Paul Scofield won the Academy Award for A Man for All Seasons because his portrayal of Sir Thomas More eclipsed every other actor in the film. He’d had two years rehearsal for that performance – a year in London’s West End and a year on Broadway. He was an actor of great depth and the long runs afforded him the opportunity to go deeper – because that was the sort of actor he was – always going deeper and never allowing himself to get too comfortable.
I know this because, about 40 years ago, I played his daughter in a six month run of the Tempest and I watched him go from an almost flat delivery at the first read-through to an earth-shattering performance that, every night, rattled my bones.
I have probably spent my whole acting life trying to figure out how he did that. That’s what actors’ do-try and figure out how to act better. Seek out teachers. Download people. Mumble to themselves on the street.
You luck out sometimes and get your hands on a brilliant text and you’re compelled by that text, hounded really, to raise your game. Carolyn Smart’s “Hooked” has made me raise my game.
Poets are so demanding. You have to stretch yourself out of all recognition to ford their streams of consciousness while juggling their hyperboles and metaphors. The ladies in “Hooked” are so demanding. They demand that I treat them all equally. If I go deeper with one of them they all insist that I must go as deep with each of them.
The audience is so demanding – just by virtue of the fact that they’re right there, at my elbow – as close as I was to Paul Scofield. Some of them know the characters really well. When you’re not locked in a staring match, they’re watching you breathe
My director is not demanding at all. He trusts me implicitly. He says only nice things. I believe in myself around him. I’ve raised my game.
I’ve performed Hooked to intimate audiences in peoples’ homes for three years with long gaps between shows affording me time to rehearse whenever and wherever I felt like with whichever character presented herself to me. I free fall deeper and deeper into their worlds and the mind of their creator.
I would like to land somewhere.
The format of house shows with food and wine is richly rewarding but cumbersome. I want to be able to pack the show in a suitcase and go anywhere with it.
I want to leave home. I want to run away to the theatre
I want to talk to my audience, act the part of hostess. I want to find a way to fold in biographical details so audiences don’t feel ignorant or wish they’d read the programme. I want to illuminate them.
I want Carolyn Smart to reap rewards for her great talent. I want audiences to leave the theatre as if they’ve had one of the greatest history lessons of their lives. I want to leave a legacy for other actresses to take on this demanding and astonishing script.