Wednesday, 7 March 2012

At what point does a backhanded compliment become a forehanded insult?

My name is David, and I'm an actor who has just parachuted into the middle of a dance show.
My career has taken some strange turns, but this is one of the strangest.
After my first day of rehearsals my wife (another actor, but one who unlike me, DOES dance) said "I bet you feel really untalented now...", to which my only answer was "Yes!"


I'm surrounded by people who have worked long and hard to make what we are presenting as heartfelt and personal an artistic venture as I've ever witnessed, where the technical and the emotional blur to create a narrative that is beyond words. Then I come along and plonk some words on it. I hope and trust that I'm doing it well, but as I saw my comfort zone disappear over the horizon weeks ago, I can only guess. I do get rewards though: little signs from my colleagues, moments of connection and strength.

Even my audition was a wake-up call. I'm used to reading dialogue with a director who's stumbling and mumbling through the other role. Not the case this time. Oh no. There were two of us in the room, myself and the director, and right from the off she's BANG ON: off the page, full-tilt and dragging me wild-eyed with her to places I've never been before. So I'm thinking "I'm the second best actor in this room" and then I'm thinking "Up your game, David", and I've been thinking it pretty much ever since.

Taking over a role from someone else is never easy. You get stuck between what your instinct tells you to you and what you think you should be doing. Thankfully the whole rehearsal process has been so fluid that by the time I filled the role it was vaguely me-shaped.

Then there's the fact that, frankly, I've been miscast. I'm usually the good guy, and for those of you who know your Dickens I need say only two words: Joe Gargery. But for those of you who know William Blake try these for size: His Dad. "You're just too damn nice!" I was told hours before my first performance. Compliment or insult? I'm not sure. But as kicks up the arse go it was one of the best.

That first performance was tentative. Too much to think about. Too many conflicting directions. But something happened on the second night. It felt good. I got the weight. Maybe Fleur was right. Maybe it was the beard...

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