An Actor's Theatrical Thoughts

21 May 2008

Typecasting. It’s one of an actor’s greatest fears, and understandably so. Playing the same type of part again and again is neither very fulfilling nor likely to win you any great critical acclaim. You see it happening all the time in the real world, but it’s just as common here in Cambridge. If anything it’s perhaps more of a concern here, where De Niroesque transformations are impossible. Moreover, with so few actors to choose from it’s unavoidable that the ones who do a particular type of part well will be asked to do it again; any actor who can age convincingly is almost invariably going to be cast as the father figure rather than the hero. It’s many an actor’s wish to be given the chance to try something different, but ETG’s production of Julius Caesar reminds us, we should be careful what we wish for.

Director Uri Adiv has made some unusual casting choices, allowing several actors just this opportunity to play against type, and giving us unconventional presentations of characters. Thus we have the slight Ed Rice as the traditionally burly Brutus and the youthful, robust Mark Maughan as the older, elegant Caesar. In a way this makes a refreshing change; if we’ve all seen the characters played in the traditional style, what’s the point in doing them that way again? It’s a problem that faces all Shakespeare productions, that they stand in the shadow of a thousand previous stagings, and what better way to escape them than by taking a new approach to the characters? As soon as Ed Rice steps on stage you know he

won’t simply be the stereotypical Brutus, making the production its own beast.

The problem is, if a character has been played one way throughout history, there’s probably a reason, and no matter how good the actor if he doesn’t look the part he simply may not be able to convince. This is sadly the case with Rice, who gives an intelligent performance as Brutus, but doesn’t have the necessary build to convince as a warrior and a leader of men. It’s hard to imagine the people of a city so steeped in military culture, so easily switching their allegiance to a leader who is all brain and no brawn, particularly when the man he has replaced looked so much more powerful. Indeed, this too is a little hard to swallow, Maughan looking slightly too healthy for a man whose constitution the conspirators are continually questioning and who is prone to public acts of fainting.

It is hard then to know whether to envy or pity these actors. On the one hand they are given an opportunity many would jump at, to try their hand at something new, yet on the other no matter how well judged their performances, with their appearances working against them it’s hard to call their portrayals fully successful. In the end, perhaps those of us who are typecast should be grateful that our enormous potential range remains

untested, and thus happily, potentially, enormous.