26 July 2011 

In today’s post we meet Anna Jones, Assistant Director on The Globe Mysteries. She tells us about her job, the initial rehearsal sessions and really getting to grips with the text and the structure of the script. 

I’m a director based in London and New York. I was at the Globe earlier this year assisting Jacqui Somerville directing the Bible reading and through that I was introduced to Deborah Bruce, director of The Globe Mysteries, who I am now assisting.

Overall, I’ve been helping support Deborah in a variety of ways, through such things as helping prepare the rehearsal schedule, liaising between different departments when needed and casting the supernumeraries for the show. I have also been running text sessions with the actors to create opportunities to run lines in groups and to further decode and analyse the language. Tony Harrison (writer of The Globe Mysteries) has adapted and contemporised the plays from their medieval roots, but there are still unfamiliar words to the contemporary ear, such as ‘wit’ (know) or ‘boun’ (ready).  In our first week, we collectively familiarised ourselves with the different vocabulary and one of my jobs was to collate a glossary of words. Similarly, the verb construction within a line is often different to what it would be today. All this takes time to apprehend and the more we and the actors have total command over every detail, the more the audience will understand the overall meaning of a line.

The general metre is also an exciting challenge; it is predominantly in iambic tetrameter (four stresses to the line), not in iambic pentameter (five stresses) as in Shakespeare. Sometimes the line will have an irregular rhythm and in early text sessions that Tony led, he talked to us about what you learn about the sense and/or emotion of the moment if the metre spills over or is contracted. From their experience with Shakespeare and other verse forms the actors are experts at this but it’s been a new challenge for most of us to apply that knowledge to the medieval verse form. Tony also talked about the many alliterations in the text, for example, how the ‘b’s can lift the language, the ‘p’s’ can be spat out, the ‘m’s denote mourning or keening. It’s a pleasure watching the actors play with the language to serve their characters at a particular moment in the play, for instance Judas’ opening speech, which is packed full of alliteration: “Unjustly injured, I Judas, by Jesus, that Jew!’.

We started with a week of table work reading through the play and discussing its story, origins and ideas for the production as a group, which Tony was present for. At the same time, Deborah started to lead exercises with Sian the choreographer, which allowed the company to physically explore themes, for instance what angels signify in a modern context and how they might physically manifest themselves in our production. Many exciting possibilities were explored which are now feeding into the production as a whole.  In the second and third weeks, we worked through the material from the top aiming to get a general shape and rough staging for the entire show. Now Deborah is going back and doing more detailed scene work continuing to shape the story with the company in rehearsals. At the same time as that’s happening in the main rehearsal room there are parallel sessions going on with fights, magic, text, voice, movement and singing. A lot going on at once!