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Living in the Present at Shakespeare's Globe

Posted on February 8, 2016 at 9:20 AM

Last month we had the privilege of attending a day long workshop at Shakespeare’s Globe, facilitated by the fantastic Jacqueline Defferary. Having never been to the Globe before, I was excited but also a little nervous. Should I have swotted up on Shakespeare’s 37 plays beforehand? Would I get laughed at for mixing up my comedies with my tragedies, confusing my Olivia with my Ophelia? To add to my anxiety, my train was delayed which meant that ten minutes after we were supposed to begin I was still running along the Southbank looking decidedly less athletic than the Lycra-clad joggers that glided passed me. However, I needn’t have worried. I arrived to a hot cup of coffee thanks to our producer Amanda and a very warm welcome from Jacqueline who immediately put everyone at their ease. She had even dressed for us ex-military lot by wearing a camouflage design waterproof (although she claimed this was pure coincidence…;).

We began the day with a tour of the theatre and even though the weather was icy cold, the open-air theatre space felt cosy and inviting. The Globe is a polygon with 20 sides and the audience sit on all sides of the theatre as well as standing in the yard, creating a sense of intimacy between actors and audience that you don’t usually get in a proscenium arch theatre. When we stood on the stage and practiced projecting our voices, I imagined being cocooned by a crowd of people on opening night. It felt comforting rather than claustrophobic (although I might change my mind when I’m back-stage shaking uncontrollably waiting to perform Richard III).

After the tour we moved to the rehearsal rooms and warmed-up by playing games that got us moving as well as listening to each other. It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself and each other by reflecting on how you react to simple exercises. For example, we paired up and took it in turns to lead our partner around the room whilst our partner kept their eyes shut. Afterwards we explored whether people felt more comfortable as a leader or as a follower and discovered that for some people, neither role felt right. By increasing our self-awareness we become conscious of how far we need to stretch our own ‘truth’ in order to portray a character convincingly.

We then delved into Shakespeare’s Richard III, focusing on the relationship between Richard and Lady Anne. Using part of their duologue that takes place at Lady Anne’s late husband’s funeral, Jacqueline taught us various techniques that we can use to explore character. By analysing the intention behind every line and also working with physicality we were able to portray Richard and Anne in numerous different ways. Deliberately emphasising certain characteristics helped us to understand the complex nature of these two people.

We moved on to look at a section of Richard’s opening monologue and Jacqueline asked us to highlight all of the personal pronouns he uses. It quickly became obvious from the repetitive use of ‘I’ that Richard is a narcissist: in the main part he thinks, talks and cares about himself. We repeated the same exercise with a monologue of Lady Anne’s and the difference was astounding. It’s funny how again such a simple exercise can reveal so much.

Our session was undoubtedly useful for stimulating our thinking about Richard III before we leap into our rehearsal schedule. However, it isn’t Richard’s machinations that are still playing on my mind; it is the advice that Jacqueline offered us before we left. She reminded us that the most important thing with acting (or any art form) is to live in the present and enjoy creating art for art’s sake. If we take a particular role or perform with the aim of gaining something greater than the satisfaction of communicating ideas and emotion through our art, then we are courting disappointment. Like many people, I find it difficult to live in the present most of the time. I get caught up in resentment from the past and admit to being guilty of thinking ‘I’ll be happy when…’ It’s quite difficult to succumb to this sort of thinking when you‘re acting, which is probably why I enjoy it so much. It might also be why some people find acting therapeutic. Although you draw on your own past experiences when portraying a character, acting demands you are ‘present’ in order to listen to the other actors on stage, control your own body and deliver a compelling performance.


Left to Right - Androcles, Caroline, kneeling Niccy CVP blog author, Andy, Jacqueline Defferary Globe practitioner, Shaun, Max.

Categories: Richard III