Friday, November 18, 2005

On Acting

I'm off with Andy - younger than me, erstwhile Thump the Clouds stalwart, brother of Phil and widower of Sara - tonight to see Kurt Elling in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Elling's 'Flirting with Twilight' is one of my most treasured albums, and Moonlight Serenade - the opening cut - is one of the tracks I would take to a desert island.

I can't remember how or why I became aware of Elling - I bet if I was blogging at the time I would - but I'm really looking forward to this evening.

I remember that back in 1989, Andy's father was working at Matthew Hall in London, pretty much opposite the theatre where Dustin Hoffman was playing Shylock in a production of the Merchant of Venice directed by Peter Hall. The show was sold out, but Andy's Dad decided to check for return tickets at the end of each day on his way home. When he eventually got a ticket, I remember him comparing the production to a recent RSC version with Anthony Sher ans saying that, although Anthony Sher convinced him, he wasn't really convinced that Hoffman wanted the pound of flesh.

At the time I took that as a criticism of Hoffman's performance. However, as it happens, the South Bank Show shot a documentary around the rehearsal's for the Hall/Hoffman show, and in that when it was screened several months later I remember Hoffman saying that - in his take - Shylock didn't actually want Antonio's pound of flesh; he just wanted to humiliate him; a point of view he evidently managed to communicate on stage in character.

Note to self: what I had taken for criticism was in fact the success of a precisely articulated and achieved performance,

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