Casting To Type

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This is another entry that originally appeared elsewhere, albeit in a different form.

Some time ago, I went to see a play directed by a friend of mine. During the interval, an elder gentleman who I didn’t know approached me, and shook me warmly by the hand. “I saw you in Kvetch,” he told me, “and I thought you were wonderful”. I almost responded there and then, but something in his manner seemed to indicate that he wasn’t quite done yet. And indeed, he wasn’t: “I saw you in Hedda Gabler as well,” he went on. “and you were terribly miscast.” Another pause, which again, I didn’t feel able to interject on. “And if you’re miscast,” he concluded sadly, “There’s not a lot you can do”. I said my thanks and made my excuses.

But here’s the thing. It had never occurred to me that I might be miscast. Not in that particular role, anyway. In fact, it’s the kind of role I’ve been playing on and off for around twenty years, and it is – with some variations – the part of Struggling Brooding Writer In Love With A Woman He Can’t Have.

Now, like many actors, I often secretly worry if I’m in any way talented at all, and if all my being cast in plays is pure chance. This is certainly the case in what we can loosely term ‘amateur theatre’, where there is usually a great many great female actors fighting it out for a minimum of parts, whereas there are plenty of male roles available for very few male actors.

So even if you manage to convince yourself that you’ve been cast for a reason other than there just that not many other men who walk and talk at the same time, you tend to question therefore what exactly it is that people have seen in you when they cast you in whatever role, particularly if ‘whatever role’ begins to repeat itself again and again.

I’m not exactly sure, but I think all this started back in Croydon – back at CYTO – in a production of Our Country’s Good, in which I was cast as a Struggling Brooding Writer In Love With A Woman He Can’t Have. I’m not saying I was any good in the part, but people did seem to see something workable in the casting. This then was the type of role that I found myself being cast in fairly regularly over the next decade or so, including a period where I wasn’t even acting for about six years, but apparently decided to go all method and continue to be a Struggling Brooding Writer In Love With A Woman He Can’t Have in my personal life, too. I’m nothing if not committed.

As typecastings go, it’s not the worst, although it does give friends a short cut to teasing when they hear of the role I’ve been cast in, prompting them to ask if the part was written for me especially (apart from a wonderful friend of mine, who, on hearing I’d been cast in David hare’s play My Zinc Bed – as a Struggling Brooding Writer In Love With A Woman He Can’t Have, asked “and what, do you play his upbeat pal?”).

It’s just occurred to me while writing this that any play that has the part of Struggling Brooding Writer In Love With Woman He Can’t Have is very likely to be at least semi autobiographical, meaning that the writer of such a play will likely ensure that SBWILWWHCH will have a lot of the best lines, if only to settle the score a bit. And it’s true, when playing those parts, and I did have a lot of the good lines.

However, it’s good sometimes to be considered for something a little left field. In my time, I’ve played Mistress Quickly in Henry V, and, on one occasion, God, which must have been the first deity with an inferiority complex. I was confused recently though, when I was asked if I would be interested in reading a particular part. The role was that of a ninety year old man. I’m going to put it down to the fact that I hadn’t had a lot of sleep that week, and wasn’t looking my best.

I’ve started writing short plays that get regularly performed at the DukeBox Theatre in Hove, and it makes sense that – on the occasion that I’m acting in any of them – that I should try to break out of the box, and write myself a part that isn’t such a typecast role. You won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve largely failed at that task.

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