Category Archives: Acting

Pre-launch Prep

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This morning I took delivery of a lot of carrots and greens.

A brisk 20 minutes later, there were these jars containing primary and secondary colored juices prepared for freezing

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As much to make room in the fridge as for any reason

Drink the rainbow!

Tomorrow is DAY 1 of the reboot

This Blog is Going Ballistic (for a while)

For the past several years I’ve been blogging about what it’s like to be a jobbing actor. The idea has always been tweedy, lost-in-translation type articles intended to lower your blood pressure. A reference to a gentler time when there actually was time to read something — anything, just to while time away.

However…

For the next two months or so I am going to ramp up the frequency of this blog as I revisit a long term project mentioned in these pages before. OLM. Operation Leading Man.

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You see before you, what I believe is known in today’s media-savvy quotidian-common-tongue as “a selfie”. As you see, it’s a shot in diffuse lighting, slightly distorted by the mirror, and it doesn’t really tell you the whole story

It reminds me of a joke the late great British comedian, Tommy Cooper, used to tell.

I went to the doctor, he said, “You’re fat.”

I said, “I want a second opinion.”

He said, “You’re ugly too.”

To celebrate my 61st birthday, I have signed up for a guided reboot as brought to the world by that crazy Australian, Joe Cross, and pioneered in his film, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. I start the day after tomorrow.

You can check all that out via the cunningly named websites: rebootwithjoe.com & fatsickandnearlydead.com where you can see the film for free.

Watch this space

NB: If you find it too unsavory a prospect, or too painful to watch as I struggle to reclaim the casting of my earlier youth, then simply delete all posts until the end of January (Imbolc) 2019 when normal service will resume.

Do You Like Being Read To?

The BBC is re-releasing some of its archive and broadcasting on Radio 4 Extra. As of today, November 3rd 2018, there are 24 days left on this release

Go here to listen to a 15 minute story written by some guy called Collin Johnson (aka Colin McPhillamy) way back in the last millennium …

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The Ferryman, Broadway 2018

The Ferryman, by Jez Butterworth, directed by Sam Mendes, with a superb cast, opened on Broadway last night. The show just could be that rare commodity: a review-proof play. In almost 40 years of acting I have seldom seen audiences respond like they do for this one.

Rather being ‘on’ this production, than ‘in’ it, I considered it part of the job to read the reviews — something I try hard to avoid when actually appearing in a show — See previous blog post here.

And the reviews are spectacular. Across the board. Up to and including the mighty New York Times.

Theatrical history is full of contention between critics and actors — see for example Dame Diana Rigg’s amusing volume of collected reviews, No Turn Unstoned

Sir Nigel Hawthorne once took issue with a review of his production of the seldom-performed The Clandestine Marriage. (He directed and played the lead; I played a hedge. Yes, hedge, as applied to topiary, not to fund management). Nigel wrote a closely spaced four-page letter to a prominent theatre critic, with point by point analysis supporting his production choices. The critic in question conceded that perhaps he had been too hasty in his judgment. Too late! The damage had been done. The show closed prematurely.

It’s no secret that adverse reviews can close shows. I have witnessed at close hand the collapse of box office in several productions — each time, in my opinion, completely undeserved and a great shame, considering the work, talent and yes, money, that went into them.

You may wonder why I am taking the trouble to lay out this context, when in the present case there is, as far as I know, (again in my opinion) universal, absolutely earned, deserved, and appropriate high praise. There is a reason. But on this occasion I certainly have no quarrel with either critic or criticism.

The reviews, as I said, are raves across the board. In the Broadway landscape, The New York Times is a king-maker, and Ben Brantley, as senior critic there, is the most powerful. He’d already endorsed The Ferryman when he saw it in London last year, and his review of the Broadway production, published today, confirms what he said in 2017.

One usually doesn’t think of an actor reviewing a critic, (see here for an example).  I have taken issue with Mr Brantley’s view on several productions, as many theatre folk I know have done from time to time, but here I find his review to be accurate and excellent, and filling the highest function that theatrical criticism should: namely to elevate and preserve standards, and to inform and enrich the community it serves.

Well, that’s enough about that. A long way to say that The Ferryman is a hot ticket.

