Do you prefer to show or tell when describing something particular to your audience? Or perhaps you’re fairly dexterous and can do both and embrace the performer that’s within you, that’s within us all.
Performers, despite the nature of their work, often find it difficult to talk about what they do, accustomed as they are to display and, in the case of actors, habitually showing and telling.
However, contrary to this outward engagement with audiences, actors can find talking about what they do and how they do it at times difficult, awkward, terrifying and pointless as well as stimulating, focusing and educative.
For a great deal of my career I’ve had the delight of getting under the skin of some of the country’s most brilliant actors and carefully persuade them to reveal how and why they perform.
Acting is a silent craft in many ways and even though we frequently get access to our favourite stars via the various comedy led chat shows, we rarely get a true insight into the craft of their work. An actor’s job is to let the words of others speak while their months of preparation go unseen and unheard.
My passion is to make the art of performance talk to all and one of the best ways of doing this is by encouraging performers to peel back their protective layers and enable them to share their personalities and craft. Although I’ve been doing this a long time my aim is always to get a balance of thrill, surprise, entertainment, and information and I was lucky enough to develop an instinct for this during my time at the RSC. Three times a week I was on stage in front of 1,000 people a time, talking with actors and creatives about their work. These live – never rehearsed – sessions were a blend of rigorous analysis and good old-fashioned entertainment and there was always something learnt during each 90-minute occasion.
This week on Digital Theatre Plus we publish the transcript of our filmed interview of Richard Armitage in conversation with arts journalist Matt Wolf. The occasion took place on the set of The Crucible, which was staged at The Old Vic last autumn with Richard in the lead role of John Proctor.
It was a sunny September afternoon and people were queuing around the block to get a ticket. The auditorium was packed to the rafters and it felt more like we were waiting for a rock star to come on rather than an actor who would be discussing the finer detail of his character building. The lights dimmed, the excitement rose and the house burst into rapturous applause as Richard strolled onto the stage with all the ease of the Hollywood leading man that he is. He stood in the limelight soaking up the warmth and then sat down opposite Matt. It was at this point that the mood changed. You could have heard a pin drop as moment by moment all the bravura of Richard’s entrance melted and he became his quieter, gentler and more reflective self. With gentle probing and coaxing from Max, he began to unravel his process on Proctor and openly discuss the challenges and anxieties that faced him during rehearsal and in performance.
The conversation lasted for 40 minutes. There were moments of silence as Richard took the time to consider particular questions that he answered thoughtfully. The intimacy of the occasion was a joy and the respect for craft and process from both the interviewer and his guest tangible. It was a wonderful example of how much value there is in giving actors an appropriate platform to discuss their work.
Today, on Digital Theatre Plus, you can enjoy the full transcript of the interview and Richard and Matt’s talking heads.
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