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Thursday, 09 April 2009


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Actors are children who have never grown up. Acting is not a proper job for a man, learn your lines and don't bump into the furniture. Never expect any insight from actors they don't have the intellectual ability, remember what Alfred Hitchcock used to say that he treated actors like cattle.

Now, Mr. Gregory, I am intrigued! Would you be the same Jon Gregory whom I once directed in Arcadia? I ask because I am constantly taken by surprise when old friends suddenly pop up and I find, to my amazement, that they are regular readers of D&N.

A friend once said that he thought that the hardest task for most actors was playing the role of someoene highly intelligent because most of them are fairly dim and have never even met anyone highly intelligent.

Mr Steven Fry likes to claim to be highly intelligent, but then he can't act any part that isn't purest cardboard. Which is why he made a fine Jeeves, I suppose.

On the other hand, I have seen many actors give wonderfully convincing performances as people suffering from mental defects or illnesses, and I don't suppose that they are themselves defective or bonkers. It's a mystery.

'DM', I have just returned from doing my 'old Dobbin the carthorse' act pushing the trolley round Waitrose in the wake of the 'Memsahib', and as I did so I pondered some more on the "mystery" of acting, enough to provoke a further post on the subject. This time, perhaps, with some degree of thoughtfulness, unlike the bad-tempered grump I wrote above. So, stand-by for 'further and better particulars this afternoon.

remember what Alfred Hitchcock used to say that he treated actors like cattle

Something tells me that when David has his director's hat on, this advice is redundant...

The trolleys at Aldi are magnificently superior to any others I have ever pushed. Those Boche, eh?

There is an element of truth to what what you suggest, Larry, but not always. The only ones I do tend to treat like that, including the temptation to use a humane cattle-killer, are the lazy ones. I never mind if an actor is just not very talented, so long as he or she is trying as hard as they can. Also, in the AmDram world you have to recognise that your greatest enemy is time, or to be precise, the lack of it. Pros have the luxury of several weeks of full-time rehearsals, amateurs on an hourly comparison have roughly half the time. Thus, it is necessary for a director to come to rehearsals with a pretty clear plan in mind, particularly with regard to time-consuming business of blocking. Anyway, time spent discussing an actor's ruminations on the meaning of life and his place in the universe cannot be afforded!

Well, 'DM', with the sort of luck that has bedeviled my life I always pick the one with the wobbly wheels irrespective of which store I am in. We don't use Waitrose too often (too bloody expensive!) but I must admit I enjoy my occasional visit because usually the Memsahib prefers to do the shopping on her own and I slope off to their cafe where I get a very decent cup of coffee plus one of the very best Danish pastries I have ever tasted. If, however, I am harnessed, so to speak, I always take The Spectator with me to read as I wait.

"another actor airily dismissed what he had been taught at drama school, that is, to search the text and list every bit of information concerning the character of your role, and opined that he found all that he needed in the emotional moment of delivery. Most actors do that which is why so many of them are totally mediocre."


I'm reminded of the story of Hoffman and Olivier co-acting in Marathon Man. Hoffman has studied the part and discovered that his character had been awake all night so Hoffman kept himself awake and came to the set looking shattered. Hoffman explained to a concerned Olivier what he'd done and asked how else he could do it. Olivier replied "Have you tried acting".

I guess the point is that you can be too prepared.

TDK, yes, I know that story. The point is that so many lazy, or just plain bad, actors do not even consider the circumstances of the character they are playing. To give an easy example, a messenger entering a court during a Shakespeare play. The actor waits in the wings and on cue he walks in and delivers his message. I've lost track of how many times I have had to tell him that that the messenger he is playing has just ridden across three counties, fallen off his horse in the courtyard, run down several corridors and then burst into the king's court momentarily forgetting to pay his respects. It isn't necessary to actually do it before you enter, but you must imagine it. The audience won't notice particularly either way, but if there are a sufficient number of unimaginative (or lazy!) performances even, or especially, amongst the tiny roles, gradually it impinges on their consciousness and they go home disatisfied but unable to say quite why. It's a mystery!

Hello David
No I am not the Mr Gregory you used to know, the name is one of my aliases, Gregory was the maiden name of my paternal grandmother. We are mostly around Merseyside and South Lancashire although originally from West Devon.

Thanks, Jon, obviously just one of life's coincidences. But are you an actor? Or a director?

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