Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

In his second blog post, Mo discusses the first day of rehearsal, examining the play and his personal rehearsal methods.

Transcript of Podcast

First day of rehearsals

It's terrifying! You basically come in and there's real, tangible excitement but also fear. It's a heady concoction. Everyone's looking at each other, sussing each other out. It felt like there were about 8 million people in the room who were introduced and we were all just thinking I hope these people aren’t all staying for the read through. And thank goodness about half of them left.

And then we did the read through. It's really good because Dominic is really not precious. He's really clever but he's not one of those people who flaunts it in your face. And I really like the cast. When I come into a rehearsal I just have to be open and I think a lot of actors do this. I think that's why I like actors because they’re vulnerable a lot of the time. You just have to say yes to the experience and try everything. I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said “What is theatre? It's a private spectacle made public.” And that's exactly what it is. And so you have to do that. So the first day was brilliant. It was really tiring actually… I walked past a building site the other day and I saw some guys and they were digging and I thought that's real work. But then I thought when you’re in a rehearsal and when you’re a writer these people are digging metaphorically for ideas. It's great work. It was a great day. It was tiring it was a good introduction.

We did discuss the play. Dominic told us about his ideas for the season, for us and then he discussed what the themes were in the play and it all felt good and very unintellectual. Very robust but not dry - that's the joy of bringing it to life. We had lectures by Farah Karim-Cooper, the Globe Education Lecturer. It was brilliant. This place is just so well resourced. She gave us a lecture about Rome and the relationship between Elizabethan/Jacobean society and Rome and why England looked so fondly to Rome in terms of the architecture of the Globe. It was fascinating. Wonderful.

The next day we had Giles who is brilliant. Just brilliant! He was an actor, went to Oxford to do history and got obsessed with the metre and rhythm of Shakespeare so he's helping us decode the text in terms of the speaking and stuff. We’re working from the first folio…I think this is because Dominic was saying that the punctuation is more accurate. There's a wonderful thing where it's laid out on the page in such a way to reflect speech patterns so you can see thoughts interrupting other thoughts, characters sharing lines and other intricate details. It's great. It aids learning. And Giles is very much concerned with making sense of the words - not directing but directing our understanding of the text and the rhythm and the fact we should be putting stresses in particular places or giving us an option and making us aware of that.

On the second day Giles talked about poetry and prose. He spoke about the differences between these two ways of writing and the different effects that can be created through employing them. It's just amazing! I’m seeing Giles again tomorrow. He's so clever and so humble. And then you start to understand why Shakespeare's brilliant.

I’m someone who likes to sit on my bum and talk a lot to mask the fact that I’m terrified. And we did sit down for a bit but then Dominic told us to stand up. He laughs - there's lots of laughter in his room. And it just helps, you know. So we got it up and we were just mucking around and laughing and it just takes the tension out. So yes, we have got the play up on its feet. We’re a week short of rehearsal time so it's a shorter time to rehearse and in a way I think that's good because it forces you to make decisions.

I always have a very definite way of rehearsing. A lot of acting in this country is cerebral and I love actually doing it. I like to know a line because it's about transmitting these words to an audience, not with your voice but through what you’re doing. Acting is doing. So we’ll go through the script. And the reason why Shakespeare is so brilliant because it's all encoded in there – everything you should do is included in the words!

The way that I work is learn the words, take the notes from the director, put the actions it and then you have a different combination of actions so each night you play it you can come up with variants as long as you keep your super objective. But it's different, working with Shakespeare, because there are so many other layers. And I feel really lucky because Jonathan Cake [who plays Coriolanus] is doing all the hard work. We’re lucky, we’ve got lots of lovely bits and he's having to drive it. I know how difficult it is because I played Oedipus last year and it was exhausting. So that's how I work.

What I try and do is wait for the inspiration from the rehearsal floor to see what the director will say. I try not to come in with too many ideas because sometimes if you do that you’re sewing it up before you’ve had time to breathe. What's nice about this is that all of the actors get to see experts in text, voice and movement as well as Dominic. I’ll see what comes of that then I’ll action it afterwards. Working on Coriolanus is better than a modern play text because it feels less general. Shakespeare's texts are encoded which actions that fit the words – I can’t think of any examples right now! But you can read your lines and then go back and put an action to them and really quickly you find you’re not just standing on stage like a lemon thinking when's my next line? Someone gives you an impulse and I know how I respond to that. So if I’ve got my action in my head and with that action comes the line.


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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