The Lower Depths opens on Wednesday. Are we ready? Am I ready? The director seems happy with all but one scene of the production - a scene in which I'm only peripherally involved - but my honest answer to both questions would be no. When watching other actors, I keep spotting small issues that could be improved - a reaction here, a contrast in tone there and so on. As far as my acting is concerned... Well, almost every time we rehearse my performance improves but I am still only half way between the stage of putting on a mask (this is the action I do now, these are the words I speak) and inhabiting the character (I am Luka; the actor does not exist). In this inbetween state, I have no clue how I appear to others - is it Luka they see or is it an actor with limited talent? The truth, I hope, will come to me next week, when I am encouraging my friends to see the production - and equally encouraging them to be honest about my performance; I would far rather hear the truth that I am a terrible actor than be told the lie that my acting is wonderful.
Meanwhile, there was a reunion last night of many of us involved in the Greenwich Playhouse production of The Duchess of Malfi, at the Old Vic for the same play. Of course some of us were there to bitch - and did so with relish - but I tried, within the scope of my limited intellect, to be impartial. And so I came to the conclusion that set (by Soutra Gilmour) was magnificent and the first half absorbing, but there were as many faults as strengths to the production.
As Ferdinand, Harry Lloyd lacked edge; Eve Best was magnificent as the Duchess in the first half but almost indifferent to death in the second. Mark Bonnar as Bosola had personality, but his accent was so out-of-kilter with the rest of the cast, that I am beginning to wonder if some theatre and television actors are chosen primarily for their Scots pronunciation in the same way Hollywood casts villains with English accents. (There was a similar clash of cultures in Emperor and Galilean at the National Theatre last year.) Eleanor David as Julia was seriously miscast or misdirected - this was not a sexy, sultry temptress twisting men around her slinky finger, but a shrieking shrew that would have sent any red-blooded heterosexual male running to avoid her by drowning himself in beer in the nearest bar.
There were other wasted opportunities - several times emotionally key lines were thrown away by the actors or uttered in the same monotones as the rest of their speech. And the death scene - well, let's blame Webster for that - was a mess in which the various bodies give dying speeches that drag on and on....
And so, back to The Lower Depths. Come all and sundry to critique our production in the same spirit of generosity as I have done here. Comments may be painful, but, equally important, but what does that matter if there are bums on seats?