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Drama workshop: Act I, scene ii

Updated Monday 7th December 2009

In a clip from 1999 Tim Pigott Smith directs a RADA student through Act I, Scene ii.

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Tim Pigott-Smith: Well okay let’s set it up in the way that you envisage it because I think that's, you know, there are as many ways of doing this as we have, but let’s have a, let’s put you at a, bring your chair over. Let’s imagine that he doesn’t even manage to get to his feet for the exit of the court.

Student: Okay, yeah.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Not out of rudeness because I don’t think he’s rude.

Student: No.

Tim Pigott-Smith: He would be proper if he had the ability to be, but out of this feeling of absolute paralysed innards. Now the only absolutely specific note that I'd give you really at this moment would be about the beginning.

Student: Mmm.

Tim Pigott-Smith:
I don’t think you, I don’t think it’s possible to do too, I think it would be wrong to do too much, to try and express too much at the beginning of the speech.

Student: Yeah.

Tim Pigott-Smith: And who do you think you're talking to when you actually first start delivering these lines?

Student:
Um.

Tim Pigott-Smith: It’s always a knotty one isn’t it?

Student:
Yeah, I don't know I mean, you know, obviously. He's talking to himself.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Yes.

Student: And he's also, I mean, I think, he says …

Tim Pigott-Smith: But we don’t talk to ourselves aloud in the flesh do we?

Student: No, not normally. But, and then he starts talking to God very quickly. So I mean I, I mean I sort of envisaged it as a kind of, almost a kind of prayer maybe. I mean, you know, the only time we do in life start talking out loud when we're really desperate is, you know, well me anyway is when you start going, you know, you start praying, you know, you start God, you know. Please do something, it’s like when you lose or.

Tim Pigott-Smith: You can talk very easily to the audience directly, and I think I would discourage your notion that there’s anything holy about this first address.

Student: Okay, all right.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Because audiences don’t like religion a lot.

Student: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: And I think, I think, I'm not saying he just turns to the audience and says God it’s, bloody hell isn’t it, I can’t stand this, you know.

Student:
Yeah.

Tim Pigott-Smith: It’s not that at all because it’s a much higher level.

Student:
Yeah.

Tim Pigott-Smith:
But I think it would be good for you, be a good exercise for you to try and talk it to us, share

Student: Yeah.

Tim Pigott-Smith: not talk it to us but share it with us.

Student: Yeah, okay, yeah.

Tim Pigott-Smith: So that I think, that doesn’t invalidate any of the things you've said about it being a prayer, about the state he's in, about the need to talk aloud.

Student: No, no.

Tim Pigott-Smith: But what I don’t think we need to do is start off with somebody who says I wish I wasn’t on a stage because I've got all these feelings that I want to keep to myself and I don’t, you know.

Student: Yeah, I know …

Tim Pigott-Smith: That's very dangerous because you've got to take these people on a journey, and this is your first moment really when you say about the first scene. I don’t know what you think about this but it’s getting to me, there's something really wrong here. You know, and we've had the whole of the first scene which you're not in and the audience should be going yeah you're right there's something wrong because there are ghosts about. Now the Elizabethan audience would have had a very specific reaction to a ghost, they would have known, you know, that mean there was something wrong because there was a soul whose life had not been resolved. So what you're doing here I think is, Shakespeare is doing is creating a bond for you with an audience who go yes we don’t know what's wrong, but sure as hell you're on to something, you know, it’s that, so I don’t think you need to be locked off.

Student: Yeah, no, yeah.

Tim Pigott-Smith:
So have a go, I mean don’t, I think the thing that finishes English audiences, so not at The Globe funnily enough but in a theatre like this is to look them dead in the eye and say it’s hell this isn’t it? They go ooh yes it is it’s awful I just wish I wasn’t here. He's going to ask me up on stage in a minute. So don’t do that, but just, but don’t close yourself off.

Student: No.

