17 March 2017

D&D: Old Actors - How Can We Play Our Part?

National Theatre Studio, 83-101 The Cut, Lambeth, London, SE1 8LL

12:30 - 4:00 pm

Invitation from Tim Preece

Old actors. Old age. The more I think about it the harder I find it to distinguish between the process of being an old actor and the business of being an old person.

I am 78 years old and I’ve been an actor for approaching 60 years. I started in weekly rep, came to London in the sixties, worked in television, film and theatre, had the ups and downs that we all experience, and I would say I’ve had a successful enough career and have been, on the whole, I think, fairly well thought of.  Not only that. I’m still going. Still earning. Occasionally.  All of this is a preamble to my situation now – despite appearances I have lost confidence.

I have lost confidence in my ability to translate the written word of a script into what a person actually says and does (what Marlon Brando called lying).  The catalyst for this loss of confidence is that I’ve begun to find “meetings” (we used to call them “auditions” or “reading for the part”) dispiriting and often humiliating. Trying to prove that I can play the part, trying to illustrate my experience, trying to compete (that’s the crux) all mean that the prospect of a meeting triggers feelings of foreboding and inadequacy.  I expect I'm taking it too seriously, but the knock on effect has been that I feel out of touch with the process, the business of acting.  I don't think I'm alone.

What I don’t know is whether this is to do with being older. Possibly. Probably. It’s a problem of diminishing returns – I have the greater experience as an actor at my age but have lost confidence in my being an actor. The difficulty isn’t to do with elderly frailty,   uneasy memory, bent back or dodgy feet, though they do have an effect, it’s to do with my view of myself. The view from the bridge.

We have to be old when we're old, there's no escape. That's our role. That's who we are.  So if we are actors, for instance, we may not find ourselves playing those other, younger people any more, and if we are not actors, well the same is true.

How might I re-engage with the process? With the business?  Well, as my sales pitch becomes worse and I act less so have less diversion, I have more confidently become the non-actor part of myself, so do I even want to continue competing?  I'm not sure.  But I miss it.

What I do know is that I would very much like to know from older actors how they find it – this coming towards an end. How they feel about the boundaries of growing old.  Do they feel out of touch with the business?  Invisible?

Discussion and conversation is very welcome. So I’m inviting you to come to this Open Space conversation event. Whether you are an old actor, young actor, somewhere in the middle, or have no desire to be an actor, even if you are one of those people I have meetings with, if you need stories to be told, if you need theatre, need its mystery and passion, and want to work on ways to enable older actors to better play their part in the business of engaging in all that, come along and give us your ideas, enthusiasm and experience.

Booking for this event has now closed.