June 19, 2012
In a review of Julius a scene that I am in (indeed, MY favourite scene) was noted as being perfect. Isn't that nice? They loved how it was played and pitched and I felt a brief spark of pride.
But then they got my name wrong. And to make matters worse; they called me a different character's name. They then went on in the next sentence as to how this character was wonderful and great...in scenes that I am not in!
They made a mistake. They thought my name was something it was not. Oh dear. But it got me thinking about the importance of names.
I was taught at Drama school to make names sing out when speaking them in Shakespeare. That it was important that the audience knew quite clearly who you were talking about. This sounds like common sense but in modern speech the subject of a sentence is often taken for granted or assumed. We often don't know who we are talking about! We make educated guesses.
In this business we call acting, no two actors are allowed to have the same name. I suppose this is to prevent one actor making money from another actor's name. Indeed, my name is actually a stage name as there already was an actor who had claimed my true name.
I used to have nightmares that I was at an Oscar ceremony and was waiting to find out if I had won only to hear my real name called out and this... stranger walk up the steps to claim his prize. MY prize!!! (By the way, every actor worth their salt has practiced their Oscar acceptance speech. I might put mine in this blog, you never know.)
There is a scene in The Crucible where John Proctor screams, 'Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!'
There are lots of superstitions and fairy tales about true names. Names. We have just done an understudy run, where most of the cast gets the chance in front of a paying public, to play other parts that they have learned.
I had to step into the sizeable shoes of Mr Cyril Nri who has just got rave reviews for his Cassius. But the hardest thing was not inhabiting his impressive energy on stage or learning the very many lines. It was remembering everyone's name! And nothing throws you quicker than being called the wrong name. No one who knows me ever calls me Andy. It just doesn't fit.
I have been thinking about this because we have just named our baby boy:
Theo(dore) Cassius Kofi
A nice mix we think of Africa and Shakespeare and loveliness. He seems like a very old, dear friend that I have only just met. I imagine he will have plenty of fun explaining those names to whoever asks. Explaining that there is a history behind his names. That they somehow define him, create some type of history. I hope so.
by Andrew French
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