I am the Izzard king

What happens when the crown prince of the comic monologue tackles Edward II? Eddie Izzard records his far-from-regal progress to the classical stage
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The Independent Culture
Monday, 15 May 1995

My lines are still escaping from my head. The trouble is I've learnt the lines with all my mental focus on remembering them. But when I come to saying them in rehearsal, I've got to remember where I'm going and who I'm talking to and why the hell I'm saying the lines in the first place. Consequently I stand up and walk over to someone and stare blankly at them when I get there. I've found, however, that I'm very good at paraphrasing Marlowe: "But what are Kings when regiment is gone, but ... er ... dark shapes on a quite nice day?" No one, though, will be impressed with an approximate version of Edward II.

I am also finding that Edward II gave out titles as if he had a quota to keep up with. I think he felt that titles were like sweets and he owned the sweet-shop.

Tuesday 16 May

Worked on my lines last night and today... (prompt)... I think I have them. I'm beginning to feel truthful in some scenes. I'm also beginning to get a feel for Edward although he has a very confusing "through line". Rather than be king, he would seem to prefer just to have wild sex with Piers Gaveston (my main love obsession in the play). But he does like the idea of having the power of the king. Historically his dad (Edward I) did force various factional groups to accept him as king by sticking a large sword into people. Edward II therefore inherited an electric political situation with some very pissed-off Scots and some very pushy barons in England as well. All in all Edward keeps wavering between being king and just wanting to go and live with Gaveston in a thatched cottage (Edward liked thatching and ditch digging and hedging).

I do a lot of snogging. I keep having conversations with actors - male and female, going "OK, I'll put my hand here and you grab me - is this a major snog or just an everyday snog?" My long resignation-of-the-crown scene worked fairly well today. This is a difficult scene as I have four pages of Edward trying to decide whether it is better for his health if he abdicates or not.

Wednesday 17 May

Worked on the Neath Abbey scene. This is where Edward was captured when on the run from Queen Isabel (the wife) and Mortimer (her lover). As you can see, lovers for royalty are as common in 1310 as in 1995. Edward here talks about "the life contemplative", which he is really into. This is one of the few points in Marlowe's play that Edward talks about his love of the simple life (as I mentioned earlier).

I've decided to do as much rehearsal as possible with the crown on. This is because it is a really weird hat. No wonder Queen Liz walks slowly on state occasions. If the crown falls off her head or wobbles or slides into a rakish slant, she would look a complete berk. I've so far discovered you can't run with a crown. If you do, you have to hold on to the crown with one hand like Humphrey Bogart running for a taxi, and this looks a tad weird. Also, once it's on your head, you've got to just leave it there - you can't keep adjusting it in public. It is too much a centre of focus. If I pull this crown down too far, my ears stick out; If it slips over my ears, it's around my neck and it's a huge, weird necklace. I've also worked out that the best way to wear a crown on your head is tipped diagonally back. Then the crown actually sits on "the crown" of your head. Perhaps this is all just logic.

Did the second run-through today. Started badly. Didn't have my "intentions" sorted out. Your "intentions" are the same as your "motivation" which is a word bandied about by characters in films where you see actors making a film. An actor will go up to the director and say: "But, Harry, what's my motivation here?" and Harry, the hack director, will say: "Your motivation is the $500 I'm paying you." Everybody laughs and we cut to a gorilla in a car. But what it really means is the direction you are mentally heading in each scene or each "beat" of a scene (I'm not going to explain "beat" because it means what you'd think it means). If I don't work out my intentions in a scene I find I just tend to talk too fast and wave my hands around. This makes me look less like Edward II, and more like Steve the fast- talking windmill.

Thursday 18 May

My diction is still less than perfect. I tend to drop the power from the ends of lines. I tend to say lines like: "My nobles rule, I bear the name of King, I wear the crown but... mumble rumble scrumble." I have to imagine I'm over-enunciating in my head in order to actually be speaking clearly. I still have my mumbling problem that I have had since I was a kid when I was attacked by a dog who didn't have much to say for himself.

Friday 19 May

Was kind of emotionally knackered, after trailing Edward's emotional path for the last three days. Today I wasn't quite in there but maybe that has to happen at some point. Had to shoot off to get a haircut. I took the crown with me and sat in the hairdressers getting bits cut off while slipping the crown on and off my head. I looked not unlike a pillock.

Saturday 20 May

The technical rehearsal. I have a vast mouth ulcer and my nose feels as if someone hit me. All this from a haircut? Must be stress. I'm wandering round the set trying to make the unfamiliar seem familiar. Today was a long day. Having done four runs of the play, it is a pisser to move back to the position of doing the play in bits again.

Monday 22 May

More tech rehearsal. We're supposed to do a dress rehearsal this evening but it doesn't happen - we're still teching.

Tuesday 23 May

First preview. The audience reacted well. It was good to finally get in front of real people. I was fairly happy with myself - no major screw- ups. The audience seemed a little unsure whether they were allowed to laugh in the scenes where there is comedy. After the performance I was looking around to get an impression of how the other actors felt it had gone. Generally it seemed a good vibe. But tomorrow could be a problem because after a good first show, we could get over-confident and screw up the second show. But then again, "what the heavens appoint..."

n Eddie Izzard plays the title role in Marlowe's 'Edward II' at the Haymarket, Leicester to 10 June (0116 253 9797). He returns to the West End with his own stand-up show in October