Title: Great Actors
From: Album "Matching Tie and Handkerchief"
Transcribed By: Davina Tung
Edited By: Adam Fogg
*Now it's time for Great Actors, introduced as usual by Alan Semen.*
Alan: Sir Edwin, which has been for you the most demanding of the great
Shakesperean tragic heroes that you've played?
Sir Edwin: Well, of course this is always a difficult one, but I think the
answer must be Hamlet.
Alan: Which you played at Stratford in 1963.
Sir Edwin: That's right, yes, I found the role a very taxing one. I mean,
er, Hamlet has eight thousand two hundred and sixty-two words, you
Sir Edwin: Oh yes. Othello's a bugger too, mind you--especially the cleaning
up afterwards, but he has nine hundred and forty-one words less
than Hamlet. On the other hand, the coon's got more pauses,
sixty-two quite long ones, as I recall. But then they're not so
tricky, you see--you don't have to do so much during them.
Alan: You don't.
Sir Edwin: No. No, not really. Andd they give you time to think what sort of
face you're going to pull during the next speech so that it fits
the words you're saying as far as possible.
Alan: How many words did you have to say as King Lear at the Aldwitch in '52?
Sir Edwin: Ah, well, I don't want you to get the impression it's just a
question of the number of words... um... I mean, getting them in
the right order is just as important. Old Peter Hall used to say
to me, "They're all there already-- now we've got to get them in
the right order." And, er, for example, you can also say one word
louder than another--er, "To *be* or not to be," or "To be *or* not
to be," or "To be or not to *be*"--you see? And so on.
Sir Edwin: And of course inflection. In fact, Lear has only seven thousand
and fifty- four words, but the real difficulty with Lear is that
you've got to play him all--you know, shaky legs and pratfalls and
the dentures falling out, 'cause he's ancient as hell, and then
there's that heartrending scene when he goes right off his nut--
you know, "bliddle dee dee diddle deebibble dee dee dibble beep
beep beep," and all that, which takes it out of you, what with
having the crown to keep on. So Lear is tiring, although not
difficult to act, because you've only got to do despair and a bit
of anger, and they're the easiest.
Alan: Are they? What are the hardest?
Sir Edwin: Oh... um, fear.
Sir Edwin: Mmm, yes, never been able to get that--can't do the mouth. I look
all cross--it's a very fine line.
Alan: What else?
Sir Edwin: Apart from fear? Er, jealousy can be tricky... but for me, the
most difficult is being in love--you know, that openmouthed,
vacant look that Vanessa Redgrave's got off to a tee. Can't do
that at all. And also I'm frightfully awkward when I try that
happy prancing, you know. Which is a shame, really, because
otherwise Romeo's quite good for me--only three thousand and eight
and quite a lote of climbing and kissing.
Alan: Sir Edwin--get stuffed.
Sir Edwin: I've enjoyed it.
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