the right place for the next scene. These are things that are probably not discernable at all to the audience, but they make a difference to me.

The Indian Boy last night said this was his last show, he didn’t like it. You can’t argue with a seven year old, and I do feel for him. As I advance towards him, shouting with a glittering face, it must be so bizarre. Some people are fully formed even when they are seven years old, but most people wouldn’t like standing on the stage – they are normal, and we are the freaks I’m afraid. We have three Indian boys, working on the show, so it isn’t a crisis.

I do still adore the dress. Obviously, I don’t want the dress to be wearing me, and I don’t think it does. The reason it has been so much on my mind is because of the logistics of the dress, which are to do with keeping people off the dress as much as to do with me manoeuvring it. We have not had a single performance where someone hasn’t stood on it, and it is very difficult for them, because everyone is thinking about what they have to do, not about avoiding me, because I go on for four feet behind me. We have shortened Titania’s cape, so I can now put that on by myself, I don’t need people to help me with it as I did before. I think that is quite a good idea.

So I’m a very happy bunny. I’m really, really, enjoying this. I had some friends in last night, who decided that they would just come and see it. They were down from Scotland, and they really liked it. My friend Liz is a playwright, and she is, as she says herself, the note queen, and she didn’t have any notes for me, she just loved it, and she said there are things in this production that brought out things she has never really been aware off, seeing it before.

Previews and the set

The show is shorter than it was last week. It wasn’t ever so long last week, but we have taken some bits out – but not the bits that make people laugh.

For the opening scenes in Athens we had a black floor cloth which covered the stage, and the front of the Tiring House is largely covered in black. When we move to the wood the black floor cloth was removed, it was silk and it just disappeared through the central doors of the Tiring House, and this reveals a blue circle which covers most of the stage floor. There is also a blue semi-transparent cloth, which covers the Tiring House. We have had to lose the black floor cloth. It was lovely to reveal the blue underneath, but because we were walking on fabric, which wasn’t secured, it meant we had to be tentative when it is better if you can be sure-footed. I think that is the only thing that has gone altogether. Other things have been snipped. All the dances have been tweaked which, for Tom and me, can only be good news. We will get to a stage where we do all of our dances correctly, but we haven’t done it yet. Last night the musicians were off kilter on one of the dances, and we both laughed with joy because it was them not us.

We have something we didn’t have before which is duelling drums at the beginning, which is great, it really pulls the audience in. Then we have Peter Quince making an announcement about mobile phones, although of course he doesn’t call them that. It might be so subtle and obscure that they don’t know what he is talking about.

Press night (next Wednesday) looms a bit. I hope it doesn’t rain. It hope that the people who are there to be our friends are able to be our friends in an unsoggy manner. What can you do about press night? You can’t not be aware of it. But I’m looking forward to getting all of that over with. We had a wonderful time on Tuesday night. One of those evenings where the show seemed to move up a couple of gears. New things fell into place. Lots of people had new ideas about stuff that all worked. Everyone’s timing seemed to be absolutely bang on. The next afternoon it was drizzly, and there wasn’t the same sort of feeling about it, but those are the days when you earn what they pay you. It was still a good show, and that is the point really, that you can deliver a good show when there is no free gift, like the night before. I’m quite looking forward to getting on with that.

With a production of the Dream on at Stratford as well, the critics will all be comparing them. I’m going to try to not read them, though it is difficult if you buy a daily newspaper, because then you feel like you are being a bit of a big jesse. I always read them, but latterly I have made an attempt not to seek out every single review. The ideal situation would be to read them after the event. But, like I said, I buy a daily newspaper so it is hard, you think I can’t really keep avoiding that page. I’ve got two good friends in the Stratford production, Tom Davey, who is Lysander, and Peter de Jersey who is Oberon, and who I worked with in the wards of Holby City. As soon as I can I’ll be off to Stratford to see Tom and Peter and I’ll be nicking whatever I think will be of use to me.


These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as she goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.

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