Assistant Director Nicole Charles shares insights from the third week of rehearsals.

This is Matthew Dunster’s first aerial show. The Globe has a trap door in the ceiling of the stage and a trap door in the floor of the stage, which is an exciting invitation that this show fully exploits – to use the entire stage with all its dimensions - and what better way to do this than aerially? Imogen is being approached physically first, to create the world, the feeling and the time through movement, with the text added afterwards, like a second wave. As a result, the actors need to be intensely fit to work their bodies continuously and sustain energy and accuracy. To ensure this, rehearsal commences every morning with an hour of training; starting with cardiovascular practice, jig work, followed by circuits, then 30 minutes of yoga practice. The actors’ bodies are being visibly lengthened and strengthened to meet the demands of the language, choreography, fighting and flying, night after night. All are fighting fit.

 

Despite the physical approach in rehearsal, the work with the text is equally as intense and rigorous. Every line of the play has been examined and interrogated to the detail by the cast, both with the director and Globe Associate – Text, Giles Block. No stone has been left unturned. The text has a multitude of clues embedded within it, leading us to the thoughts and feelings of the characters. We have been thoroughly enjoying analysing the double meanings within the language, discussing how to express these through the characters in ways that serve the production.

Text rehearsals

 

A passage that is an especially dark treat is one spoken by the Queen, where in the last five lines of the text, it is tricky to decipher when the Queen uses ‘she’, just who she might be referring to:

           

                                                A sly and constant girl

            Not to be shaked. The agent for Posthumus;

            And reminder to our daughter to hold

            Her marriage to that man. I’ve given her that, which,

            When taken, shall quite unpeople Imogen

            Of ambassadors from her sweet. And which,

            Unless she mend her humour, she’ll be assured

            To taste of it too.

 

The plot of Cymbeline is working remarkably well in a 21st century context. The adaptation, movement and music bring the story bang up to date. The theme of war and the way it's approached artistically is fascinating in this production, through the prism of gangland London. Particularly exciting is rediscovering the characters in this double-layered world of Shakespeare’s Britain and contemporary London, exploring its masculinity, violence and aggression, and how they behave in London 2016, when power, money, reputation and survival are at stake.

Image Hardcover book by Horia Varlan made available via a Creative Commons 2.0 license.


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