I have never been nervous before a lecture, a broadcast, or a performance. My wife thinks I am abnormal. Personally, I think it is more to do with being in control of what is about to happen. If you have prepared properly, then what is there to be nervous about? I know many actors would disagree. Maybe I'm just lucky. But when you have prepared something for other people to perform, and you are suddenly completely out of control, that, it seems, is a different matter. As I left the Green Room before the first performance, I felt something in the pit of my stomach I did not recognize. I reported it to Hilary, and she recognized the symptoms immediately. ‘Butterflies’, she called them. So that's what butterflies feel like, I thought. I had only known the cast a few weeks, had hardly exchanged a hundred non-Shakespearian words with most of them, and yet I felt for them as if they were my children.
There was a real atmosphere of expectation as the audience gathered. I was curious to see who would be there. Would it be all scholars and Shakespeare buffs? No, it seemed a typical Globe audience, with an across-the-board age range, teachers and students, families, business parties, enthusiasts, Japanese tourists, Americans … Some – as I learned in the talkback session – were unaware there was to be anything special about the performance that night until they arrived, or if they had known they had forgotten.
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