We have mused on The Bard and now that Season One is airing, we are Celebrating The Bard! This is a series where we asked each of our ensemble members to write down some background on why they wanted to do the piece they did, how they feel it relates to modern life, what challenges and/or choices they faced and why and any other information that would be of interest to you, the audience. Director, Sally McLean, also shares some thoughts on the process from her perspective to give views from both sides of the camera. Each “Celebrating The Bard” piece will be published the Friday after the ensemble member’s episode has aired.
CELEBRATING THE BARD – MICHALA BANAS ON PLAYING PHEBE FROM “AS YOU LIKE IT”
I chose Phebe from “As You Like It” because I knew it would be fun. Embarrassingly, this is my first attempt at Shakespeare, so I didn’t want to scare myself too much by doing a heavy piece. I was scared enough as it was just tackling this material!
This speech relates to anyone who has ever fallen in love with someone, even if they were trying not to. So, most of the human population I would think. It’s always funny to see someone argue with themselves about why they do or do not have romantic feelings for somebody, because most of us have been there- Its torture when its happening to you, but amusing when you see it in someone else. I think that’s why I liked this piece so much- I saw me in it, and I knew it would reflect the same for many others. Men and women alike.
I hope everyone has a giggle at not only what is happening in this modern day version, but more so at the fact that we still have the same issues, insecurities and doubts as human beings 400 odd years after this was actually written. We have changed so much, but at the same time, not very much at all.
CELEBRATING THE BARD – SALLY McLEAN ON DIRECTING PHEBE
There are so many reasons I love this episode. I love all the episodes, but this one was just so much fun to prep and rehearse and shoot. And I couldn’t ask for a better colleague and friend to bounce ideas off and play with than Michala.
When Michala agreed to join the fray on this project, she was on it and working from the moment she said “Yes!”. Which I knew she would be, which is one of the reasons why I asked her on board. It was also the first time she would be tackling Shakespeare and I knew that she would find it challenging and that would be part of the attraction. And she herself has said it was one of the things that drew her to the project – the challenge of something new.
It’s one of the things I love about her as a person and actor. She is always prepared to have a go, to try, to learn and she always delivers. She loves what she does and that, in my opinion, is the cornerstone to anything we do in life. Michala’s enthusiasm, intelligence and brilliant sense of humour, not to mention her enormous talent, make her a joy to work with and to watch – and this piece is no exception.
We talked about different pieces initially, but then both hit on Phebe as the one she should do. The sense of humour, the humanity of it and the setting of being somewhat tipsy at a house party and essentially drunk texting Ganymede at the end of the piece were all things that I knew would be perfect for Michala to play with – and I knew that she’d find the way through in a totally grounded, yet hilarious way.
Most of our rehearsal time was spent working out the words and phrases – as is always the way. One of the things I’ve loved about this project is the challenge I am faced with when prepping each piece – working my own way through the text and meaning, so I can guide the others, if needed. And Michala did her homework. She committed (as I knew she would) and came up with some really interesting questions and thoughts that challenged my knowledge and made me look deeper too. And that’s the best kind of working relationship, in my opinion.
Michala has also been personally so supportive of myself and this whole process. When our schedules would allow, the odd lunches or coffees we managed to fit in around everything else were one of the things that kept me sane and moving forward and for that as well I will always be grateful. It is a great delight to work with talented actors that you respect – it is even better when they are also your friends. When it’s a two-way street and you know that you’re both working as hard as the other to make a piece take shape, it just means it’s so much the sweeter when it does all come together.
I have been reading with delight the amazing feedback appearing on Twitter and Facebook for Michala’s work in this episode and am just so pleased. Michala’s work in this series speaks to a lot of things, but particularly part of my personal crusade on this subject – with Shakespeare, if you have the talent as an actor and understand what you’re saying, the rest will take care of itself. In other words, you don’t have to already be a “Shakespeare actor” to play Shakespeare. You just have to be an actor who works, gets curious, investigates and is then prepared to ask questions to get the answers to make the choices that are in line with what’s on the page, which in turn will make that character come to life for everyone – regardless of whether they are a “Shakespeare audience” or not.
Really, we are just actors and audiences coming together through the work of a guy called Shakespeare.
(Who I think would have loved Michala’s “taunting letter” to Ganymede and if mobile phones had been around in his day, may have even written that into the text himself … because we know how much he enjoyed a bit of bawd! See? Everything can be Shakespearean if you look at it the right way!)
See Michala’s episode below. Just click the red Play button: