Theatre in Wales

Commentary and extended critical writing on theatre, dance and performance in Wales

The Great Present to the Actor

Actors Speak on the Theatre of Brian Friel

Rosaleen Linehan: This is what Brian Friel represents for me as an actor. Music first. The learning of the script, and the text, is so vital. Not just the words, his punctuation and his semi-colons and his dots-dotes-dots. And his dashes! These have to be learned as precisely as the actual words on the page. And this shows you the determination of the writer to present you a score. And you leave that score at your peril. It's a wonderful sort of walking aid to have at any point.

Niall Buggy: The interesting thing for me as an actor playing Friel, the wonderful thing, is the realisation that he is the great present to the actor. I realised when I was playing Casimir ten years ago (which I think is one of the great creative roles in modern drama) that if I let Casimir play me rather than the other way round, then I was doing it properly.

And if there is a secret in any way in the interpretation of Friel, it is something to do with that- he has done it for you. What you are thinking is what you have to say next. And that doesn't always happen in playwriting. Sometimes as actors we have to work very hard to make what we say next what we are thinking. With Friel I don't find that.

Catherine Byrne: Brian puts extraordinary words into very ordinary people's mouths. They might be downtrodden, have ghastly lives, but you know what he does? He gives them this dignity, this humour. He never allows them to be public, whiny. Never allows them to indulge in self-pity.

Rosaleen Linehan: He writes magnificently for women, he writes so tremendously for women that sometimes, as a woman, you have to stop and think “How did he know that?”...he writes with such grace and such ease about love.

Niall Buggy: The thing is that, with this precision, there is for the actor an enormous liberation and freedom. Enormous. You never get it again. It's incredible that liberation and freedom that he gives you because of his precision.

Quotations taken from “About Friel: the Playwright and the Work” by Tony Coult (Faber & Faber 2003)

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
19 October 2015

 

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