I was being chatted to by an actor the other night, and he was shooting the breeze, complaining about chancers in the industry who give the ‘real deal’ a bad name, and bitching about the Cape Town Joburg separation of power and ideology. He spoke about how the Fleur du Cap Awards are hamstrung by old thoughts, how certain directors have fallen into bad habits, and how most actors of a certain age are only just functioning alcoholics. The usual. Blah blah Shakespeare.
And then it happened. This respected and very super talented actor gave a thorough analysis and deeply thought out criticism of a play he had not, actually, in fact seen. There are few times when I am completely at a loss for words. Not that he noticed. His diatribe had come out of a moment where he inhaled mid speech and I had told him about a play that I had in fact seen; a play that I did think was hideous; based on actual first hand experience. On his out breath he started talking about this other play, that he had not seen, but, according to him, could never work because of 1. the director, 2. the cast, 3. the content and 4. how it has been done in the past.
I suddenly realised that this happens a lot. A lot of actors don’t see other work but have opinions on it. I see a lot of work. Some I write about, others not, but I never ever have an opinion on a piece that I have not yet seen.
Next time you get into one of those post-show, a few glasses of wine later monologues in pseudo camaraderie, ask the speech giver up front if they are talking about a play that they have seen.