BSC Address

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Michael Ball

In recent years I have grown to dislike Michael Ball on stage - he's become a favourite pet hate. I loved him in Les Mis but his on-stage persona has grated on me as his career has ballooned. So I was somewhat anxious about seeing the first night of HAIRSPRAY. Thank goodness there had been no sign of Michael Ball as we arrived at the interval. And then as I wandered downstairs I suddenly realised - I had been watching Michael Ball throughout the first half, playing Edna, in drag, wonderfully. What a fabulous performance. Beautifully judged and perfectly delivered. It's so great to be proved wrong!

I had really wanted to see HAIRSPRAY because of its huge success on Broadway but I wonder if this show will become popular in England. It's plot involves racism which feels much more a live American issue than it does here and elsewhere the story feels a bit thin. But it's delivered with full gusto, with fantastic performances from Rachael Wooding and Tracie Bennett.

(Although I do have to say, I think Alison Fitzjohns (from HORRIBLE HISTORIES) should be playing the lead)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Treasure Island

I watched a staggered run through of the play today and was held on the edge of my seat. It may be the most exciting rehearsal I have ever seen in my life.

I think this could be a great show – it’s crammed with so much. The quest for treasure, conflict, music, greed, mystery, surprise, humour, ships, pirates, honour, loyalty and island adventures. It's a beautifully faithful adapation by Stuart Paterson and under Greg Banks' direction the cast are playing it with sincerity and integrity, which differentiates it from all the other productions and films I've seen and is the key to its success.

Could this be the greatest story ever told? It's defintely up there with the finest and it could provide one of the best shows the BSC has staged.

All credit due to the remarkable Robert Louis Stephenson.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Last night

What is it about last nights? The last night of PROOF in Birmingham was a particularly special experience, but somehow I didn't expect OTHELLO to move into that catagory. Yet about 15 minutes into last night's show - something clicked. Something I'd been hoping for since we first opened. For the first time I really was able to believe this was happening for the first and last time, that all Iago's dreams hinged on convincing his victims to go along with his plan, that there was no longer any certainty they would. This seems obvious and it illustrates the difficulty I've had of getting under the skin of this man, but it was a good way to end a run.

The week in London played to 84% capacity. Quite unexpected. Who would have thought you could bring OTHELLO to London for a week and sell-out two of the shows, particularly with the Donmar's production looming. And to think at one point we cancelled the London week when the Donmar announced their plans. I'm very glad we didn't!

Friday, October 12, 2007


Olivier recommended that an actor should feel free to steal, so long as he/she only steals from the best.

So with reference to an earlier entry in this blog, I have stolen something for Iago from Richard Burton from his film BECKET.

But I'm not saying what!

The actor's dilemma

If you ask a director what wants to do next and he replies: "I want to direct HAMLET", it will naturally prompt all sorts of questions: how will you stage it, what period, etc

If you ask an actor what he wants to do next and he replies: "I want to play Hamlet", it will naturally prompt all sorts of questions: where does this man find his arrogance, who the hell does he think he is, etc

Why are actors considered so much more unreliable in this arena? Why is it an instinctive reaction to regard the actor as pure ego? Is it impossible to imagine that an actor could have the same integrity as a director?

In my position as actor/manager I am confronted by this prejudice all the time. It seems inconceivable that an actor could run a company with the same ideals as a director, that the art will always come first, that the audience will be considered before all else.

My teacher Rudi put it best: Do you love yourself in the art, or the art in yourself? Like much of what Rudi said, it has been a guiding homily ever since.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Will Iago be one of my favourite roles when I look back? I'm not sure. There is something very strange about sitting on the side of the stage before curtain up, working yourself into a malevolent frame of mind. And just how much can you enjoy destroying people's lives?

You couldn't have a more challenging, all-consuming role and yet the dark heart of this man is not an attractive place to go. When I compare it to John in OLEANNA, Fox in SPEED-THE-PLOW, Tom in THE GLASS MENAGERIE, Hastings in SHE STOOPS, Dr Ratner in THE DICE HOUSE, Hal in PROOF, Danforth in THE's strange to say but I'm not sure Iago will be in my top ten.

But whatever else, there hasn't been a single performance where I haven't relished every second on stage!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Ned Sherrin

Sad to hear tonight of the death of Ned Sherrin. My first ever radio interview was 18 years ago on Radio 4's LOOSE ENDS, hosted by NS. I was terrible, but it gave me a crash course in the technique for doing future interviews. And whenever we met, he always remembered who I was and asked about the theatre - he was that kind of man. It's strange when someone who has been a remote part of your life is suddenly no longer here. Without doubt, the profession is going to miss him.