Playing Fluellen: An Auckland Actor Blogs for @CardiffShakesJanuary 11, 2016
An Auckland actor blogs about her experience playing Fluellen in Auckland New Zealand’s all-female Henry V, which is to be performed at Pop-up Globe in February, 2016.
Reading Henry V in preparation for the audition I was transported back to my seventh form year twenty five years ago when I first read the play and was introduced to the character of Captain Fluellen. Our English teacher was a passionate Shakespearean tutor who, when reading aloud, showcased Fluellen’s wonderful depth of character and unintended comedy and relished the mispronunciation of bs as ps that Shakespeare uses to caricature Fluellen’s Welshness.
When I heard that a Pop-up Globe was going to be built in Auckland, I was desperate to be a part of it. Director Grae Burton approached Dr Miles Gregory with a proposition to stage an all-female Henry V in conjunction with the predominantly male shows already planned. The proposal was accepted and there are now a total of 8 Shakespearean plays to be staged at the venue by various companies over the summer period. Our production of Henry V will play at three or four venues in total, with four of those nights scheduled at Pop-up Globe.
Our rehearsal period is incredibly tight for such an epic play and lines have had to be learnt in the Christmas break in preparation for our first read-through this coming weekend. It’s been an absolute pleasure to study Fluellen and fall deeper in love with him. His lectorial nature belies an incredibly loyal heart. He is scrupulously honest and prepared to think the best of people unless proven otherwise. His initial perception of the unsavoury Ancient Pistol as being ‘as valiant a man as Mark Antony’, despite being a man of ‘no estimation in the world’ conveys his lack of snobbery and judgement, one of his most endearing qualities. Moreover, he is unafraid of confrontation and quite prepared to tackle issues with people head-on, relishing debate and argument. I personally love the way Shakespeare has drawn the relationship between Fluellen and Gower. The latter is somewhat subjugated, patiently enduring Fluellen’s patronising lectures in the disciplines of war. This initially tricks the audience into believing Fluellen thinks little of his fellow captain when in fact the opposite is true; he can’t speak highly enough of him to others but nor can he censor his own preachiness in his colleague’s company.
Thanks to an audio file of Fluellen’s lines from Cardiff actor and early modern researcher Darren Freebury-Jones, I have an authentic Welsh accent to strive towards and look forward to getting stuck into rehearsals. More on those later!