My contact lenses finally turned up this week, almost exactly three weeks late. They come through the post, and are monthly disposoables. Annoyingly for someone like me, they get sent in batches of three months at a time, which normally means that at about week eight, I’ve either lost a pair, accidentally ripped a lens while taking it out, or fallen asleep with them in. Usually all three. That was certainly the (lens) case this time round.
I normally wear glasses day-to-day, so it’s not actually that much of a problem, except that I was in a play for two weeks that was set in a time when plastic, black-rimmed glasses were almost certainly not a common sight. Anyone that saw you with such a modern affectation would have attempted to have had you burned as a witch. Now, whilst it’s true that the play was all about witch hunting, I’m not sure the director would have been willing to go with me on such an abstract reading of the text.
Which presented me with a bit of a problem. Without my glasses (or lenses), I’m pretty much blind. Look up, now. You see that bit of writing that’s in front of you? There. No, there. Well, alright, behind you. Work with me on this. That bit of writing. Yeah, well, without my glasses, I couldn’t read it. I’m not absolutely convinced that I would be able to even see that there was writing there in the first place.
It was frustrating. I was convinced that my acting (whatever that is) was being eroded by at least 60%, simply because I couldn’t really see anyone. And most of acting is reacting, right? I couldn’t see what (or, occasionally, who) I was meant to be reacting to. It was a promenade performance as well, which meant that every night I had to address a character on their arrival, despite being completely clueless as to where exactly they were arriving from. Luckily, I’m apparently not one of those people who, upon removing their glasses, has to do a comedy squint for the next two hours. Allegedly, when im not wearing my glasses, I don’t look at all like a man who has lost his glasses. At least, that’s what I’ve been told. Perhaps people are just being kind. Or, even more likely, perhaps people are just saying that to me, safe in the knowledge that I will then take off my glasses, trusting them. They can then spend any downtime pointing and jeering at me, confident that it will never rebound on them, because I will never be able to see their cruel and derisive mockery. See, that’s the trouble with nice people being nice. Can’t trust them.
It was a pity, because lots of the rehearsal had gone so well. I’m not claiming that I was doing any particularly great acting during the rehearsal process (and indeed, this is not the blog entry when I get into detail about quite how much I was doubting myself), but there were a couple of times when I was able to relax and feel the sense of the scene, the emotion. There’s been a lot said about how you should just relax and let the character come to you. I think that’s far easier said than done, because you either don’t trust the advice and build a character that, while convincing enough, is still fairly fake. Or you relax too much, don’t put the effort in, and become passive, which isn’t interesting to anyone. Obviously I’m over-generalising massively here, but you see the point. But there’s a lot to be said for how much you can discover from your character simply by how the other characters (or, more precisely, the other actors) demonstrate their perception of you.
This is pretty much how it was in rehearsal. I’d be floundering around, not really knowing what I was doing, then catch the eye of another character, reacting to me. And if I was open enough, responsive enough, their expression would give me everything I needed. On more than one occasion, whatever they were doing would completely blindside me, and I’d find myself overcome, not entirely sure how I was going to end up at the end of a scene. For an actor in week eight of rehearsal, that’s nothing short of glorious.
This was all down to the person opposite me. So when, in production week of all weeks, I couldn’t see a damn thing, it was actually quite worrying. There were at least a couple of scenes when I was having to throw brooding glances at someone about twenty feet away. Someone who due to my near-blindness, I didn’t know for a fact wasn’t actually thirty feet away. And three yards to the left. Basically, I had to trust my fellow actors were looking after me, and not pointing in derision at my pathetic blindness. Which I’m almost entirely confident didn’t happen.