Tim Pigott-Smith: And keep, if you can, keep the feelings that you've got moving a little, a little quicker than you were when you read it.

Student: Yeah.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Don’t lose the feeling, but squeeze it into to come through a little faster.

Student: Mmm.

Tim Pigott-Smith: A lot of noise, thunder, exit, perhaps you can’t even watch them.

Student:
O that this too too solid flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Okay, do it again but just do it that, this is better but do it harder, and the thing that's throwing you is O, you're spending too long on the O.

Student: Right.

Tim Pigott-Smith: O that this too too solid flesh would melt.

Student: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith:
You know, and the first word you use is thaw, but at the beginning of the second line.

Student: You what sorry? I'm sorry?

Tim Pigott-Smith: The first word to use

Student: Yeah, thaw.

Tim Pigott-Smith: is not O but thaw.

Student: Right okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith:
O that this too too solid flesh would melt, thaw and, you know, that's where he builds to. He takes you through the first line and it springboards you into the thaw.

Student:
Right okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: And then the rest of the line just says mu de de de de de. Or, okay, but much much better, good. Okay they go, there's banging and crashing and off they go.

Student:
O that this too too solid flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew. Or that the everlasting had not fixed his canon against self-slaughter, O God, God. How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world. Fie on’t ah fie, ‘tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature possess it merely.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Okay I think you're doing really well but don’t move.

Student: Right.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Okay, just don’t move.

Student: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Be a prince who’s used to sitting there and taking it all and coping with it because as soon as you start moving it starts becoming expressive and you've got to, remember your image of him being dead.

Student: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: And then he has to think about it, a little month, and I think once you get into that section where the month keeps coming through, by what it fed on, and yet within a month let me not think on frailty thy name is woman, a little month or ere those shoes were old with which she followed my father’s body, like Niobe, all tears, why she, even she, O God a beast that wants discourse of reason would have mourned longer, at last the verb, married with my uncle - so you've got to push it through.

Student: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: You've got to go right through to the full stop - another good rule.

Student: Right.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Okay, and then that final within a month, within a month, it’s the incomprehensibility of it. How could she do it so quickly?

Student: Right.

Tim Pigott-Smith: I mean it’s disgusting anyway but so fast, it’s wrong, it’s wrong you know? Within a month ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears had left the flushing in her galled eyes, she what, that disgusting word again, ugh married ugh, you know. O most wicked speed - and here's a really useful end line - strange, O most wicked speed to post - it’s like a horse galloping between posts, you know.

Student: Yeah.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Between posts she, urgh it’s horrible, you know.

Student: Hmm.

Tim Pigott-Smith: O most wicked speed to post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets. He's not giving you those sounds by accident.

Student: No.

Tim Pigott-Smith:
They're all there, they're very strong, and then once you’ve got there you've really earned. And what I feel about this is there is something really really wrong and I don't know what to do about it - and then someone comes in.

Student:
Yeah.

Tim Pigott-Smith: I want you to go into it as quickly as you dare.

Student: Okay.

Tim Pigott-Smith: Just to get you in, all right? They all go, trumpets, drums, he's alone.

Student:
O that this too too solid flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew. Or that the everlasting had not fixed his canon against self-slaughter, O God, O God. How weary, stale flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world. Fie on’t ah fie, ‘tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature possess it merely that it should come to this. But two months dead, nay not so much, not two, so excellent a king that was to this Hyperion to a satyr so loving to my mother that he might not beteem the winds of heaven visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth, must I remember why she would hang on him, as if increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on and yet within a month, let me not think on frailty thy name is woman, a little month or ere those shoes were old with which she followed my poor father’s body, like Niobe, all tears, why she, even she, oh God a beast that wants discourse of reason would have mourned longer, married with my uncle, my father’s brother yet no more like my father than I to Hercules, within a month, ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears had left the flushing in her galled eyes, she married, O most wicked speed to post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets! It is not nor it cannot come to good. But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue.

 

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