Whispers from the Wings

Bighead strikes again

October 30, 2013

Ciaran OwensSome months ago a few members of the Swan company and I were relaxing in one of the dressing rooms after a show. The subject of this very blog was raised, and one actor jokingly bemoaned the fact that I've never mentioned him in any of my posts.

As the season is now very nearly at an end, I've decided to rectify this by dedicating an entire post solely to him.

Our story begins in May
To set the scene for this homage then, we have to go right back to the very beginning of the season, when we all first arrived in Stratford.

One morning in early May, I rose from my bed in the Ferry House and tramped the fifty-or-so feet up Waterside to the RSC's wardrobe department, where I was to be fitted for my understudy costume.

Initially, our wardrobe supervisor, Sabine, tried to save a bit of time by checking whether or not certain items that John Hopkins wears, such as Saturninus' greatcoat, might fit me. But as John is about a foot taller than me, this was a forlorn hope. Sabine stepped out for a moment to find an alternative.

As I stood there, a somewhat risible figure, waiting, in my pants, for her to return, I heard a gasp of astonishment from the other side of the curtain.

'Oh my…'


'Take a look at this.'


'Look at that there.'

'Oh… wow.'

This was the conversation between two members of the department, who were going over an actor's measurements in preparation for a fitting.

The subsequent exchange, carried out in hissed tones of astonishment and awe, made me aware of something that, I must confess, I hadn't noticed before; but it is something that I now acknowledge to be an inescapable, irrefutable truth:

Ciarán Owens has a massive head.

A record breaking noggin
Not in a figurative sense, you understand, but literally. The measurements taken of his skull apparently identify it as the largest that the RSC costume department have seen in living memory. It beats everything on record up to this point. The numbers don't lie.

So remarkable is the girth of his cranium that it has formed the subject of entire email exchanges between the various technical departments of the theatre. It has been discussed in isolation at production meetings.

An initial costume idea for A Mad World My Masters had to be shelved because wardrobe were simply unable to source a big enough hat.

Lights have had to be moved in order to avoid the onstage action being obscured by the shadow of Owens' noggin hoving into view and creating a total eclipse.

There were also problems at the Titus Andronicus understudy performance, during which the Emperor's crown was found severely wanting.

All's well that ends well
There's some comfort for Ciarán though. One of his ambitions is to play Morrissey, who has revealed in his recently published autobiography that the heft of his own infant skull was such that it caused near-fatal complications during the birth.

I don't want to speculate on whether Ciarán's own introduction to the world was similarly perilous. Luckily for us though, he got through it, meaning that we now have the opportunity to behold what must surely be one of the seven wonders of the modern world, incomprehensibly balanced at the top of his neck. It's also a good thing for us because he's a lovely bloke and an extremely talented actor.

With a massive head.

Image: Ciaran Owens, by Ben Deery.

by Ben Deery  |  1 comment

Previous in Whispers from the Wings
« Dances with wolves

Next in Whispers from the Wings
Coverage »


Oct 30, 2:16pm

If you think about it, it's an extremely helpful characteristic for an actor. No one sitting at the very back of even the largest theatre will ever be able to say "I just wan't able to see any of his facial expressions". Poor normal-size-head actors, doomed forever to do their best work from an audience perspective in intimate studio venues.

Post a Comment

Email address is optional and won't be published.
We ask just in case we need to contact you.

We reserve the right not to publish your comments, and please note that any contribution you make is subject to our website terms of use.

Email newsletter

Sign up to email updates for the latest RSC news:

RSC Members

Already an RSC Member or Supporter? Sign in here.

Teaching Shakespeare