| Inside the Rehearsal Room

Week Three, Day Four

In today’s rehearsal, Michael and the cast return to Scene Twenty-Six, focusing on the altercation between Fluellen and Williams, played by Matt Ryan and Norman Bowman. Movement Director Michael Ashcroft is giving advice about the physical contact between the two. With regard to one actor striking another, Michael comments: ‘I would always prefer not to hit on the face.’

actor during theatre rehearsals
Henry V rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

They run the scene, following which Michael encourages Matt to ‘keep the anxiety’. Of Williams’ outspoken comments, Michael observes to the other characters: ‘The honesty of the way he’s talking, so directly, is something you’re not used to in the presence of the king.’ He focuses on details of stagecraft: ‘It’d be great to bring it down here a little bit, and you can help with that… A bit more volume there, a bit more presentation.’ There’s a discussion about the business of giving Williams the money, Michael considering the various options – ‘There’s another version, if you want…’ Of which Jude asks: ‘What’s cleaner?’

Being the third week of rehearsals, the cast are attempting to be ‘off-book’ – having learnt their lines and therefore no longer needing to use their scripts. However, actors occasionally ask Rhiannon, the DSM, for a prompt and Michael also corrects mistakes. One actor, he notes, has a habit of ‘inverting your sentences’. At the end of the session, Michael tells the cast: ‘Look at the lines, all of you, in that’.

Towards the end of the day’s rehearsal they run through everything they did earlier. ‘It’ll probably help me more than it’ll help you, to find the arc of it,’ comments Michael. It will also help him decide the rehearsal schedule for next week, in terms of which scenes or moments he and the cast need to focus on.

Michael encourages the actors to ‘find the tone’ of scenes when running them. Of the St Crispin Day’s speech, he asks them to ‘play with what you get’. Afterwards, Michael thinks the runthrough worthwhile: ‘I made a lot of notes, of things I think we can excavate in scenes. It’s in a good place with the lines, which means we can rehearse. It means we can dissect and analyse.’ He suggests that he and Jude do another solo session together, then asks all the cast to return to their scripts over the weekend – ‘This is the place where mistakes can be learnt as facts.’

There follows a brief session looking at the transition between scenes fourteen and fifteen, with Katharine and Alice going off and the French king and his counsel coming on. ‘Hold on to your position at the end,’ Michael says to Richard (Charles). ‘Don’t let that haste lose its authority. It’s about him finding his authoritative voice.’