Looking at another part of the production, and now I disclose a fun technical detail which may come in handy should you (or I — as my present employment may at some point require) ever be called on to go on stage with a live goose tucked under one arm. No spoiler here, every review mentions the goose. And the rabbit. And the baby. Our goose is mostly well behaved and quite a hit with audiences. I do know though, from our wrangler, that if the goose were to get stressed, there is a chance that she might… well… what’s the word I want? — Evacuate. In projectile fashion. This is where the staging is crucial. Consider if the actor were angled even slightly down-stage. Well it hasn’t happened yet. But if you do chance to buy tickets, perhaps choose something beyond the very front row?

Don’t go Green go Emerald

In so many ways Ireland leads the way. Not least in their policy on clean energy. But I’m not here to talk about that.

Way back when I was in The Seafarer with a quartet of excellently robust actors, (the craic was mighty) I asked Mick Millamphy to give me a hand with the accent of County Armagh, significantly different from the Dublin sound we were going for then. I had an audition for The Ferryman. This is the transfer that originated at The Royal Court Theatre in London and then ran in the West End for almost a year and is now coming to Broadway with the original cast.

“Sure,” said Mick, “come over to Ryan’s Daughter (a bar on New York’s Upper East Side,  he was part owner) and we’ll work on it.”

I made my way to 85th Street and 1st avenue. It was a misty evening. A light drizzle was falling. Shape-shifters were out and about just past the corners of perception. As I entered this bar under an Irish flag (one of several in New York City), a pint of Guinness materialized in my left hand.

“Come up to the snug,” said Mick.

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Guinness continued to manifest about every quarter hour. Just before the preceding pint was finished. And here is the funny thing; I never saw it arrive. Mick and I chatted, discussing the idea that the job I was going for – understudying several roles in The Ferryman, an extraordinary play by Jez Butterworth – was distantly reminiscent of when governments subsidize farmers not to grow alfalfa. Getting paid for actively not acting. Although being ready, willing and able to do so, should someone twist an ankle.

At my age the capacity for Guinness is not what it once was. So although Mick’s company was highly agreeable, I had to slip away after about a gallon or two. We did spend a little time actually working on the accent and the next day I got the job. I started work last week. We preview October 2nd, open October 21st. Mick, I owe you.

The Ferryman tells an epic true story, but the play is threaded with mythology. I’m now convinced that selected newborns in Ireland are taken by the ankle and dipped in the river of Guinness that runs, with tributaries, through all of that magical land.

This isn’t (likely to be) happening

The late great Douglas Adams in his fabulously inventive ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” gave us “The Improbability Drive” as the motive power for nipping from interstellar points A or B to C, D, and beyond.

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Now we have improbability politics. If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend Gail Collins’s op-ed today (August 23rd 2018) in The New York Times in which she responds to a prospective film treatment which clearly comes from an alternative universe.

When Bill Bryson first published his Yank’s-eye-view-of-Australia in 2000 titled “Down Under” – in subsequent editions changed to “In a Sunburnt Country” – he pointed out that during the late 1990s the mighty New York Times published numbers of articles on Australia commensurate with those on Peru and Albania and far fewer than that in its reporting of Cambodia and Korea.

Much has changed since then, although I can personally attest to this turn-of-the-millenium ranking of general US interest in matters Australian. When I arrived in New York in 1999 you’d have been hard pressed to find a bottle of Jacob’s Creek Shiraz. Today of course, Aussie plonk can be had in any supermarket in any state in the Union. It is still somewhat rare though, to find even a theatrical professional whose ear can reliably discern the difference between an Australian and a British accent. New York is different, the place has, since the turn of the millennium been flooded with Aussie professionals, and Aussie meat pies and flat white (coffee) can be found in parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

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But today the New York Times has devoted part of its editorial page to current Australian political moves. Moves that leave improbability somewhere beyond the calculation of Pi (π). In brief, the current Aussie administration has abandoned previous modest efforts to take action on climate change. Notwithstanding that there is a State-wide drought in New South Wales, nor that the Great Barrier Reef is dying, nor that more sunshine falls on Australia than almost anywhere in the world…

By the way, I recommend Bryson’s book on Oz, in either title, not least because it contains about the funniest ever description of the game of cricket by one foreign to the game.