Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 3

In her third blog post Siobhan discusses this week's performances, preparing for the technical rehearsal and her scenes with Bottom transformed into a "Mankey".

Transcript of Podcast

In her third blog post Siobhan discusses this week's performances, preparing for the technical rehearsal and her scenes with Bottom transformed into a "Mankey".

This week

We had a run of the first three scenes yesterday [I1 and 2 and II1], slotting them together, stopping as we went on. It is delightful to see all the different worlds of the play. So it is very nice for all of us to be in the rehearsal room together now. To begin to be able to see what we are in.

Working on the individual scenes, we have got all the way through to the end of the play, but things are still changing every time we get to it, as it is informed by things that we have discovered on the journey. I am anticipating that it will be different again when we get there tomorrow or Friday. We are carrying on like this, slotting groups of scenes together and then running them for the rest of this week. The plan is, having done one, two and three yesterday; four, five and six this morning; to stick all of them together this afternoon. Then to start the same process again with the second half tomorrow morning, and do the same thing, then on Friday do the whole lot, and on Saturday run it again.

There are very few cuts in the text we are playing. Indeed, there are things in it that were cut from the last production I was in. I recognise as soon as there is something which seems new.

Today’s panic is that I fear I haven’t analysed the characters enough, that I should have used the method that I’ve used all my life until this point, rather than embarking on this new unaccustomed way of doing things. The fact is, it is not an intellectual process for these women, so in principle I do think I’m right, but in practice it is terrifying.

Working on the premise that I’m smelling my way to these performances, I’m test driving Titania’s perfume today – very flowery, and at the same time cold. So I’m hoping that will add something to the rehearsal today – at least I’ll smell nice, even if people don’t know what I’m on about. Hippolyta will obviously have to have the same perfume, but in less concentrated doses.


I haven’t had my second costume fitting yet. But, as the Director pointed out to me yesterday, my rehearsal dress has diminished in volume. It gets such a mauling that the panniers at the back have dropped a bit. I said to him, this is what happens with the passage of time – something to look forward to. It gets such a hammering that I’m now sewn in to it, to make sure that it stays on. I’m hoping that the actual dress will be a little more difficult to separate from me – I’m sure it will. I’m quite looking forward to getting into it now, to see just what it is I’m having to content with.

Next week is going to be very interesting; we are going to be Tech-ing in a way which I’ve never done before. We Tech for only part of the day, because Lear is on in the evening. Like most actors are, I’m used to a Tech were you dive in at the beginning and you just stay there until the end. You go home and sleep for a little while, and then you come back and you pick up from where you left off, and carry on. But we are only going to be able to do five hours a day. So we are going to stay in our costumes all day, and they are going to feed us. In my case I expect that it will be a bit like feeding the lions at the zoo, it will need to be bits of meat on a stick from far off, because no one can get anywhere near me because of the dress, and they will not be allowed to drop anything on this work of art. So I’m be having a lot of porridge in the morning before I come in.

Bottom and Titiania

I’m looking forward seeing Paul [Bottom] in all his gear – the nightmare that is a living prop hell - we’ve come to call him a Mankey, this cross between a Man and a Donkey. I haven’t seen his final costume yet, but I think he has big ears, and a Mohican that goes into a mane all the way down his back, and hoof-like feet, if not hands. I just know we are going to get stuck together – that his teeth will get stuck in my upholstery.

The dance is being modified as we speak. We have come to realise that the mother of all frocks will not allow me to do what we are attempting to do – and neither will my memory to be honest. So it is now a shortened, and a very succinct version, during which, lots of other characters come on. It starts the second half and you get a sort of update of where everybody is and what is happening, which will take the pressure of me, which is a good thing.

The key scene for Titania is probably where she meets Bottom, and falls rapturously in love with him [III 1]. The premise of how the drug works it that it is when you see someone that you fall in love. So when she emerges from her bower, not having seen the Mankey of her dreams, she comes out in a towering temper because there has been all this racket going on before, and shouts, “What” and then sees him. So I’m having quite a lot of fun playing two different things on two different words. “What angel” actually encompasses the whole emotional spectrum – or that is the plan. We are having a great deal of fun with the scene so far, and it will be even more fun when the children are factored into it. The children appeared for the first time on Saturday, and they are beautiful. Of course children exist in their own reality, which is much more interesting and immediate than the artificial reality which we have spent weeks constructing. So my plan of action with the children is not to look at them, except for when Titania looks at them. I’ll just carry on doing what it is that I should be doing in the moment, and hope that if/when anyone looks at me I will be in the right place that I should be at that point. When it works it will be fantastic, it might not work some of the time. That is the risk you take. It is worth it for when it will work. One of them was overheard to say, “She’s scary”, and I thought, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. If you think this is scary mate… It’s true, I am scary. For Titania, that scene is great fun, and will be even more interesting with the child in it.


The high point of the week was doing the fairy meets Mankey scene the other day. I hope it is as entertaining for the audience as it is being for us. I just enjoy that scene so much. The low point is the abyss, on the brink of which I am teetering, which is Hippolyta at the end of the play. I am picking my way along the cherrystone path, but I’m not really convinced. I have this terrible feeling – perhaps not terrible because I’ve got time to do something about it – that there is an elephant in the room, that I haven’t yet managed to address. But I’m creeping up behind it, and I will address it, by the next bulletin.

For Hippolyta the scene I feel safest talking about is the first scene, which starts in one place and rapidly deteriorates from there as it is brought to Hippolyta’s attention just what Athens is like. I am playing her as a lofty woman; she is slightly above the clouds and thinks she is the most important person on the stage. In Athens, frankly, they are barbaric, and they have this ridiculous system that a woman can be killed just because she does not want to marry the man her father wants her to marry. So it all goes pear shaped fairly quickly in that scene. For Tom and me it gets better once we have got the dance over with, so we are existing in opposition to our characters emotional arc – phew when we have got that over with.

Real life

The rehearsal period takes over your life. My house looks like it has been burgled. I would only know it had been burgled if they tidied up a bit. It looks like a bombsite. I can’t sleep properly, I sleep for about two hours at a time, and then I wake up in a raging temper because I need more sleep than I’m actually getting. Then I feel slightly undercooked all day, but at the same time it is great fun to do. I did have a bad moment yesterday when Michael Matus, who is playing Peter Quince, pointed out to me that in ten days time people, having paid, will be watching. I suddenly realised the knock on effect I’ve had of missing the first week. Which is that that I’ve felt I have a week longer than I have, which is a bit unfortunate. Earlier I wished I had more to say because it would give me more to hang on to, now I’m devoutly grateful I haven’t any more to say – I have enough to contend with trying to hang on to what I have got to do. Although the rehearsal period does take over your life, I’m willing to let that happen, because it is the most interesting thing in my life. Once the show is up and on, then I can do a salvage job on the rest of my life and my flat.

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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