Monthly Archives: December 2015

Tales From The Backstage

Flyer Design by Samantha Mighdoll

Flyer Design by Samantha Mighdoll

“Get yer Albatross!!!”

When I was twelve I was taken to see Charley’s Aunt in the West End of London. After the show we went backstage.

The stage doorkeeper announced us as visitors. We had to cross the stage to get to the dressing room on the other side, and I had my first view of an auditorium from an actor’s point of view. All those seats upholstered in red velvet. They were empty now, but only ten minutes ago had been full of people laughing. How could I get from out there to up here?

It’s a question that has never left me.

The set was latticed windows and ivy on stone walls. But the walls were facades, braced on wooden struts, held by stage weights. We crossed into the dark of the wings, and I caught a whiff of that unique backstage aroma, the mix of size (that they used to use to seal the canvass), tea (this was England), and sweaty humanity. Then into the warm glow of a dressing room. The naked light bulbs around the mirror and good luck cards and flowers. There was a small towel on the counter and sticks of greasepaint laid out neatly upon it and all kinds of cosmetic equipment. The place went into soft focus, like some moment-of-destiny scene from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

I was introduced to the middle-aged actor that we had just seen running around at full tilt in the show, chasing Donna Lucia D’Alvadorez, the lady from Brazil (where the nuts come from). He seemed calmer now, jolly and friendly. He shook my hand and uttered some powerful words, “So you want to be an actor?”

That washed over me like an electric tsunami. I flushed beetroot red. I couldn’t speak. I just nodded. But I knew that I had to find a way to involved.

I’m at Dramaworks at the moment playing Hector in The History Boys until January 3rd. It’s an excellent production with a fantastic company. In Tales From The Backstage it’s as if Hector breaks out!

If you’re around in West Palm Beach on Tuesday 29th December at 3pm and at a loose end, come on over to Dramaworks …

Tickets here

 

We Open Tonight!

Photo by Samantha Mighdoll

Photo by Samantha Mighdoll

Tix and info at http://www.palmbeachdramaworks.org

That’s me, as Hector, and the boys above.

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Also splendid in the cast are: Rob Donohoe, Cliff Burgess and Angie Radosh, playing respectively: the ambitious headmaster, the new teacher on the block, and the lady who’s seen it all. They are pictured here in their agreeable daytime personas, but trust me, these are fine actors capable of startling transformations as anyone who saw them as the profoundly disturbed and disturbing characters from Dramawork’s last season’s production of Buried Child can tell you.

I find generally that there is a welcome appreciation of British theatrical product in the USA. Enhanced these days by what could be called the Downton Abbey Effect. So perhaps it’s worth mentioning that the last time I was in a play by Alan Bennett was half a lifetime ago in 1993.

It was The Madness of George III, a National Theatre production out of London, UK and we toured for 13 weeks along East Coast USA, completing the tour at BAM in NYC. 

Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren as King George III and Queen Charlotte

Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren as King George III and Queen Charlotte

The film version was (at Nigel Hawthorne’s suggestion) renamed The Madness of King George lest anyone expect sequels. I played the small (but crucial) role of Sir Boothby Skrymshir, and my performance in the film survives in the director’s cut only, but that was the show that gave me a first real look at America.

The amazing Dame Helen has of course lately appeared on Broadway in The Audience giving a stunning performance as the current British monarch. One feature of that show was the impossibly fast costume changes she achieved. Our costume designer is the profoundly talented Erin Amico with whom I had the pleasure to work ten years ago. Though I say it myself, I think this is a terrific production in all its elements, and it’s no spoiler to tell you that although I’m not playing royalty, my costumes in The History Boys include seven bow ties in quick succession.