BSC Address

Saturday, August 25, 2007


I feel for Dominic Leyton this weekend. His play COLLISION, which we premiered to great success three years ago and revived for a British Council visit to Malta, has been made into a film by Gary Love, titled Sugarhouse. The critics have been merciless.

I couldn't face seeing the film so can only rely on watching the trailer and reading the reviews, but it seems Love has turned this excellent play about a young black, drug-addicted man and his confrontation with a middle-class failure, into a gangster movie. Which seems odd given that Leyton wrote a powerful, exciting and deeply moving potrayal of two men on the brink of despair, taking the audience into their lives with a painful but deliciously funny journey into darkness. The violence represented by the character Hoodwink is simply there to highlight the pit into which the character 'D' has fallen. Nathan Constance, who premiered the role of D in our production, gave an extraordinary performance which Time Out reckoned deserved an Oscar.

Dominic Leyton is a very talented writer and I can't wait for the opportunity to arise to produce one of his next plays.


I confess to being a fan of most reality shows in their early days. One of my favourites was X Factor and normally I would be watching the new series.

I enjoyed discovering the fantastic new finds and also uncovering those whose 'talents' were more hidden. I was constantly surprised at how shocked the singers were at discovering that Simon and his group didn't like them. There was always that flash of amazement on their faces, which had often puzzled me. Surely they couldn't be so foolish as to think he was going to like them?

Now I know why. I feel naive!

A friend recently told me that Simon and his gang only see people who have already gone through two rounds with the junior producers. Not only are they putting through the talented newcomers, they are also putting through those individuals who are going to 'entertain' us with their awful singing. Yet these hopeful people are unaware that they are being promoted to provide 'entertainment'. For obvious reasons, they will assume that their abilities are finally being recognised. They will have phoned their families, boyfriends, wives, to tell them the fantastic news. Support will be building. The family turns up for the third round. This could be their big chance.

Finally they meet Simon, who after just a few seconds tells them they are perhaps the worst singers he has ever heard in his life. And now I understand the look of bewildered shock on their faces. "But I got through two rounds".

It's acceptable for someone to be thrown out of the first round with Simon's withering words in their ear: everyone knows what these shows involve. But to put them through this rollercoaster suggests a degree of deliberate cruelty. Leaving a nasty taste in the mouth of this disillusioned, if naive, ex-fan!

Monday, August 20, 2007

A favourite story

I met Christian Slater's father once. He came up to Paul Scofield at an event we’d arranged and said he’d long admired Paul since he saw him perform on Broadway. He then came out with one of the best lines I’ve ever heard from someone in the profession.

He told Paul:

"I’ve been an actor all my life. I’ve done everything in this profession except succeed!"



Did anyone see BECKET on TV at the weekend? I was completely bowled over by Richard Burton in the role of Becket. I've often heard it said that that he wasted his talent, but I'm not sure I've ever seen just how good he could be. The performance is a model of restraint and reflection, while the excommunication pronoucement is breathtaking in its vocal drama. In a film that also stars Peter O'Toole, John Geilgud and Donald Wolfit, Burton has a special magnificence. It has also lost nothing over the years and stands easily against every modern style of acting. Distilled excellence from beginning to end.


When any theatre company re-casts a show that has been fondly loved by all involved, it is always a nervous day on the first day of the new rehearsals.

So it was a great relief to enjoy a fantastic read-through this morning from the new cast of DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD. Two actors from the first tour have re-joined the new company, but this time in different roles. The BSC has never been one of those company's that hires an actor to fit the costume (it does happen!) and it's great to watch new actors take their roles in a different direction. Rehearsals should prove an exciting time for all involved!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


All actors should be aware that when you agree to do a job or you agree to a deal, that verbal agreement becomes the contract. It is a common mistake to assume that you have only contracted yourself once you sign your name on a piece of paper.

In truth, the piece of paper is purely a means to set out the terms of the deal which have already been agreed verbally. But the perameters of the deal were contracted the moment you agreed verbally to the offer.

In the case of any Equity job, it is taken for granted that you know the terms of an Equity contract, so once you've agreed the money, dates etc, the rest is a formality. (It's amazing how many actors have never read an Equity booklet detailing the terms of the contract - Equity will send you one on demand).

And it's not just people leaving drama school who make this mistake. Kim Basinger was successfully sued for many millions for pulling out of the film BOXING HELENA, even though she hadn't signed anything - she had simply verbally agreed to do the film.

If you are unsure about anything when you are offered a job, don't say "yes" until you are sure you want to do it and you are clear about all the terms.

For this advice and great mortgage deals, I charge $127 an hour.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I met Fiona tonight. She is seven. Fiona doesn't like her name because Fiona is also the name of the Ogre in Shrek. She seemed to perk up when I told her that 'Fiona the Ogre' was voiced by Cameron Diaz.

I asked Fiona what she was going to be when she grew up. A doctor? An astronaut? A scientist?

"I'm going to be a hot chick". Said Fiona.

Fiona then produced her handbag which contained seven different types of glitter lipstick.

She also told me she had over £100 in the bank.

I asked Fiona's mother to tell Fiona to call me in twenty years time.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

John Harrison

It seems I love people on the extreme end of the age-scale.

I love children - and I love old people. Indeed I've always enjoyed the company of older people. When I was 17 and studying at Clifton College, I was asked to tidy the garden of an elderly woman living in Clifton. After tidying her garden once, I rarely stepped into it again: instead I spent hours each week chatting to her in her flat. She was Daphne Heard, an actress who I later discovered had worked at The Old Rep in 1930's with Donald Wolfit. Most people know her from TV as the old Czech mother of Richard De Vere, Mrs Pooh, in TO THE MANOR BORN. I only knew Daphne for nine months, which is when she died. But in that brief time we became extremely close - almost like grandmother/grandson. It's a great source of pleasure that I still use her old cigar box for my make-up.

One of the greatest people I was lucky enough to have in my life was Rudi Shelly, the acting guru of the Bristol Old Vic who I met when he was just 75, a few years before I went to the school. Consequently we were friends before I became his student and he certainly become one of the most important people in my life, until he died at 90. It sounds strange, but I think of what Rudi taught me at least a dozen times whenever I am stage. As I am now about to work on only my fifth play by Shakespeare, his teaching will be invaluable. Things that have stuck in my mind: When Shakespeare writes in short syllables, he wants you to slow down. If there is a repetition of words, your voice must build in intensity: don't swallow the repetitions. The use of rising inflections. The use of m, n and l to strengthen/lengthen a word. How suspence can be built through slow motion (it sounds weird but when you discover how it works, it bowls you over!).

Paul Scofield and Derek Jacobi are my company's patrons and through them both I met John Harrison, another man of years who had retired as director of the Leeds Playhouse. Paul recommended John as a director and so we first worked together in 1997 on SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER, one of the happiest shows I've been involved with, both on and off the stage. John then directed two Mamet plays for us - to perfection: SPEED-THE-PLOW and OLEANNA. He directed PROOF last year and now directs our third Shakespeare production, OTHELLO, following earlier BSC productions of HAMLET and ROMEO AND JULIET.

We have now cast the play and I am hugely excited by the team we have assembled. It seems clear we are all about to embark on a truly exciting venture.