Thursday, November 09, 2006

Letting go of theatrical roles

I know it is a poncy thing to say - "letting go of a role". I also know I have found myself, more than once, during (and after!) more than one production, thinking about my lines in a public place with such concentrated intensity I have suddenly realised I was also doing the related facial expressions, hand gestures, etc. Which does tend to make other people on the bus think you're someone to avoid.

Yesterday, I had dinner with my parents' oldest friends, a lovely couple. Amongst other things, they told us about the 100th birthday party of his mother. She had been an actress in her youth, by my count sometime in the mid-to-late 1920s, until she married and her husband forbade her to go onstage. In many ways, she is in outstandingly sharp condition for her age - although she has been insisting for a few years her oldest son (my parents' friend) is in fact her long-dead brother, she could still dance with him at the party. At some point during the celebrations, however, she threw up her arms, contorted in apparent mental distress, and called out "Antakaa minun elää! Antakaa minun elää!" ("Let me live! Let me live!"). This was, understandably, very startling for her son and his wife.They began to convince her they were not about to harm her, until the penny dropped: she was reciting lines from Elinan surma, a traditional Finnish epic-poem-come-theatre-piece, about a young wife who gets burned alive by her jealous husband. She must've just been thinking about her lines, 80 years on.

1 comment:

kurt said...

I guess the moral of the story is: don't act in anything -- especially with action scenes, with swords and gymnastics -- that you aren't ready to relive in your 90s?